11/08/2012 1:57PM

Laurel Park: Amerigo Vespucci, Whiskey Romeo square off in Lewis Stakes


Amerigo Vespucci, unbeaten in two starts, may have to run much faster than he has so far in order to outperform impressive debut winner Whiskey Romeo in Saturday’s $125,000 James Lewis III Stakes for 2-year-olds at Laurel Park.

The locally based Amerigo Vespucci, trained by Tim Tullock, has essentially paired up his Beyer Speed Figures by coming from off the pace to win his career debut going six furlongs with a 65 Beyer and then coming back 2 1/2 weeks later to rally to a 2 1/4-length victory in a first-level optional $40,000 claimer at seven furlongs with a 67 Beyer.

A son of $2.7 million earner Henrythenavigator, a four-time Group 1 winner in Europe, Americo Vespucci also is a half-brother to Gattopardo, winner of the Miracle Wood in Maryland and third in the Grade 3 Bay Shore as a 3-year-old.

Amerigo Vespucci’s unbeaten streak is in jeopardy, however, thanks to the presence of Whiskey Romeo. A bargain buy for $40,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Eastern fall yearling sale at Timonium, Whiskey Romeo won his first start by 2 1/4 lengths at Parx Racing with a sharp 78 Beyer. The runner-up from that race, Tek, came back Nov. 1 to win a maiden event with a 67 Beyer.

In addition, trainer Tony Dutrow is 5 for 13 (38 percent) with 2-year-old debut winners making their second career start in a sprint.

The six-horse field in the six-furlong Lewis also includes Alpha Mike Foxtrot, who takes another crack at Amerigo Vespucci after losing all chance in the seven-furlong race Oct. 25. He stumbled coming out of the gate and then jockey Forest Boyce checked him at the half-mile pole.

Two starts ago, Alpha Mike Foxtrot missed by a neck in a field of 14 in the six-furlong Maryland Million Nursery. Since his last start, Alpha Mike Foxtrot has worked a bullet half-mile in 48.40 seconds.

A son of Two Punch, Alpha Mike Foxtrot is out of the Broad Brush mare Shashobegon, who won 14 of 52 starts, including two stakes, and $531,904.

Gas Tank, 0 for 2 on the main track, switches surfaces following a closing effort going 5 1/2 furlongs on turf in the Laurel Futurity. His trainer, Dane Kobiskie, hits at a 26 percent rate with both 2-year-olds and horses going from turf to dirt the past two seasons.