01/20/2011 4:06PM

Repole puts Pletcher in the claiming game

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Calibrachoa wins first off the claim in the Gravesend Stakes for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Todd Pletcher is already a force in virtually every category, but owner Mike Repole is looking to expand the five-time Eclipse Award winner’s horizons by turning him into a claiming trainer.

In the last two months, Repole and Pletcher have claimed three horses, including Calibrachoa, who in his first start off the claim won the $65,000 Gravesend Stakes and is the horse to beat in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct. In the last two weeks, Repole and Pletcher claimed Have You Ever and Writingonthewall for a combined $85,000.

“I don’t think he wins the Eclipse Award if I don’t turn him into a claiming trainer,” Repole joked in a phone interview Thursday. Steve “Asmussen won back-to-back years and he claims. Other than winning his 12 Grade 1s starting to claim horses at the end of the year kind of put him over the top. I think I won that Eclipse Award for him.”

Repole, whose Uncle Mo – trained by Pletcher – won an Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading 2-year-old, said he has shifted his stable’s focus from quantity to quality. However, he still likes to dabble in the claiming game with not only Pletcher but Dominic Galluscio and Bruce Brown.

“I still want to be in the claiming game,” Repole said. “I want to make some more quality claims. I don’t think in August when [Pletcher’s] got 80 2-year-olds he should be focusing on claiming. But now that it’s January, February, March why not keep our eyes open and look.”

Calibrachoa caught Repole’s eye when, on Oct. 14, he ran a bang-up second in a $50,000 claimer to Black Pen, a horse Repole and Pletcher had claimed away from them by trainer David Jacobson. So on Nov. 18, Repole put up the $40,000 it took to claim Calibrachoa from Asmussen.

“I want to thank David Jacobson personally; he claimed Black Pen from me and I saw Black Pen at 30-1 beat this nice horse by half a length in a $50,000 claimer and the two had [5 1/2] lengths on the field,” Repole said. “Black Pen ran a good race, but I looked at this Calibrachoa and what he did was pretty impressive.”

What Calibrachoa did in that Nov. 18 race also was impressive. He pressed hot early fractions and drew clear to win by 4 1/4 lengths. In his first start off the claim, Calibrachoa rallied from off the pace to win the Gravesend by 1 1/2 lengths over the Repole-owned Driven by Success.

“To take a horse for $40,000 and to win a stake with him first start back, tell me that’s not impressive,” Repole said. “Not only an impressive claim, it shows what [Pletcher] can do in 30 days with a horse.”

Repole said he claimed Have You Ever for $50,000 on Jan. 9 because the horse had some back form with several Beyer Speed Figures in the 90s. On Jan. 13, Repole claimed Writingonthewall for $35,000. That 6-year-old New York-bred won three turf races in 23 days at Saratoga. He has finished second twice in races run over the inner dirt.

Fort Hughes likely staying in New York

Though Fort Hughes was most impressive winning Monday’s $65,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, he will likely remain in New York for the foreseeable future, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Thursday.

Fort Hughes, a son of Henny Hughes, won the Jimmy Winkfield by 4 3/4 lengths, running six furlongs in a stakes record of 1:08.33. He earned a Beyer of 104. His mid-range goal is the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore Stakes on April 9, with a possible start in the $65,000 Fred “Cappy” Capossela Stakes on March 5.

“We were happy with his performance for sure, an eye-opener time,” McLaughlin said. “It was a ‘wow!’ ”

McLaughlin said that one of the reasons Fort Hughes would remain in New York is that he and Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable already have shipped the 3-year-old Crossbow – a recent maiden winner over the inner track – to south Florida to run at Gulfstream.

McLaughlin said Crossbow may have more distance capabilities than Fort Hughes, who will likely be kept in sprints.

“Crossbow might want further than six furlongs and in New York there’s only six furlongs or two turns,” McLaughlin said.

NYRA vets to administer Lasix

Beginning next Wednesday, only New York Racing Association veterinarians will be permitted to administer Lasix to horses on race day, it was announced Thursday.

Since the NYRA closed down its race-day security barn in July, private veterinarians were in charge of giving Lasix to horses on race day. Since that time, more than 20 horses have been scratched due to trainers or vets’ failure to follow proper Lasix procedures. NYRA has recently hired three veterinarians to administer the Lasix, which will be done at the trainers’ barns.

For five years, from the summer of 2005 through late July, NYRA had a race-day security barn where horses had to report 4 to 4 1/2 hours before they were to race. Lasix was administered by NYRA vets at that time.

“This important integrity measure will eliminate the need for private veterinarians to enter horses’ stalls on race days,” NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward said. “Combined with the expanded in-house drug testing program that was instituted last summer, we are very pleased with the progress made to protect the integrity of NRYA racing.”