Few active thoroughbred owners are as synonymous with top-level success on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit as Mike Repole, who will be represented by Overtook (Curlin – Got Lucky by A.P. Indy) in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Overtook, a $1 million purchase from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is owned by Repole in partnership with St. Elias Stable, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith. The colt’s dam won the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes and is a half-sister to graded winners Girolamo, Accelarting and Daydreamimg.
As a lifelong New Yorker and racing fan, Repole said he takes pride in having conquered some of the most prestigious races in the Empire State and beyond.
When examining his own list of accomplishments, Repole said it’s not his triumphs in prestigious Grade 1 New York classics such as the Travers, Alabama, Champagne or Coaching Club American Oaks, nor is it his two Breeders’ Cup victories, that stand out.
“There’s a hole in my resume, and it’s the Belmont Stakes,” Repole said. “I’ve probably said it fifteen years ago when I had just entered the game and was winning claiming races that I’d rather win the Belmont than the Kentucky Derby. And now, 15 years later, I’m still looking.”
Repole arrives at this year’s Belmont Stakes with the second longest shot in a field of eight in Overtook, who breaks from the outside post at morning line odds of 20-1 under jockey Manny Franco.
Repole came close to finding his first Belmont Stakes victory in his first attempt when Stay Thirsty ran second in 2011. At the top of the stretch, the subsequent Grade 1 Travers victor made a menacing run along the rail, but was ultimately kept at bay by Ruler On Ice.
“That still goes down as the toughest loss in my life,” Repole said. “People congratulated me right after the race knowing that this was a dream and I had come so close. Now, ten years later, I haven’t come close to it since. It just makes it more inspiring and motivating to one day win this race.”
Since Stay Thirsty’s rallying second in the “Test of the Champion”, Repole has owned a handful of Belmont Stakes contenders, including a trio of unplaced runners in 2013, as well as his most recent Belmont starter Vino Rosso running fourth in 2018.
But like the true sportsman that he is, Repole remains persistent in getting that Belmont Stakes win. A native of Queens, Repole grew up going to Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack and always held the Triple Crown’s third jewel in highest regards.
“I’ve been so blessed. These are the races I went to growing up and these are the races I wanted to win,” Repole said. “I definitely feel blessed and lucky, but there’s a hole in that resume and it’s the Belmont Stakes. Especially, when I think about being that kid from Queens that grew up going to Aqueduct and Belmont. Now, I’ve had so many big wins in New York.”
Overtook was certainly bred for the 12-furlong endurance distance, being by 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin, sire of 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, and is out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Got Lucky. Additionally, he is a direct descendent of the immensely influential La Troienne.
All it took was one glance at Overtook’s pedigree for Repole to have the Belmont Stakes in mind.
“This is one horse that I circled for a mile and a half in the Belmont in two years,” Repole said. “Curlin only lost by a nose in the Belmont and Got Lucky could run all day. We’ll be a longshot, but there’s no doubt that he can get the distance.”
In five career starts, Overtook’s lone victory was a one-turn mile maiden triumph at third asking over the main track at Aqueduct, where he made up 10 lengths from eighth. From there, he maintained his late-closing running style with placings in the Grade 3 Withers and most recently the Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 8 at Belmont Park.
“If we get a good pace upfront, one thing you’ll see is that he’ll be running really hard at the end,” Repole said. “When he broke his maiden, it wasn’t the distance, it was the pace that made all the difference. When he was in the Peter Pan, I thought he had a big shot, but when I saw the fractions, I knew we were in trouble.
“If they go 25 and 50 upfront, I might be walking to get my car from the valet early,” he added, with a laugh. “If I see 24 and 48 or even faster, I’ll stand up immediately and watch him the whole way.”
Belmont Stakes horses notes
Godolphin’s Champion 2-Year-Old Essential Quality visited the main track just after 7 a.m. for his routine gallop in preparation for the 1 1/2-mile test.
The son of three-time Belmont Stakes-producing sire Tapit went to the main track under trainer Brad Cox’s assistant Dustin Dugas and visited the gate before a gallop over the main track.
“He’s been doing great,” Cox said. “He went to the track this morning and looked great. Since shipping up here, he’s done well. I don’t see any issues with him.”
Essential Quality, who also schooled in the paddock later in the morning, seeks to give the prestigious worldwide racing and breeding operation their first triumph in an American Triple Crown race. The Kentucky homebred also seeks to add his name to a long list American classic-winning horses who directly descend from prestigious blue hen mare La Troienne.
Hronis Racing and Michael Talla’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World visited the gate on the Belmont main track before galloping a mile and a half on Big Sandy. He later schooled in the Belmont paddock.
Trainer John Sadler was on hand to watch his Grade 1-winning son of Candy Ride prepare for Saturday’s engagement and said the was satisfied with what he’s seen.
“He looked good in the gate and galloped very well,” Sadler said.
Sadler, whose lone Belmont Stakes contender was Dave in Dixie [10th in 2010], expressed confidence in Rock Your World being able to handle the mile-and-a-half distance that awaits him.
“When you’re talking about the Belmont, this is the longest that these horses will run,” Sadler said. “We think he has the action and the pedigree to go that far. Empire Maker is his damsire and he won the  Belmont. He should have a lot of stamina.”
Rock Your World will seek redemption following a difficult break from the gate in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1, where he was out of position and unable to establish his usual frontrunning tactics.
Stephanie Hronis, who operates Hronis Racing with her husband Kosta, also was on site to watch Rock Your World train. She expressed excitement in being able to watch her horse seek to make amends.
“We’re calling it the redemption race for Rock Your World,” Hronis said. “He’s an exceptional horse. He’s got it on both sides where he can route on the dirt. The Derby was a good learning experience, but at the time it really did hurt. It was tough to see his race being over right in the first few steps from the gate. That was really tough to watch. But again, it was a good experience, and we think he has it in him.”
The owner-trainer combination have notched previous Grade 1-victories with the likes of 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, as well as Catalina Cruiser, Stellar Wind, Hard Aces, and Ollie’s Candy among multiple others.
Hronis said a triumph in a Triple Crown race would mean the world to her.
“To say exceptional would be an understatement,” Hronis said “It would be such an honor to have a Triple Crown win for everyone for the barn, for both the Hronis and Talla families. We’ve got quite a dynamic going. [Bloodstock agent] David Ingordo is hugely responsible for horses we’ve had in the barn. For our entire team, it would be incredible honor to win.”
Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher’s trio of Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets trainees – Calumet Farm’s Bourbonic, St. Elias Stable’s Known Agenda and Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Overtook – all trained on Thursday at just past 6:00 a.m. ahead of their date in the “Test of the Champion” on Saturday. Both Overtook and Bourbonic schooled in the paddock later in the morning.
“They all went out this morning, galloped a mile and a half and schooled at the gate,” Pletcher said. “They’re all looking well.”
Pletcher also reported that Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Martin Schwartz and CHC Inc.’s Valiance spiked a temperature and will be withdrawn from the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps.
Yuji Inaida’s France Go de Ina, who breezed five-eighths in 1:02.62 on the main track Wednesday, enjoyed a walk day and will return to his regular gallop schedule on Friday.
Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Strauss Bros Racing and Gainesway Thoroughbreds’ Hot Rod Charlie continues to thrive for trainer Doug O’Neill.
The veteran conditioner called an audible after the main track was sealed Thursday and instead sent the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby-winner to gallop over the dirt training track.
“He went to the nicely harrowed training track and we were very happy with that,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill said Hot Rod Charlie, who finished third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, will not visit the gate this week.
“He’s good at the gate and hasn’t had any issues. We’re happy with him,” said O’Neill.
John and Diane Fradkin’s Grade 1 Preakness winner Rombauer visited the gate and galloped on the main track at 7:15 a.m. for trainer Michael McCarthy.
“It went well,” said McCarthy. “He went his usual mile and three-eighths which is what we’ve been doing all week long. All is good.”