Four days after his Forte (Violence) won the GII Fountain of Youth S. in his 3-year-old debut, co-owner Mike Repole was still beaming. At this point, Forte’s lead-up to the GI Kentucky Derby has been perfect. There have been no hiccups and his race in the Fountain of Youth checked every conceivable box. So what did Repole, who owns the horse in partnership with Vinnie Viola, think? We had Repole join us on the TDN Writers’ Room podcast presented by Keeneland to find out. Repole was this week’s Green Group Guest of the Week.
“The script you write never works out,” Repole said. “But the way things have turned out with Forte, I couldn’t have written that script any better. We just got his Ragozin number, which was a 7 3/4, which was the lowest number of his career off a four-month layoff. So it’s always a promising sign. You don’t really know who the competition was in the race. But he hadn’t raced in four months and all those horses had starts either four weeks ago or eight weeks ago. So everything really worked out.”
That Repole and Viola have a horse like Forte is no accident. They have spent millions at the sales acquiring dozens of horses. Forte, who cost $110,000, was one of 43 yearlings they bought at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Over the last two years at Keeneland, they have spent $30 million on 75 horses. Repole acknowledged that their way of attacking the sales only works if you can come up with a couple of stars.
“When you buy 100 horses, if you can get 2% of them to be Grade I winners, you’re going to pay for the whole crop,” Repole said. “Now, it sounds easy, but you need to find a Nest and you need a Forte. It is very difficult. But I think I play at all different levels. And listen, I don’t want to give away a secret here, but. I’m aggressive.”
Repole made some news during the interview, revealing that his preference is that Forte run as a 4-year-old. He said he would not enter into an agreement for Forte with a stud farm unless they agreed to give him an option to run the horse next year.
“I have to have an option to run him at four, whether we do or not,” he said. “It has to be that I get to choose, and everybody knows that’s the plan. Let’s be honest, we don’t know if he’s going to or not. In this sport, we don’t even know that he’s going to have a next start. But I have to have that option.”
As for Nest (Curlin), the 3-year-old filly champion of 2022 that Repole owns along with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Repole said she will make her 4-year-old debut in the GI La Troienne S. on April 5 at Churchill Downs.
“We gave her time off and she’s grown up and she’s developed,” Repole said. “We all know what happens with Curlin‘s between three and four. It’s hard to think this way, but she might even be better this year.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore,https://lanesend.com/ the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Woodford Thoroughbreds, The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, XBTV, 1/st Racing, WinStar Farm and https://www.threechimneys.com/ West Point Thoroughbreds, Randy Moss, Zoe Cadman and Bill Finley took a look back at a big weekend of racing that included the Fountain of Youth S., the GII San Felipe S. and the GI Santa Anita H. and a look ahead to the GII Tampa Bay Derby. The subject of Alex Canchari’s suicide brought about an important discussion of how jockeys best deal with mental health issues. Canchari’s death came six week after jockey Avery Whisman also took his own life. Cadman, a former rider, pointed out that both jockeys were not actively riding at the time of their deaths and said that down time can be difficult for any rider. Finley raised the issue of whether or not it’s time to allow jockeys to ride at slightly heavier weights, but Cadman and Moss both maintained that would not solve any problems.