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Kentucky Derby: Mike Repole more at ease this time around
Mike Repole has horses that run as fast as he talks, and that’s a good thing – at least for his horses – because when you get him on the phone, he goes the first quarter in 21 and change and keeps right on motoring.
Repole burst onto the racing scene more than two years ago, with the mercurial Uncle Mo, who was the champion 2-year-old male of 2010. Over the next year, Repole took a roller-coaster ride with Uncle Mo, and while he may never realize the highs he attained with that colt, and hopes he never hits the lows, his passion for racing is as fervent as ever.
And why not? Repole has a strong contingent of runners right now, headed by Remsen winner Overanalyze, a top contender for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, and Unlimited Budget, the unbeaten filly who is a leading contender for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks.
But the experience of Uncle Mo has left him soberly realistic about what lies ahead. Unlimited Budget won the Rachel Alexandra last Saturday at Fair Grounds, and Overanalyze makes his 2013 debut Saturday in the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct, but Repole realizes there are potentially many twists and turns until the first Friday and Saturday in May.
“The thing I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t expect much, but when something good happens, you should cherish it, because there’s no guarantee it’s going to happen again,” Repole said the other day from his office in New York. “If you stay in it, you’re going to have ups and downs.
“I mean, Uncle Mo was scratched from the Derby the day before the race. Look at my trainer, Todd Pletcher. He just found out about Violence. A lot can happen.”
Even something as innocuous as the draw can provide drama. Overanalyze on Wednesday drew the outside post when 12 were entered in the Gotham, which offers 85 points overall – 50 to the winner – on the new system set up by Churchill Downs for eligibility to this year’s Derby. From the rail out, the 1 1/16-mile race also includes Champion Boy, Escapefromreality, Ore Pass, Amerigo Vespucci, Transparent, Now and Then, Siete de Oros, Vyjack, Elnaawi, Sky Captain, and West Hills Giant, who is adding blinkers.
Now and Then and Transparent, both owned by Darley, will race coupled in the wagering, according to Andrew Byrnes, the stakes coordinator for the New York Racing Association. Those two plus Elnaawi are all trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Elnaawi, owned by Shadwell, will be racing with Lasix for the first time.
Overanalyze had a successful 2-year-old campaign, highlighted by his season-ending victory in the Remsen. But Repole said his own demeanor heading into this year’s Derby preps is “totally, totally different than in 2011.”
“It was psychotic,” he said. “I had Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty. I didn’t miss a work of Uncle Mo’s. Waiting for him to work, it was almost like a race. It was news. I felt like I was watching Michael Jordan at practice.
“I was calling Todd every morning. Before I’d kiss my wife, I’d call Todd Pletcher. I’d call Todd, then I’d kiss Maria. Now, I just text Todd in the morning, but we still talk every day. There’s a lot less anxiety, a lot less stress. Two years ago, it was the first time for me, and I didn’t know what to expect. I had two horses, one a champion. I was a rookie, a novice, but I was logical enough to know it could never happen again.”
At his best, Uncle Mo was brilliant. He was undefeated at age 2 and crushed his rivals in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. With Stay Thirsty also among his 3-year-olds, Repole came into spring 2011 loaded. But Uncle Mo became so ill that he was taken out of training, and he lost a severe amount of weight. Uncle Mo made it back to the races and turned in two terrific performances – a narrow second in the King’s Bishop, followed by a dazzling win in the Kelso – before finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in his career finale.
“There was a lifetime of emotions with that horse,” Repole said. “He went from being the 2-year-old champ, to having a disease and not knowing if it was going to kill him, and then coming back and running so well. Two years later, though, I wouldn’t trade. The greatest moment was when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He annihilated that field. You could be in the game 100 years and never have that feeling.”
But that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying. Repole said he has approximately 35 horses, including breeding stock and those in training – many with Pletcher, others with Bruce Levine.
Though he became fabulously wealthy when he and his partners sold Vitaminwater to Coca-Cola in 2007, Repole has significant entrepreneurial holdings that keep him busy when he’s not obsessing over his horses, or his beloved Mets. He has Pirate’s Booty, a healthy snack company; Energy Kitchen, a growing chain of low-fat fast-food restaurants; and he’s dived back into the drink business with Body Armor, a line of nutrient-enhanced beverages.
Nothing, though, gives him a rush like a Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct. He’ll be in his element for the Gotham, when he finds out how much progress Overanalyze has made from 2 to 3.
“We’ll know a lot more at 5 o’clock Saturday,” Repole said.
Over and out
Hansen laid over the field with an outside post last year. Overanalyze will bump up a couple of points on the toteboard as the "chicken littles" jump off the bandwagon. Someone will have to jump-up to beat him. Good Luck!
great guy. a true "degenerate" horseplayer. a dying breed.. he should be heading nyra. without gambling there is no horseracing. he knows that plus he knows what it takes to make the gamblers happy. he puts his money where his mouth is, in business and in horses. he deserves a derby win.
It's guys like him that make our game the best in town. I'll sometimes bet on certain owners because I root for them.
The post position just cost overanalyze the race this weekend. If he should win somehow he will too spent to comeback and win the Wood. Looks to be a Preakness type the way it's shaping up for him.
Could DRF have any browner a nose regarding Todd Pletcher and his wealthy owners? Uncle Mo had a very mysterious and still unexplained illness. And then Repole basically whines that his horses cannot run without drugs(Lasix), You do the math...
You either love Repole or hate him. I think his enthusiasm for the game is nothing but a positive. Good luck with Overanalyze and Unlimited Budget, and keep on promoting this wonderful sport.
Not happy with this man due to his bratty stance on Lasix, though he is going to get his way. It's inevitable.
Hello Mike Repole, I hope you win both The Oaks and the Derby for real. Good Luck !