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Heart of Gold: Vino Rosso

In a blur of gold, Vino Rosso streaked past Santa Anita’s grandstand and crossed the wire on our sport’s biggest stage in first. His name is now forever immortalized, listed among some of the horse racing’s best; Cigar, Zenyatta, Arrogate, Tiznow, and A.P. Indy to just name a few.

Every racehorse who accomplished great things has a story. This is his.

Early Life (2015-2016)

In 2011, John D. Gunther of Glennwood Farm purchased a mare named Mythical Bride for just $42,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. He didn’t retire the daughter of Street Cry (IRE) immediately, instead sending her back to the races. When she failed to win her next five races, Gunther decided it would be best for his new mare to join his broodmare band.

Mythical Bride was brought home to Glennwood Farm and was bred to 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin. On March 29, 2015, Glennwood Farm welcomed Mythical Bride’s brand new colt. He was a gorgeous chestnut color with one white sock and a beautiful irregular star and stripe down his face.

John’s daughter Tanya, who plans the farm’s matings, described in an article for the Kentucky Derby that Vino Rosso was a well-behaved colt. He enjoyed eating grass more than he enjoyed monkeying around with the other youngsters.

He grew up - literally - next to eventual Triple Crown winner Justify. The colts had been born within a day of each other, were stabled across from each other as weanlings, and were stabled next to each other as yearlings.

“Vino Rosso had a level of nonchalance and composure that is unusual to see in a young horse,” Tanya told “It was like he was wiser than his age and though he didn’t mind the schoolboy antics of the other colts, he didn’t need to prove anything or waste unnecessary energy by partaking in it himself.”

When the colt was a yearling, he was entered into the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He stepped into the ring as Hip #528. He was a striking yearling, his head swiveling and ears pricking towards every sound. The hammer fell at a cool $410,000, sold to Mike Repole and St. Elias.

Two-Year Old Season (2017)

Repole named his colt Vino Rosso which translates to “Red Wine” in Italian.

After receiving his early training at New Castle Farm near Ocala, Florida, Vino Rosso was moved to Todd Pletcher’s stable at Aqueduct. Todd Pletcher had previously trained horses like Super Saver, Always Dreaming, and Rags to Riches. Pletcher used that expert knowledge to ready Vino Rosso for his debut.

Vino Rosso debuted on November 11th at Aqueduct, flashing his talent with a win on his first asking. He was then shipped down to Florida to enjoy the warmer weather, winning an allowance race there on December 22nd in preparation for the following year.

Three Year Old Season (2018)

Vino Rosso had proved himself as one to watch as a two-year old, but he would have to win much bigger races to be regarded as a Kentucky Derby contender.

His first test was in February's Gr.3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. Vino Rosso came charging down the stretch, closing in on winners in the final strides of the race. However, he didn’t have enough room to get to the wire first, finishing third.

His connections tried him again in the Gr.2 South Tampa Bay Derby, but Vino Rosso performed even worse. He finished fourth, 4 ¼ lengths behind the winner.

Things went differently for Vino Rosso when he went back home to New York for his next start, the Gr.2 Wood Memorial. Vino Rosso broke okay from gate nine and settled near the back of the pack. As the field went down the backstretch, he slowly began climbing his way up towards the leaders. At the top of the stretch, he looked Enticed in the eye and they went striding down the stretch together, the two horses bumping multiple times until Vino Rosso was able to pull away. An objection was put up, but Vino Rosso ultimately entered the winners’ circle.

The victory in the Wood Memorial gave Vino Rosso 100 points for the Kentucky Derby, meaning he was definitely going to run for the roses. His connections were hoping for another Super Saver or Always Dreaming on that First Saturday in May, but things don’t always pan out well in horse racing.

While Vino Rosso’s old stall neighbor Justify pounded down Churchill’s stretch towards the first of his three Triple Crown victories, Vino Rosso finished ninth.

The final three races of Vino Rosso’s three-year old season didn’t end so well either. He finished fourth in the Belmont, third in the Gr.2 Jim Dandy, and 5th in the Gr.1 Travers Stakes.

It was time for a rest. Todd Pletcher took his trainee out of the races for the rest of the year, eventually taking him down to Palm Springs to get back into training.

Four-Year Old Season (2019)

When Vino Rosso finally returned to the racetrack in March of 2019, it was with a vengeance. When the gates opened in the Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct, Vino Rosso was ready. He charged towards the leaders, settling on the extreme outside in fourth. As the field began to make their way around the far turn, Vino Rosso kicked it into another gear.

He easily overtook leaders California Night and Stan The Man, but soon had the gritty Title Ready on his outside. Vino Rosso tried to break away, but Title Ready stayed right there with him. Any small increase in speed by one of the two colts meant the other would pick it up too. Vino Rosso felt the wire near. He began pulling away from Title Ready and crossed the wire ¾ of a length in front. He was finally back in the winners’ circle.

Vino Rosso made his next start in the Gr.1 Carter Handicap, but finished a well-beaten fourth while World Of Trouble made a late running win.

Afterwards, Pletcher shipped his colt out of New York’s snowy weather and into California’s sunshine for the Gr.1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Under the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains, Vino Rosso broke fast from gate seven and settled close to the hot pace. At the top of the stretch, he engaged Gift Box and the two went down the stretch together.

It was like a replay of the Stymie Stakes. Each horse was giving it their all, but Vino Rosso would be the one to prevail. He pulled away from Gift Box to win by about ¾ lengths.

Vino Rosso went back to New York for two more starts, the Gr.1 Whitney Stakes and Gr.1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. It seemed the the colt had significantly improved from the previous year. He finished third in the Whitney and crossed the wire first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but was DQ’d to second after bumping with Code of Honor in the stretch.

It was finally time for the biggest race of Vino Rosso’s life: The Breeders’ Cup Classic. He broke well from gate ten and settled in fourth, running stride for stride with Owendale. War of Will set a slow pace with McKinzie and Mongolian Groom pushing him along.

The field began rounding the far turn and Vino Rosso started to pick up the pace. He lengthened his stride with every step, moving faster and faster until he was overtaking the leaders. He met with McKinzie at the top of the stretch and the two horses soared down the stretch together. This time, however, Vino Rosso wasn’t looking to battle.

He strode past McKinzie with ease, crossing the wire first in a gallant performance. Vino Rosso was the first horse sired by a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner (Curlin) to also win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Vino Rosso had ended his career with a bang. He had entered many battles and never shied away from a fight. He truly had a heart of gold.

Retirement & Stud Career

When all was said and done, Vino Rosso made one final trip across the country to his new home of Spendthrift Farm. Upon his arrival, he was given a warm welcome from his fans and industry professionals. Spendthrift is excited to be standing a son of Curlin that resembles his sire so closely.

Vino Rosso had finished out his racing career with a record of 15:6-1-3 and earnings of more than $4.8 million. His stud fee of $40,000 (stands and nurses) will quickly earn him much more than his career on the racetrack did.

The racing world now waits anxiously to see how successful Vino Rosso will be at stud. Spendthrift Farm certainly has their hopes high.


About the Author: Through her blog Champions of the Track, Kaeli Bartholomew works to grow the popularity of horse racing through stories, photos, and videos. She aims for her content to reach new fans and kindle the love of horse racing in current fans.

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