OZONE PARK, N.Y. — A couple of guys from New York are going to the Kentucky Derby and the horse that is taking them there is Vino Rosso, the winner of Aqueduct's $1 million, Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 7.

The 3-year-old colt races for the Repole Stable, the nom de course of Mile Repole, a Queens born food and beverage magnate, and the St. Elias Stable, the nom de course of Vincent Viola, a Brooklyn born former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange .

Viola and his wife, Teresa, who now reside in Manhattan, tasted the thrill of Derby victory when Always Dreaming, a colt in which they had a part interest, captured the Run for the Roses last year.

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The win earned Vino Rosso 100 Derby qualifying points and earned him one of the 20 stalls in the Derby starting gate late in the afternoon on Saturday, May 5. The son of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin from the Street Cry mare Mythical Bride defeated eight rivals in the 94th running of the Wood, the major Derby qualifier run in the northeast.

Vino Rosso was sent postward at odds of 9 to 1 based on a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Derby and third place finish in the Sam F. Davis, both run at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.

Vino Rosso came away from the starting gate in the Wood Memorial eighth in a field of nine Derby aspirants. He and Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez gradually improved their position around the far turn and up the backstretch. He and the eventual runner-up, the Gotham winner Enticed, were on even terms as they entered the stretch.

Passing the furlong pole, there was obvious contact between the two leaders between the furlong pole and the 1/16 marker.

At the wire, it was Vino Rosso in front by three lengths over Enticed with Junior Alvarado in the saddle. Gary and Mary West's Restoring Hope took third place by finishing 2-1/4 lengths astern of Enticed. The winning time for the 1-1/8-miles was 1:49.79 over a fast track.

As soon as the field crossed the finish line, the stewards flashed the “Inquiry” sign and Alvarado notified the radio-equipped outrider he was claiming “Foul.” After a review of the stretch run video, the stewards let the placings stand giving Vino Rosso his third lifetime win from five starts and his first in graded stakes company.

After the race, Mega-trainer Todd Pletcher pleaded Vino Rosso's case saying, “No question there was contact. I think it was mutual. But, I don't think it affected the outcome of the race.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, speaking for Enticed, rebutted with “They take them down a lot more often with less [interference]. I think we had a really good chance to get put up. It was an excellent race. We finished second. And, he deserved to win.” He then added the placing did not alter his plans for Enticed to run in the Kentucky Derby.

My Miss Lilly Wins Gazelle

OZONE PARK, N.Y. — When Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano went to Santa Anita to ride Bolt d'Oro in the $1 million, Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby for owner-trainer Mick Ruis, trainer Mark Hennig put out a call for Red Bank, N.J.'s Joe Bravo to get aboard the Courtland Farm's My Miss Lilly in Aqueduct's $300,000, Grade 2 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies on April 7.

After My Miss Lilly came from fourth place to win the Gazelle, My Miss Lilly was a sure shot starter in Churchill Downs' Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4—very possibly with Bravo in the saddle.

Castellano was aboard the daughter of Tapit from the Harlan's Holiday mare Wicked Deed for her first two starts, a maiden special winner at Aqueduct and a third place finish in Gulfstream's Forward Gal. Jockey Manny Franco, the leading rider at the recently concluded Aqueduct winter meeting was in the saddle for Mr Miss Lilly's third place finish in the Big A's Busher Stakes in early March.

Bravo kept My Miss Lilly off the pace set by Sara Street and Dylan Davis until the field of six was in the stretch. They came running outside of rivals to gain the win by a half length over Sara Street with Virginia Key and Flavian Prat finishing third.

My Miss Lilly's victory was worth 100 Kentucky Oaks points, enough to get Donald and Donna Adam, the Courtland owners, to Louisville for the Oaks. Her 102 point total put My Miss Lilly in the lead (She earned to points for finishing third in the Forward Gal) over Chocolate Martini, the winner of Fair Grounds' Oaks, and Coach Rocks, the Gulfstream Oaks winner, who have 100 points each.

Keeneland's Ashland and Santa Anita's Oaks were still to be run on Saturday.

After the race, Hennig said Franco was doing his best in My Miss Lilly's last start, but “It was one of those things where you zig when you should zag. Today, I thought it was important to keep her out in the clear. That's what I told Joe.”

The mile and an eighth distance (of the Gazelle and the Kentucky Oaks) is one Hennig seems to like for his filly. “She's a big, long-legged Tapit just wanting to run two turns.”

In the Gazelle, the trainer said, “She had to go a little wide coming off that turn. I was worried about that. I feel she'll relish more and more distance.”

Bravo echoed Hennig's assessment saying, “I don't think distance is going to hurt her. She's bred to go long.” My Miss Lilly handled the mile and a furlong in 1:50.52 over a fast Aqueduct main track.

The Gazelle win gives My Miss Lilly a record of two wins from four starts. The NYRA check for $180,000 will boost her purse earnings over the quarter million dollar mark.

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