Checking in with the Breeders’ Cup Champs at Spendthrift


Vino Rosso | Horsephotos

By Katie Ritz

Spendthrift Farm retires to stud five stallions this year, including three of the highest-price stallions who will cover their first crop in 2020: Omaha Beach at $40,000, Vino Rosso at $30,000, and Mitole at $25,000. While Omaha Beach remains in training with an eye on the Jan. 25 GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, Vino Rosso and Mitole have arrived at the central Kentucky nursery. We checked in with Stallion Sales Manager Mark Toothaker to see how GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, Mitole, and GI Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Vino Rosso, were settling in.

Vino Rosso’s first few days at Spendthrift were busy as breeders came in throngs to inspect the recent Classic winner. Mark Toothaker of Spendthrift said, “It’s just been crazy. We’re sitting here each day trying to figure out how you manage his book. We’ve been overrun by mare submissions, and there’s been a tremendous response to this horse. It’s been a lot of fun and he’s going to a get a great book of mares.”

The son of Curlin was well-known for looking like his sire. Toothaker said that Spendthrift had been wanting to add a son of Curlin when they found Vino Rosso. “This horse just hit the mark for us. He was a big, stretchy, beautiful horse with a great shoulder and neck.”

Bred by John Gunther, the chestnut colt was purchased for $410,000 by the late Jimmy Crupi, agent for Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola’s St. Elias Stables at the Keeneland September Sale. Vino Rosso is out of the Street Cry (Ire) mare Mythical Bride. His half-brother So Alive (Super Saver) was stakes placed at three, placing third in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. Mythical Bride is out of the stakes-winning mare Flaming Heart (Touch Gold) and a half-sibling to three-time graded stakes winner and sire Commissioner (A.P. Indy), Grade III winner Laugh Track (Distorted Humor), and stakes-placed Intrepid Heart (Tapit). Toothaker said of the pedigree, “It’s a deep family with a lot of black-type and quality. We feel like this is a horse that will go well with a lot of different mares, so breeders will have fun mixing and matching mares to him.”

Vino Rosso was a graduate of Crupi’s New Castle Farm training center. Toothaker said that Crupi saw talent in the colt from the start. “Crupi had told us all along how talented this horse was. He had tremendous ability as a two and three, but didn’t have it all figured out mentally yet.” Vino Rosso was undefeated at two, breaking his maiden on debut at Aqueduct and winning an allowance optional claiming at Tampa Bay Downs.

His sophomore season was highlighted by a win in the $1-million GII Wood Memorial, crossing the wire three lengths in front of the graded-stakes winner Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro). The field also included Grade I winner Firenze Fire (Poseidon’s Warrior) and Grade III winner King Zachary (Curlin).

Vino Rosso claimed three stakes victories from six starts at four. Toothaker said, “He was still putting it together mentally as he progressed through his 2-year-old and 3-year-old season, but at four, it really all came together.”

The season began with a win in the Stymie S. at Aqueduct going a mile. He later shipped west to claim the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita, closing late at the mile and a quarter distance to get past Grade I winner Gift Box (Twirling Candy). Two months later, he crossed the wire first in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup S., but was taken down to second after bumping with GI Travers S. winner Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}). Toothaker said, “He ran a great race in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He got disqualified, but that could go either way. His two Grade I wins going into the Classic were both huge performances.”

His three-year career culminated into a grand finale in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Circling the field and stalking three-wide coming around the far turn, Vino Rosso swept past four-time Grade I winner McKinzie (Street Sense) to win by 4 1/4 lengths, soundly defeating nine Grade I winners. Toothaker says of the performance, “Vino saved the best for last on Breeders’ Cup Day. What a performance against a great field to be able to put on the show that he did. He’s just one of those horses that you are so fortunate to be a part of.”

Probable 2019 Horse of the Year candidate Mitole was a $140,000 OBS April 2-year-old-in-Training Sale purchase, bought by East Hickman Bloodstock for owners William and Corinne Heiligbrodt. Toothaker mentioned Mitole’s physical as a standout factor for breeders. “Mitole has an absolutely beautiful physical. Breeders have been surprised with his size and length. He’s got a beautiful hip, great gaskin, and a gorgeous head.”

Mitole is a son of Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway) and is out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Miss. Indian Miss is out of stakes winner Glacken’s Gal (Smoke Glacken) and is a half to Live Lively (Medaglia d’Oro), winner of the GII Davona Dale S. The family also includes stakes winners Banker’s Buy (Distorted Humor) and City Dweller (Carson City).

Mitole broke his maiden as a 3-year-old, beating his nearest pursuer by 10 lengths at Oaklawn going six furlongs. Soon after, he started a seven-race win streak that included five stakes wins and two Grade Is. The first was registered on Derby Day in the GI Churchill Downs S., going away by 3 1/2 lengths defeating eight graded-stakes winners, including Grade I winner Promises Fulfilled (Shackleford) and Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect).

Next up, he took the GI Runhappy Metropolitan H. He captured his third Grade I in the Forego S. at Saratoga, defeating the competition by three lengths. The victory earned a stakes record for the 35 runnings at the seven-furlong distance.

Toothaker said, “I would always ask [trainer] Steve [Asmussen] about how he was doing, and he would never give me a straight answer, saying ‘When you’ve got a horse that’s this fast, don’t even ask about him.’ ”

Mitole put the finishing touch on his 4-year-old campaign claiming the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, earning a 112 Beyer, the fastest recorded that day.

Mitole retired with earnings of over $2.7 million as the only four-time Grade I-winning male on dirt in 2019. Over a three-year career with 14 starts, he never finished out of the money, competing at seven different tracks at multiple distances.

Toothaker said of his career, “They don’t give me a vote for Horse of the Year, but if they did it would be for Mitole. He did it all, and he did it at different distances and on different tracks. He won on the biggest days that we have in out sport: Derby Day, Belmont Day, Travers Day, and then a huge performance on Breeders’ Cup Day. To me, he’s the Horse of the Year, hand’s down.”

Mitole was also the first horse since Gulch (Mr. Prospector) in 1988 to claim the Met Mile (Gulch also won the 1987 renewal of the Mile) and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in the same year. Toothaker said, “Gulch is one of the very first horses that I have memory of, so for Mitole to be mentioned in the same breath as a horse as talented as Gulch is something special, and it verifies how talented this horse is. We’re so very fortunate to have him here at Spendthrift.”


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