With the memory of a lackluster performance running a mile last October still fresh in his mind, jockey Jeremy Rose wasn't convinced his mount, Gimmeawink, had what it took to negotiate an even longer distance yesterday in the $50,000 Miracle Wood Stakes. Trainer Tim Ritchey didn't care what Rose thought.
"He's only around him in the morning and afternoon," Ritchey said in the Laurel Park winner's circle after the Triple Crown nominee turned in a powerful performance to win the 11/16-mile race for 3-year-olds by 11/4 lengths.
A son of precocious young stallion Elusive Quality, with a strong stamina influence from his broodmare sire, Gimmeawink appears to have the right stuff to at least be in the hunt to run in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes. The three top finishers in the Miracle Wood last year -- Talk Is Money, Marciano and Bay Eagle -- all appeared in one of the two big races.
"We have him nominated for the Triple Crown, but we'll take it one race at a time," Ritchey said. "He's a nice horse. You can put him wherever you want."
Rose wanted to put Gimmeawink on the rail as soon as possible after the start of the Miracle Wood, which attracted a strong field of seven. Horses starting from outside post positions at Laurel Park are at an extreme disadvantage because of the short run to the first turn, but Gimmeawink found a seam and tucked inside quickly.
Racing behind moderate fractions set by Gators N Bears , Rose gradually advanced Gimmeawink from sixth to second on the backstretch and then glided past the leader coming out of the turn. Penobscot Bay, ridden by Jozbin Santana, bulled into contention in the stretch and ducked inside but couldn't catch the winner.
"He had trouble keeping focused," Santana said. "So I think we'll be adding blinkers because when it looked like we might go by Jeremy, he just didn't want to do it."
Rose, meantime, came out of the race with newfound respect for his mount. Gimmeawink ran a fast 1 minute 43.07 seconds and looked relaxed the entire way.
"Tim always said he could go long, but I never thought he could," Rose said. "Now I think the longer he goes, the better he's going to get. He definitely has a lot of talent. I heard [Penobscot Bay] coming inside the eighth pole, but I didn't even look back to see who it was."
Gimmeawink became the first stakes winner for owner Walter Wienkowitz of Delaware, who has been involved in racing for nearly 40 years. Ritchey said he hasn't selected a next assignment for his promising colt but mentioned the $60,000 Private Terms on March 29 at Laurel.
Racing Notes: Wayne Lukas trained 3-year-old Boston Park led all the way and held off undefeated Grey Comet in the stretch to win the $75,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct. Ritchey had cross-nominated Gimmeawink to that race, but chose to stay at his home track for the Miracle Wood despite the greater prize money in New York.