Joe Takes Federico Tesio With Head Bob Over Stablemate
The Elkstone Group‘s homebred Joe, Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male of 2021, bounced back from having his three-race win streak ended with a determined head victory over stablemate Mr Jefferson in Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds anchored four stakes worth $450,000 in purses on the first of back-to-back Spring Stakes Spectacular Saturdays. Spring Stakes Spectacular continues April 23 with five $100,000 stakes including the first three of the season scheduled for Laurel’s world-class turf course.
Named for the noted Italian breeder, owner and trainer whose homebreds Nearco and Ribot dominate Thoroughbred bloodlines around the world, the Tesio for a seventh straight year served as a “Win and In” qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
A total of 22 Tesio winners have gone on to run in the Preakness, the last being Alwaysmining in 2019. Maryland-bred Deputed Testamony, in 1983, is the only horse to sweep both races. In 2020, Happy Saver won the Tesio for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher as a prelude to his next-out victory over older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).
Joe, named for President Joe Biden, is not nominated to the Triple Crown. He can be supplemented to the $1.5 million Preakness, middle jewel of the Triple Crown, for $150,000 when entries are taken May 16.
“I’ll have to ask Stuart,” winning trainer Mike Trombetta said of Elkstone’s Stuart Grant. “Stuart is a very seasoned owner and I’ll have to see what his thoughts are on this whole deal, and whether he wants to take a run at it. We’ll see how the horse comes back, obviously, but if everything’s well, we’ll have to ask him if he wants to take a roll. I would love to. It’s always exciting.“The horse has done very little wrong. He had one turf race early and he’s basically undefeated minus the one start, so I don’t know much more you’ve got to do right to try something like that,” he added. “He’s pointing himself in that direction, so it’s just a matter of if [Grant] wants to take a stab.”
Joe went off as the 7-5 favorite in a field of nine and broke alertly from post 4 under regular rider Victor Carrasco, flanked around the first turn by 15-1 long shot Vine Jet and claimer-turned-multiple stakes winner Shake Em Loose – who beat Joe in the March 19 Private Terms at Laurel – to his inside and Parx shipper Secret Alliance on his right.
Carrasco had a snug hold on Joe as he moved into a pressing position in second entering the backstretch, with Vine Jet still in front and Secret Alliance to the outside as Shake Em Loose dropped back into fourth. The opening quarter-mile went in :24.94 and the order went unchanged through a half in “48.63.
“Mike didn’t give me any instructions. He said, ‘You know the horse better than anybody. Do what you think is best and don’t get in any trouble,’ ” Carrasco said. “I know he was coming into this race in very good form, working well and doing everything right. The doors opened, he was sharp, and I let him slide out of there to make sure we were in a good position going into the first turn.
“I had a nice hold on him, and he just wanted to go. I kept the same hold, not to take him back but not to let him go, either. I kept him in the race. [Vine Jet] started asking at the three-eighths [pole] and I had [Secret Alliance] outside of me. He started asking and he could not get away from me and I’m just sitting. When we got to the quarter pole and I said go, he kind of put his ears up like he was waiting and I was like, ‘There’s no time to wait,’ and he moved nicely.”
Midway around the far turn, Vine Jet began to tire and Joe and Secret Alliance raced side-by-side up front with a new challenger in Smarten Up making a bid three wide and Mr Jefferson, who trailed all but one horse through a half-mile, moving up into contention. Joe edged away from Secret Alliance once straightened for home, with Shake Em Loose trying to rally up the rail and Mr Jefferson looming a threat after splitting horses to get into second.
“When I felt someone coming up on my outside I changed my stick to the left hand at the sixteenth pole and I felt like he found another gear,” Carrasco said. “[Mr Jefferson] did put like a head in front of me. I don’t like to go left-handed too much because he likes to drift a little bit, but I had to do it and once I did, he moved on and got it done.”
The winning time was 1:52.30 over a fast main track. It was five lengths back to Shake Em Loose in third, a length ahead of Smarten Up. Secret Alliance, South Street, Noneedtoworry, Baltimore Bulleit and Vine Jet completed the order of finish.
Joe, by Declaration of War out of Battle Bridge, by Arch, returned $4.
“I thought Mr Jefferson was going to go by him,” Trombetta said. “Joe just laid it all out there and he really dug in and fought. I give him a lot of credit. Like I said, he hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s a pretty tough horse.”
Trombetta was also proud of R. Larry Johnson’s Maryland homebred Mr Jefferson, racing for the first time since finishing off the board in the 1 1/8-mile Withers (G3) Feb. 5 at Aqueduct. An optional claiming allowance winner Nov. 4 going 1 1/16 miles at Laurel, Mr Jefferson was fourth in the Remsen (G2) behind Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders Mo Donegal and Zandon, and sixth in the Jerome, also at Aqueduct.
“I always wanted to give him the chance to be a good horse. Honestly I get the feel that some of the New York stuff just didn’t work out,” he said. “I’m rooting for both. All these owners are so good to us, all I want them to do is to have fun and try and win some races.”