San Nicola Thunder, a 23-1 longshot, capped a terrific weekend for jockey Justin Stein, taking the co-featured $125,400 Vice Regent Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.

Trained by veteran John Cardella for owners Paul Cooper and Joe Pirone, San Nicola Thunder took over in deep stretch in the one-mile Ontario Sire turf event for three-year-olds, then fended off a late challenge from County Lineman for a neck decision in a time of 1:35.97. Favoured Langstaff wound up third, one and one-half lengths behind.

For Stein, it was his third stakes victory on the weekend, after scoring in the Avowal aboard Part the Seas earlier in the card, and steering Youcan’tcatchme to a front-running tally in the Seaway Stakes on Saturday.

“I can’t believe it, I’m very blessed,” said Stein. “I think the big man upstairs has been helping a lot with these horses this weekend. Horses have been running phenomenally.”
Placed in fifth for much of the journey, as Power Phil cut out fractions of :23.42, 46.58 and 1:11.15, San Nicola Thunder somehow found a seam between rivals in mid-stretch, grabbed the lead and held the closers safe.

It was the first stakes win for the gelded son of Silent Name-San Nicola Flyer, bred by her co-owner Pirone, and only her second trip over the turf. She’d finished a credible fourth to Langstaff in the six furlong Bold Ruckus back in June.

“Justin rode the horse perfect,” said Cardella. “Unfortunately the last couple of starts this horse had problems…stumbled leaving the gate, nobody’s fault but his own, just a little too excited. Today he broke good so I thought he might run a big race and he did.
He had a very good clean run, a very good trip today. That’s what horse racing is all about. You gotta have a good clean trip. It makes up for a lot of things.”

San Nicola Thunder, who earned $75,000 for the win, his third victory in 14 career starts, lit up the toteboard by paying $49.10, $18.20 and $7.90, pairing with County Lineman ($11.20, $5.90) for a $325.80 (7-5) exactor. A 7-5-3 (Langstaff, $2.70) triactor returned a healthy $1,399 while a $1 Superfecta [7-5-3-9 (Fighting Chris)] came back a whopping $9,438.95.