Mike Repole said he has always been a fan of Johannesburg Smile. Friday, he proved how big a fan when he put up $100,000 to claim the 6-year-old New York-bred out of the third race. Johannesburg Smile won the mile and 70-yard race by a half-length. The horse, previously trained by Dominic Galluscio, will be trained by Todd Pletcher.
“I think the horse is very versatile, I think the horse can go long, I think he can sprint,” Repole said by phone from Florida. “If it wasn’t for horses like Saginaw, he probably would have won a lot more races. He reminds me of a New York-bred Caixa Eletronica.”
Caixa Eletronica is a horse that Repole claimed in March 2011 for $62,500 – also as a 6-year-old – who has gone on to win 7 of 20 starts and make $1,336,500. Caixa Eletronica has won four graded stakes, including the $1 million Charles Town Classic and is being pointed to the Toboggan here Feb. 2.
Johannesburg Smile is a son of Johannesburg who has won 8 of 29 starts, including two stakes. He has finished third and fourth in the last two runnings of the $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park.
Repole said prior to Johannesburg Smile winning Friday, he was viewing him as a closing sprinter and was thinking of running him in the Hollie Hughes, a six-furlong race here Feb. 18. Five days later, there is the Kings Point for New York-breds going 1 1/16 miles.
Asked his reaction to the horse being claimed from him, trainer Dominic Galluscio, paraphrasing a line from “The Godfather,” simply said, “I think it’s only business, I don’t take it personal.”
Palace proves a good claim for Rice
Repole hopes to have as much success with Johannesburg Smile as Linda Rice has had with Palace, a colt who seeks his fourth straight win off the claim – and fifth straight overall – in Sunday’s third race, a $62,000 allowance sprint.
Rice took Palace, a New York-bred son of City Zip, for $20,000 from WinStar and trainer Bill Mott on Oct. 6. He won by 11 3/4 lengths that day. Since then, Rice has won three in a row, including a starter allowance Dec. 16 in which Palace earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
Rice, who had trained City Zip, definitely did her homework prior to claiming Palace, who had fallen in his start prior to being dropped into a claiming race.
“The horse had fallen down in his only start on the grass,” Rice said. “I watched the replay. It looked like the horse got bumped pretty hard and was tired, so I think it was a little deceiving – I was hoping it was. Also, I was aware of the fact that WinStar had that horse and a bunch of others consigned in a sale in Kentucky, so it looked like they were culling the bottom end. It made me think they had already decided they were going to cull that horse, so it was probably entered to win a race.”
Prior to his open-length victory last out, Palace had won his prior two starts by a neck and a head, both wins coming against next-out winners.
“Obviously, I’ve been very happy with his progress,” Rice said. “You claim a horse, you don’t expect it to win every time you run him, but he has.”
Sunday’s race is a tough heat with horses like Black Pen, Joking, and Readytodefer in the field.