Morello justified even-money favoritism in Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct with a handy 4 1/2-length decision under Jose Lezcano.
The Gotham was virtually a two-horse affair from start to finish. Dean’s List, third choice at 5-1, led by a half-length over Morello through the opening six furlongs. Appearing to have plenty in the tank, though, was Morello, who was roused in upper stretch and moved past the long-time leader approaching the furlong pole. The son of Classic Empire extended his advantage late to remain undefeated in three starts.
“He’s one of the nicer horses I’ve ridden in the last three years. I never even touched him with the whip,” Lezcano said. “You ask him a little bit and he takes off – it’s a good thing. I’ve ridden some good horses and he’s showed me he’s one of those.”
Owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor, and Diamond T Racing, Morello paid $4 after completing one mile over a fast track in 1:39.28. He’s trained by Steve Asmussen.
Dean’s List held second by a length over 27-1 Golden Code, with 46-1 outsider Life Is Great fourth. The order of finish was rounded out by Glider, Runninsonofagun, Fromanothamutha, Noneedtoworry, Bold Journey, and Rockefeller.
Morello preceded this win with two sprint wins at the Big A, graduating by 4 1/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden on Nov. 27 and romping by five lengths in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield S. on Feb. 6.
Bred in Kentucky by Robert Tillyer and Chet Blackey, Morello was a $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile purchase when last through the sales ring. He was produced by the Congrats mare Stop the Wedding.
Venti Valentine proved raring to go off a layoff when dominating the $242,500 Busher S. for three-year-old fillies.
Last seen finishing second by a neck to Next in the Demoiselle (G2) in December, Venti Valentine made a three-wide bid for the lead around the far turn, seized the lead from pacesetter Magic Circle in upper stretch, and coasted to a seven-length score under Manny Franco.
“I knew this filly was going to run a good race. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know she was going to win that easy,” trainer Jorge Abreu said.
Owned by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds, Venti Valentine returned $12.60 after completing one mile in 1:39.65.
Shotgun Hottie, the 22-1 longest shot in the field of five, arrived late to edge Magic Circle for second by three-quarters of a length. It was 3 3/4 lengths back to 1-2 favorite Radio Days, who stalked Magic Circle for five furlongs and came up empty on the turn. Sterling Silver trailed throughout.
Venti Valentine earned a spot in the field for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1), earning 50 qualifying points for the win here and boosting her total to 54. Shotgun Hottie earned 20 points, while Magic Circle boosted her total by 10 points to 33. Radio Days earned five points.
This was the third win in four starts for Venti Valentine, who was bred in New York by Final Furlong and Maspeth Stable. A winner on debut by a nose against state-breds at Belmont, she preceded her second in the Demoiselle with a 3 3/4-length triumph in the one-mile Maid of the Mist S., also for state-breds. Abreu said she was likely for the April 9 Gazelle (G3) over 1 1/8 miles.
By Firing Line and reared by the Medaglia d’Oro mare Glory Gold, Venti Valentine is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Espresso Shot, who captured the 2019 Busher.