The trip East was a perfect solution to get I Want Revenge back on a winning track.
With only one win to show from six starts on California's synthetic surfaces, I Want Revenge ate up the dirt at Aqueduct and romped to victory in Saturday's Gotham Stakes.
I Want Revenge pulled away from Mr. Fantasy in the stretch for an 8 1/2-length win over Imperial Council, who closed with a rush for second. The 3-year-old colt trained by Jeff Mullins will remain in New York and train up to the Wood Memorial on April 4, followed by the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
"He struggled on the synthetic, and we always thought he'd run better on the dirt," delighted owner David Lanzman said in the winner's circle. "He's staying here for the Wood, and we'll be back! New York has always been good to us."
With Joe Talamo aboard, I Want Revenge stayed with pacesetter Mr. Fantasy until the top of the stretch. That's when I Want Revenge took off, with Talamo smiling as they crossed the finish line.
"I had so much horse the whole way around," said Talamo, who also made the trip from California. "Me and Alan Garcia (Mr. Fantasy's rider) were going pretty slow, but at the quarter pole my horse just took off.
"There is no comparison between dirt and synthetic _ he really took to it."
Good thing, too, since the Derby is run on the dirt.
"We thought the dirt would move him up," Mullins said. "I don't know if it did or not. We might have just picked the right spot."
Mr. Fantasy, who came into the race with a 2-for-2 record and went off as the 2-1 favorite, finished third, followed by Masala, Russell Road, Axel Foley, Naos, Haynesfield and Giant Ryan.
Haynesfield, who came into the Grade 3 Gotham with a four-race winning streak, never threatened.
The winning time was 1:42.65 for the 1 1-16 miles on the fast track.
I Want Revenge earned $150,000 from the $250,000 purse, boosting his earnings to $366,000.
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice, I Want Revenge paid $8.30, $4.50 and $3.40. Imperial Council returned $4.80 and $3.30. Mr. Fantasy paid $3 to show.
"They've got good races out on the West Coast," Mr. Fantasy's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "Why didn't I Want Revenge stay out there?"
I Want Revenge finished third to Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert Lewis Stakes last month at Santa Anita. Lanzman believed his colt was a winner but the surface proved too tough and I Want Revenge was overtaken by not one, but two horses in the stretch.
Immediately after the race, Lanzman began looking for a dirt race and came up with the Gotham.
Nice call, and now he's got a talented colt on the road to the Derby.
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