By Brian Bohl —-
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Repole Stable’s Outplay went gate-to-wire to record his first stakes win, setting the pace and registering a 5 ¾-length victory in the ninth running of the $100,000 Curlin for 3-year-olds on Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez sent the Bernardini colt to the front, going a quarter-mile in 24.06 seconds and the half in 48.71. Outplay held the lead out of the far turn and kept clear of Small Bear in the stretch, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.59 on the fast main track.
Outplay won for the third time in seven starts. The Todd Pletcher trainee, who broke his maiden on April 8 at Aqueduct, made his stakes debut with a third-place finish in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day, June 10, and finished in the money for the sixth straight start.
“I don’t know that we expected a dominant performance,” said Pletcher, who won his second Curlin and first since Turbo Compressor in 2011. “We felt like the horse was training very well and we felt like on paper we had a bit of a pace advantage. You never know what everyone else’s strategy is but we felt like we had the most natural speed and we wanted to take advantage of that. He was able to get to the first turn in good order and I thought he ran very well”
Off at 2-1, Outplay paid $6.10 on a $2 win bet. The Kentucky-bred increased his career earnings to $163,000.
The win also opened up possibilities for Outplay to seek graded stakes competition, with the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers presented by NYRA Bets an option on August 26.
“I don’t know for sure. I don’t want to commit to the Travers yet. He did have a huge win at Parx earlier in the year; the Pennsylvania Derby could make some sense, but I’ll talk to Mr. Repole about it,” Pletcher said. “I’m sure he’d be excited to run in the Travers. We’ll see how things go tomorrow and how the Travers shapes up and go from there.”
Velazquez used a ground-saving trip out of the gate, staying near the rail as 6-5 favorite You’re to Blame was forced to go wide. Velazquez kept Outplay tucked to the inside out of the turn and drew clear to win his second straight Curlin after piloting Connect in last year’s edition.
“We knew there wasn’t much pace in the race other than Chad [Brown’s] horse [You’re to Blame], so coming in Todd and I talked and felt that we’d run to the first turn and see where we are and it all worked out from there,” Velazquez said. “When he won at Belmont, I hit him right-handed and he kind of ducked away from the whip. He did it again today, I don’t know why. He didn’t do it in his last race, but he didn’t win so I didn’t have to ride him so hard.”
Added Pletcher: “He got a little bit green down the lane when he was by himself. He went back to his inside lead and Johnny had to correct him but overall I thought it was a very impressive performance His pedigree suggests he’s going to get better with more distance and that seemed to be the case today.”
Small Bear, trained by Gary Sciacca, finished three-quarters of a length clear for second place in returning to stakes company for the first time since running third in the Paradise Creek on May 27 at Belmont.
Perfect Partner, a son of 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Curlin, was third for trainer Mark Casse.
You’re to Blame, Everybodyluvsrudy, Thirst for Victory and Hemsworth completed the order of finish.
Cover Photo: Outplay; Chelsea Durand Photo