On Saturday, Mike Repole’s 5-year-old reverted to the win-machine form of late 2010, early 2011. Breaking sharply on top and then settling into an outside stalking trip behind Royal Currier and 6-5 favorite Emcee, Calibrachoa rallied strongly on the turn and then held off a relentless late run by Caleb’s Posse to win the 37th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap for 3-year-olds and up.
Caleb’s Posse, making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last November 5 at Churchill Downs, placed second, followed by Emcee, Capt. Candyman Can, Royal Currier and Justin Phillip.
“He seems to run a big race and bounce, but he didn’t do that today,” said an elated Repole. “It was nice to see that he was consistent, and if we can get the Carter moved to the inner track, I’m going to feel really good next month. He’s just a nice horse. He’s won this race back-to-back and the Toboggan back-to-back, which is cool. He doesn’t have the big name, but I think this is his year. I think he’s going to be one of the best sprinters in the country this year.”
In winning the Tom Fool, Calibrachoa defeated dual grade 1 winner Caleb’s Posse. When the gate opened, Calibrachoa popped on top before Velasquez took him off a sizzling opening half-mile in 44.92 seconds. On the turn, the undefeated Emcee confronted leader Royal Currier and Calibrachoa eased up to the pair on the outside. By the sixteenth pole, Calibrachoa was in command, but Caleb’s Posse, under jockey Rajiv Maragh, closed the gap, but the winner held by a neck.
“He ran a great race,” Maragh said of Caleb’s Posse, trained by Donnie Von Hemel. “He made his big run that he always makes; he had a lot to make up and just didn’t get there today.”
“I was getting very nervous when Caleb’s Posse was making his move because we’ve seen that before,” said Pletcher, contrasting the Tom Fool to Uncle Mo’s nose loss to Caleb’s Posse in the 2011 Foxwoods King’s Bishop. “So, we were happy to see the wire when we did.”
Pletcher claimed Calibrachoa for $40,000 in November 2010 and has since won seven races with him, including five stakes, four at the Grade 3 level. Calibrachoa's Tom Fool victory was worth $120,000, pushing his lifetime earnings to $666,040. Pletcher said that Calibrachoa would be pointed for Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap on April 7, where he is likely to meet again with Caleb’s Posse.