Classic Empire's Morello Remains Unbeaten in Gotham

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Morello | Sarah Andrew

The unbeaten Morello (Classic Empire) pressed and pounced his way to a dazzling 4 1/2-length victory in Saturday's one-turn mile GIII Gotham S. at the Big A.

Drawn wide in post nine, the even-money favorite Morello, a last out five-length winner of the local Jimmy Winkfield S. Feb. 6, was bumped hard at the start. Seemingly undeterred, he raced under a nice hold while a stalking second behind fellow two-for-two Dean's List (Speightstown) through an opening quarter in :23.47. He cruised up alongside the pacesetter approaching the quarter pole and set sail for the wire from there to win going away over that rival while earning 50 qualifying points for the GI Kentucky Derby. California invader Rockefeller (Medaglia d'Oro), winner of this track's GIII Nashua S. Nov. 7 and a runner-up in the GIII Sham S. at Santa Anita Jan. 1, was last of 10 after hitting the gate and stumbling at the start.

Morello was previously a sharp debut winner over this course Nov. 27.

“He got banged around coming out of there and [Rockefeller] came over on top of him, but he just overcomes it like always,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “He just gets out and runs easy. He hasn't been hit by the stick yet.”

On being able to stretch out to two turns, Sheets added, “I don't see why not. He definitely acts like it.”

Winning co-owner Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds added, “Galloping past the wire, the way he did it, we're starting to think about the first Saturday in May at this point. I'll let Toby and Steve make that decision but this group–you saw us celebrating–we're thinking about that.”

He continued, “We're dreaming now. This is a game changer, today. We'll book some hotels and cancel them if we have to. We think we might have a Derby horse here.”

Pedigree Notes:

Morello, the third-highest Classic Empire 2-year-old sold at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale when he brought $250,000 after working a furlong in :10 1/5, is out of a mare who once RNA'd for $1,500. Stop the Wedding eventually sold in 2020 at Keeneland January for $11,000 to Robert Tillyer–co-breeder of Morello–while in foal to Cairo Prince. Her offspring at the sales have been all over the place, with some RNA'ing for the low four figures, and another bringing $525,000 as a juvenile. Morello is her lone stakes winner to date. She's got two fillies in the pipeline–a 2-year-old by Cairo Prince and a yearling by Paynter–and was bred back to Classic Empire for 2022. Stop the Wedding is a half-sister to the dam of MGISP Social Inclusion, who is by Pioneerof the Nile, Classic Empire's sire.

Coolmore America stallion and sophomore sire Classic Empire gets his first graded winner with Morello's Gotham and he almost made it a double, with his Classy Edition finishing second in the GII Davona Dale S. earlier Saturday. Overall, the former champion 2-year-old has three black-type winners and another five stakes performers. Interestingly, both Morello and Classy Edition are out of A.P. Indy-line mares, with Morello's damsire Congrats the broodmare sire of an additional 15 stakes winners, including 2020 GI Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil).

GOTHAM S.-GIII, $300,000, Aqueduct, 3-5, 3yo, 1m, 1:39.28, ft.
1–MORELLO, 120, c, 3, by Classic Empire
                 1st Dam: Stop the Wedding, by Congrats
2nd Dam: Wedding Jitters, by Runaway Groom
3rd Dam: Classy Tricks, by Hold Your Tricks
1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($140,000 Wlg '19 KEENOV; $200,000 Ylg '20 FTKSEL; $250,000 2yo '21 EASMAY). O-Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Taylor, Craig and Diamond T Racing; B-Robert B. Tillyer & Dr. Chet Blackey (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen; J-Jose Lezcano. $165,000. Lifetime Record: 3-3-0-0, $264,000. Werk Nick Rating: A+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Dean's List, 118, c, 3, Speightstown–Mildly Offensive, by Sharp Humor. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE. ($220,000 RNA Ylg '20 FTKSEL). O-WinStar Farm LLC and Siena Farm LLC; B-WinStar Farm, LLC (KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher. $60,000.
3–Golden Code,
118, c, 3, Honor Code–Jb's Golden Regret, by Banker's Gold. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE. ($95,000 Wlg '19 FTKNOV). O-Calumet Farm; B-Barry R. Ostrager (NY); T-Todd A. Pletcher. $36,000.
Margins: 4HF, 1, HD. Odds: 1.00, 5.50, 27.50.
Also Ran: Life Is Great, Glider, Runninsonofagun, Fromanothamutha, Noneedtoworry, Bold Journey, Rockefeller.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

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