Saturday, April 04, 2009


AFTER ALL THAT, I WANT REVENGE NAILS WOOD


I Want Revenge overcame a horrible start, traffic problems and seven other three-year-olds Saturday afternoon to win the 85th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Rracetrack by a length and a half over West Side Bernie.

In what is certain to be rated as one of the top races of the year, the Stephen Got Even colt thrilled the crowd of 7,209, which had made him the overwhelming favorite, with a demonstration of courage and ability not often seen in horses making their eighth career start.


“You don’t want to see that kind of trouble, and nine out of 10 times they don’t overcome it,” said winning trainer Jeff Mullins, as I Want Revenge paid $3 for his second victory on dirt. “So, for him to do what did today is just unbelievable. He had every trouble you could have in a race and still overcame it. That’s as good as it gets right there.”

I Want Revenge had showed class on March 7 when he won the Grade 2 Gotham Stakes by more than eight lengths. It was his first start on dirt after going 1-for-6 on the synthetic surfaces in California.

That race was easy. And it prompted owner David J. Lanzman sell a half-interest in the colt to IEAH Stable in a private transaction on March 30.

The Wood Memorial, however, was the gut-check.

Breaking from the rail, I Want Revenge reared back, and then lunged forward when the gate opened to spot the field several lengths.

“I was heading back to the barn,” Mullins said.

That misstep opened the door for Lord Justice to set the pace of 24.50, 48.13 and 1:12.32., with Atomic Rain close up, along with second choice Imperial Council.

With I Want Revenge far back, the race seemed to set up for Imperial Council. He had run second in the Gotham, and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey believed he was too far off a slow pace. This time, he was in the thick of the fight and was just behind Just a Coincidence, who had been rating in fourth, when they hit the top of the stretch.

Suddenly, a wall was formed up front with Imperial Council, Just a Coincidence and Atomic Rain fighting for the lead.

I Want Revenge, meanwhile, had saved ground under jockey Joe Talamo, tilted out to the middle of the track and moved steadily into contention. He waited for running room behind the wall, as West Side Bernie came outside.

Talamo, whose patience will be mentioned often in the weeks leading to the Kentucky Derby on May 2, waited for the hole and when West Side Bernie drifted a tad outside, he shot through to win the nine-furlong event in 1:49.49. Just a Coincidence was two lengths behind West Side Bernie in third.

“At the break he kind of reared up a little bit,” Talamo said. “But he actually had a great trip. He was on the rail the whole way and got to save ground. Right down the stretch, I found an opening and he kicked down like a real nice horse. You can’t panic. You just have to go with Plan B. Can’t rush him up, just stay relaxed and let the race go like it is. At the half-mile pole, he was moving so good it was just a matter of if he could get out. He was just cruising at the quarter-pole and was covered up, then when I found a seam I asked him and he just kicked it home.

“I thought today was a fairly easy race for him. To be honest, he only ran the last eighth of a mile, so I don’t think it took too much out of him. He just keeps getting better and better. That was the first time he got real dirt in his face and he took it like he’s had it before 100 times. He’s such a smart animal and he’s real mature for his age.”

Mullins said he would like to ship to Churchill on Monday, and hopefully, start training I Want Revenge for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Kelly Breen, who finished second and fourth, respectively, with West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain, is excited about his first trip to the Derby.

“When Stewart (Elliott, jockey of West Side Bernie) got clear and got the dirt out of his face at the top of the stretch, he really kicked in,” Breen said. “Asking Stewart about going to Kentucky, he said they have the ground and you can take as much into contest as you want about whether he’s bred for it or not. But he seems to like the distance. The 2-horse (I Want Revenge) ran a great race got left and had a ton of horse left. But the Kentucky Derby I don’t want to say it’s a once in a lifetime shot, but it would be my first shot, knock on wood. If this horse comes out of the race good, then we’re all systems go.

“I hope we can throw out the race at Turfway and say he’s on a forward progress line and ready for the `First Saturday in May.’ The winner ran a nice race. It was his day.”

Imperial Council finished fifth, but McGaughey said there was no way he would make the Derby.

Cellar Dweller, Lord Justice and Lime Rickey, a turf specialist who was taking a shot in the Wood Memorial, completed the order of finish.


WOOD MEMORIAL QUOTES

Winning trainer Jeff Mullins of favored I Want Revenge (No. 2): “[When he missed the break] I was already heading back to the barn at that point. But Joe (Talamo) was patient - and it says a lot for a young rider. He saved his horse and waited for the right time to let him go. He looks like a pretty nice horse for me

“He get bottled up behind horses - when you have the rail you’re worried about that anyway - but when you miss the break it makes it that much tougher for him to overcome. What he did today is pretty special. The plan try is to try and ship to Churchill Downs Monday. He had every trouble you could have in a race and still overcome it. It tells me he’s a pretty nice horse. That’s as good as it gets right there - we’ve got one more show to go to and if he can win that one he’s a pretty special animal.”

Winning jockey Joe Talamo: “At the break he kind of reared up a little bit. But he actually had a great trip. He was on the rail the whole way and got to save ground. Right down the stretch, I found an opening and he kicked down like a real nice horse.

“You can’t panic. You just have to go with Plan B. Can’t rush him up, just stay relaxed and let the race go like it is. At the half-mile pole, he was moving so good it was just a matter of if he could get out. He was just cruising at the quarter-pole and was covered up, then when I found a seam I asked him and he just kicked it home.

“I thought today was a fairly easy race for him. To be honest, he only ran the last eighth of a mile, so I don’t think it took too much out of him. He just keeps getting better and better. That was the first time he got real dirt in his face and he took it like he’s had it before 100 times. He’s such a smart animal and he’s real mature for his age.”

Kelly Breen, trainer of runner-up West Side Bernie (No. 1A) and fourth-place finisher Atomic Rain (No. 1): “When Stewart (Elliott, jockey of West Side Bernie) got clear and go the dirt out of his face at the top of the stretch, he really kicked in. Asking Stewart about going to Kentucky, he said they have the ground and you can take as much into contest as you want about whether he’s bred for it or not. But he seems to like the distance. The 2-horse (I Want Revenge) ran a great race got left and had a ton of horse left. But the Kentucky Derby. I don’t want to say it’s a once in a lifetime shot, but it would be my first shot, knock on wood. If this horse comes out of the race good, then we’re all systems go.

“Looked to me like Bernie was back and I know there’s all different sheet players and everything else and I hope we can throw out the race at Turfway and say he’s on a forward progress line and ready for the `First Saturday in May.’

“The winner ran a nice race. It was his day.”

Tim Poole, assistant to trainer Nick Zito of third-place finisher Just A Coincidence (No. 6): “He should have broken his maiden at Churchill, but he went into the fence that day. He probably doesn’t have enough graded stakes earnings to get into the Derby, but he is a horse who has a lot of potential down the road.”

John Velazquez, jockey of Just A Coincidence: “My horse ran really, really well. Down the lane, I thought he was going to run really well, but then he flattened out at the eighth-pole. It was the first time he went two turns in a while, and he just flattened out. He’s still a big baby. He’s a little behind everybody else. He’s still very green, and everyone seems to be a little bit faster.”

Shug McGaughey, trainer of fifth-place finisher Imperial Council (No. 5): “Edgar (Prado, jockey) said he was out of horse at the three-eighths pole. He was glad with the way the horse warmed up, and he was satisfied with where he was placed and moving easily. When Edgar called on him, he wasn’t there. There’s no chance he’s going to the Kentucky Derby. ”


WOOD MEMORIAL QUOTES (NO. 2)

Jeff Mullins, winning trainer of I Want Revenge (No. 2): “You don’t want to see that kind of trouble, and nine out of 10 times they don’t overcome it, so for him to do what did today is just unbelievable. He had every trouble you could have in a race and still overcame it. That’s as good as it gets right there.”

What happened at the break?

“I guess the horse next to him kind of rattled the gate a little bit and he stepped back right when they opened the gate, and just kind of blew the start.”

Do you have more confidence in him after today?

“Well, it looks like he’ll do anything we want him to, so you’ve got to have quite a bit of confidence right now. You never want to see a horse in a race like this get so much trouble, especially at the break. Joe (Talamo, jockey) did just what I told him to do – just be patient. You’ve got to be more impressed with [I Want Revenge] today. He overcame every obstacle you can even imagine and still prevailed, so it’s pretty special.”

You ready for attention you’ll get now? Do you want that kind of attention?

“No.”

How did you feel at the start?

“I was sick. I thought we were done. I didn’t know we had a chance.”

When did you think you were back in it?

“[I thought we were back in it] in the middle of the stretch. This horse just shows me more and more every time – he’s got more in him than I even think he has. The distance didn’t bother him at all – being on the rail, and things like the break happening was my biggest worry, and getting bottled up was another worry and he got all of them. Nine out of 10 times when that happens – when you blow the break - it’s pretty tough to get back in the game. And he blew the break, got trapped, had to find a hole and he still won easy. Joe – I couldn’t have drawn it up more perfectly. I’m not sure a veteran rider would have done the things he did today. I think (I Want Revenge) ran way harder in the Gotham than he did today.”

Training plans before the Derby?

“Well it all depends on when we can get him shipped to Churchill and all that. I’d like to ship Monday so he can train on Tuesday.”


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