03/22/2015 5:18PM

Turco Bravo scores longshot victory in Stymie

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After watching Turco Bravo run a decent third in a stakes race at Gulfstream Park West last October, trainer Gary Contessa convinced an ownership group to purchase him privately.

“You would think a horse like this would win every stakes race all winter long at Aqueduct,” Contessa recalled telling Steve Sigler of Winning Move Stable at the time.

Well, it didn’t work out quite like that, but it worked out pretty well Sunday as Turco Bravo, at 9-1 the longest shot in a compact five-horse field, ran down the pace-setting Cousin Stephen to win the $100,000 Stymie Stakes by a half-length at Aqueduct.

Cousin Stephen, making his return to New York after dominating two allowance fields at Parx, finished second by two lengths over North Slope. Micromanage and Vyjack, the 9-5 favorite, completed the order of finish.

It was Turco Bravo’s first win in seven starts in the U.S. after he won 10 of 23 races in his native Chile. Turco Bravo had finished third behind Micromanage and Vyjack in the Queens County here in December, second to Micromanage in the Jazil in January, and third behind North Slope in the Evening Attire last month.

“This winter has been the toughest level of stakes horses – Micromanage, Vyjack – he’s really been up against it,” Contessa said. “He finally got it together.”

Though Turco Bravo broke on top, he was quickly reined in by Jose Ortiz as Cousin Stephen, under Kendrick Carmouche, set fractions of 24.36 seconds for the quarter, 49.13 for the half, and 1:13.99 for six furlongs, chased by Vyjack.

Turco Bravo stalked those two from the inside, tipped one path off the rail in the stretch, split horses inside the three-sixteenths pole and gradually wore down Cousin Stephen.

Turco Bravo, a Chilean-bred gelding, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.80 and returned $21.60 to win.

“I was thinking we were going to the lead, but I liked the way he went and reached up and took a hold and fell into that position,” Contessa said. “I was thrilled with that position, especially since he got through.”

Contessa believes Turco Bravo will excel in longer distance races, and he will be pointed to the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Stakes at 1 1/4 miles over Aqueduct’s main track April 25.