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Revolutionary Doesn’t ‘Wither’ Under Pressure; Head Heart Hoof Holds Off Johannesburg Smile In Toboggan

By Jenny Kellner | 02/06/2013 05:43 PM ET
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Revolutionary threaded his way through the field and finished with flourish to defeat Escapefromreality by a neck in the 133rd running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Withers on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The colt’s narrow victory in the Withers, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, gave jockey Javier Castellano a 3-for-4 record in Saturday’s stakes at Aqueduct, with the rider’s lone loss being a runner-up finish aboard Johannesburg Smile in the Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan, won by Head Heart Hoof.  
Favored at 3-5 off an 8 ½-length maiden win on December 28 at the Big A, Revolutionary raced behind traffic in sixth through an opening quarter-mile in 24.22 seconds and trailed in eighth through a half in 48.18. Kept along the rail by Castellano around the far turn, Revolutionary came off the fence turning for home, ducked back inside with three sixteenths to travel, split a pair of horses in the lane, and surged late to grab the lead in the final strides.
“He didn’t break that sharp and I didn’t panic,” said Castellano. “I think the key with him is that you have to be patient. I could have gone around horses at the three-eighths pole because I had so much horse, but I just wanted to teach him something, have him learn something. I knew he could get it done; in my mind it was just waiting for the best opportunity to make a move. That’s exactly what I did, and he responded so well today. He’s a classy horse. He kind of got intimidated a little bit between horses, he’s a young horse, but I really like the way he did it. He split horses, finished very strong, and galloped out great.”
Revolutionary, a son of War Pass who was making his fifth start and first around two turns, returned $3.50 for a $2 win wager and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.32. The $120,000 winner’s share of the Withers purse pushed his career earnings to $188,500.
“We were a little bit handicapped going into the race without having a work six days out, but the horse has been training well and gets a lot out of his gallops,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “The horse has a tendency to not get away cleanly and got himself a little farther back than we would have liked. Things went from bad to worse from there, but Javier [Castellano] didn’t panic and had faith in the horse.”
Elliot Walden, CEO and racing manager for winning owner WinStar Farm, said the adversity Revolutionary encountered in the Withers could prove beneficial as he moves toward a possible start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 4.
“When you’re looking at a race like the Derby, potentially down the road, to get that kind of experience, it’s invaluable,” said Walden. “Nice race. I felt pretty good around the turn because they were so bunched up. It’s not like he was 15 back, he was eight back, but he was in trouble, so you never knew if he was going to get through. You knew if he did get through he’d have some horse. It was nice to see him come running like that. He couldn’t blow out a match in the winner’s circle.”
The Withers is one of three graded preps for Aqueduct’s Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6, preceded by the Grade 2 Jerome on January 5 and followed by the Grade 3 Gotham on March 2.
Walden said WinStar and Pletcher will discuss numerous options for Revolutionary.
“We’ll talk with Todd and we’ll see,” said Walden. “I’d be inclined to take him to Florida and regroup until that last round of preps. Probably just one more race [before the Derby]. This proved he’s worthy to keep on the [Derby] trail. This race was worth three in terms of education.”
Siete de Oros finished two lengths behind the winner in third and was followed home by Amerigo Vespucci, Champion Boy, Smooth Bert, Valid, and Long River.


Earlier on the card, Castellano won the $100,000 Correction with Cluster of Stars for trainer Steve Asmussen and teamed with Pletcher to take the $100,000 Busher with runaway winner Princess of Sylmar. The outcome of the Toboggan, contested for the 120th time, went against Castellano and Pletcher, however, as Head Heart Hoof held off their runner, Johannesburg Smile, in another thrilling finish.

Away in second, Head Heart Hoof tugged at jockey Cornelio Velasquez as he tracked P J’s Magical Wink through an opening fraction of 22.95. After offering a bid at the quarter pole, he led by two lengths at the stretch call and had enough left to stave off Johannesburg’s Smile’s late charge, prevailing by a half-length.
“[P J’s Magical Wink] has a lot of speed, so I stayed close,” said Velasquez. “I had a lot of horse. [Johannesburg Smile] is a good horse, but I think with more distance, maybe seven-eighths, he’s a better horse. My horse is in the best condition now, and he finished good.”
The Toboggan was the first graded stakes win for Head Heart Hoof, a 7-year-old gelded son of Intidab who was making his 50th start. He paid $6.10 as the 2-1 second choice and ran six furlongs in 1:09.86.
“He loves the inner track, so I think that’s why he’s running this good right now,” said Rudy Rodriguez, who trains Head Heart Hoof for Michael Dubb. “We’re not doing too much to him. He’s sound, he’s whole, he’s game. Right now I think he’s peaking, so hopefully he’ll keep doing that.”
Head Heart Hoof, whose record stands at 18-7-3, has earned $470,176, including $90,000 for his Toboggan win. He entered the Toboggan off a 2 ¼-length score in the True and Blue overnight stakes on the inner track January 9.
“At the time we claimed him, I thought he’d be a useful two-other-than type of horse, but I had hopes, especially in the wintertime,” said Dubb. “We ran him back, and he ran second in a stake race off the claim, but came back after that and didn’t run great. We gave him some time, and had him at Laurel, Delaware and Monmouth and he wasn’t doing what I wanted. I said, ‘He’s an Aqueduct horse, let’s get him home to Aqueduct.’ I sent him to Rudy, and he’s getting better all the time. I’m just thrilled with him.”
Sinai, P J’s Magical Wink, Isn’t He Perfect, and Mine Over Matter completed the Toboggan order of finish.