03/05/2011 6:35PM

Gotham score at Aqueduct allows Stay Thirsty to escape Uncle Mo's shadow

David Alcosser
Stay Thirsty scores a 3 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y.  - While obviously happy to be his owner, Mike Repole was starting to get a little tired hearing and reading only about Uncle Mo. That’s because Repole is also the owner of Stay Thirsty, a 3-year-old he happens to be quite high on.

For one day at least, Stay Thirsty earned some headlines of his own with a 3 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

"I couldn’t be any happier for this horse," Repole said. "I keep hearing about Mo’s shadow and Mo’s stablemate - this is one of the top six 3-year-olds in the country. Today is all about Stay Thirsty. I think he proved when you get away from Boys At Tosconova and you get away from Uncle Mo, this is a pretty special horse."

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It was the first stakes victory for Stay Thirsty, who had just a maiden victory from four previous starts, though he had finished second to Boys At Tosconova in the four-horse Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga.

Saturday, in his first start since running fifth to Uncle Mo - beaten 14 1/2 lengths - in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Stay Thirsty overcame a slow start and pedestrian pace to win the Gotham going away. Norman Asbjornson, a 47-1 longshot, held second by one length over Whirlaway Stakes winner Toby’s Corner. Nacho Saint, The Fed Eased, He Isn’t Perfect and Starship Caesar completed the field. Preachintothedevil, who had a foot bruise, and Dawly scratched.

Stay Thirsty’s Gotham victory capped a three-stakes win day in New York for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Ramon Dominguez. Earlier on the card Pletcher and Dominguez won the Grade 3 Tom Fool with Calibrachoa (also owned by Repole) and the listed Capossela Stakes with Sensational Slam, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Pletcher also won the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs with Colizeo.

Pletcher made a rare winter visit to Aqueduct, primarily to see Stay Thirsty’s 3-year-old debut. Pletcher had gotten only five works into Stay Thirsty at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida - although three of those were done in company with Uncle Mo. Pletcher felt Stay Thirsty had little margin for error even in a scratch-reduced field of seven that had only one stakes winner, Toby’s Corner.

So Pletcher grew a little concerned when Stay Thirsty turned his head and hit the side of the gate at the start and found himself three wide entering the first turn.

"When he [broke] like that I didn’t think we had a lot of margin for error and we had a little more than I thought coming in," Pletcher said.

Dominguez said Stay Thirsty recovered quickly and assumed a forward position, about three lengths off the pace established by The Fed Eased, who ran fractions of 24.79 seconds and 49.18 for the half. Entering the far turn, Dominguez moved Stay Thirsty into third position. He came three wide around the turn and into the stretch, and with two cracks of Dominguez’s left-handed stick, he moved to the leaders at the eighth pole. At the sixteenth pole, Stay Thirsty came in a touch, and 70 yards later Julien Pimentel, aboard Norman Asbjornson, steadied, but Stay Thirsty was well on his way to victory.

Pimentel claimed foul on Dominguez, but it was quickly dismissed by the stewards.

"Turning for home, he was drifting in slightly and I know there was an inquiry with that second horse, but there wasn’t much contact," Dominguez said.

Stay Thirsty covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.78 and returned $3.80 as the favorite.

Though Stay Thirsty switched back to his left lead after making the front, he eventually switched back and proceeded to gallop out very strongly.

"I think there’s a couple of things to improve upon, that being one, and obviously he threw his head a little bit at the start," Pletcher said. `` "Hopefully, there a couple of things we can do better next time."

With Uncle Mo - who makes his 3-year-old debut next weekend at either Gulfstream or Tampa Bay Downs - slated for the Wood Memorial on April 9, Pletcher and Repole will look at other options for Stay Thirsty, including the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 3 or the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16.