01/22/2011 6:02PM

Calibrachoa holds on in Toboggan

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Calibrachoa earned a 96 Beyer for winning the Toboggan.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher learned first-hand what most die-hard New York horseplayers have known for a long time. Aqueduct in January is not so bad. Even when it’s 22 degrees outside.

“It’s nice,” Pletcher said.

Much nicer, of course, when you win a graded stakes as Pletcher did Saturday with Calibrachoa, the 2-5 favorite who rallied three wide and outfinished longshot Independence War to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Toboggan Stakes by one-half length. It was one length back to Temecula Creek in third. Endless Circle and Fastus Cactus completed the order of finish. Driven by Success, Flat Bold and Jack On the Rocks scratched.

It was the first graded stakes victory of 2011 for Pletcher, who won 45 graded stakes in 2010 en route to winning his fifth Eclipse Award as North America’s leading trainer. It was the first graded stakes win for Calibrachoa, whom Pletcher and owner Mike Repole claimed for $40,000 in November and who last month won the Gravesend. It was also Repole’s first graded stakes victory as an owner with a horse not named Uncle Mo, the Champagne and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner who won an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding 2-year-old.

Calibrachoa was ridden by Ramon Dominguez, who won his first Eclipse Award as North America’s leading rider.

Calibrachoa was not as visually impressive as he was winning the Gravesend but he was gritty.
Fastus Cactus, under Jose Espinoza jumped out in front, but was well off the rail. Endless Circle, under David Cohen, and Calibrachoa chased from second and third, respectively.

Fastus Cactus moved over to the inside entering the far turn, as Calibrachoa and Endless Circle continued in pursuit, with both of their riders cognizant of Fastus Cactus’s tendency to drift out.
Turning for home, Fastus Cactus did come out two paths, forcing Dominguez aboard Calibrachoa out a little bit while also forcing Temecula Creek, under Cornelio Velasquez to alter course. But once past Fastus Cactus, Calibrachoa got his mind back on running and outlasted Independence War who split horses in deep stretch under Angel Arroyo.

Calibrachoa, a 4-year-old son of Southern Image, covered six furlongs in 1:09.74 and returned $2.80 as the favorite.

“We were in a tricky spot stalking a horse you know gets out,” Pletcher said. “Ramon had to wait and see what he was going to do. Finally, when he went outside at the top of the stretch and [Fastus Cactus] continued to drift and bothered him a little bit . . . I thought it was a pretty courageous effort considering.”

Dominguez was pretty impressed with the effort Calibrachoa gave him.

“It seemed like I was all out and I was concerned they were closing on me on the inside,” Dominguez said. “Really, when he felt them coming on his own he went on, it didn’t seem like he wanted to let them go by. I thought it was a pretty good effort.”

Pletcher said races like the seven-furlong General George at Laurel on Feb. 21 or the six-furlong Tom Fool here on March 5 are possible next spots for Calibrachoa. Both are Grade 2 races worth $150,000.