For the last several months Stay Thirsty has been best known as the "other" horse; the other Kentucky Derby hopeful owned by Mike Repole, the other colt often seen going stride for stride with 2-year-old champion and fellow Todd Pletcher-trainee Uncle Mo in the mornings.
Where his undefeated stablemate has his own Facebook page and Twitter account, Stay Thirsty has quietly been in the background, his standing within the 3-year-old class still up in the air.
The irony of the colt's current position is not lost on his adoring owner. Because this time last year, if there was one of his horses Repole thought was ideally suited for the Triple Crown trail, Stay Thirsty was it.
When Repole threw down $500,000 to purchase Stay Thirsty at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Calder 2-year-olds in training sale, it represented the highest price the 42-year-old co-founder of Glaceau had ever paid for a horse at public auction.
What inspired Repole to go above his normal middle-market price is what the outspoken owner hopes he sees Saturday when Stay Thirsty makes his season debut against eight others in the Grade III, $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Though Repole had purchased some nice yearlings in 2009 — including Uncle Mo, for whom he reluctantly paid $220,000 at the Keeneland September sale — the New York businessman studied his roster of juveniles last winter and decided it was a little light on the stamina side.
Enter Stay Thirsty, a son of champion Bernardini and half-brother to 2005 Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda's Hero who had worked an eighth of a mile in :104⁄5 during his pre-sale breeze-up.
"I thought I had a lot of good 2-year-olds but looking at their pedigrees, other than Uncle Mo and one other horse, I didn't feel like I had enough colts who could go long," Repole recalled. "I thought I really only had two bullets and ... the reason why I probably went a little higher than I usually go (for Stay Thirsty) is I really wanted to buy a horse that I was confident could go long. And no one is ever going to question whether Stay Thirsty can go a mile and a quarter.
"When I got him for $500,000, I was very happy. And the story out there is when I got Uncle Mo for $220,000 I was (upset), so what do I know."
In buying Stay Thirsty, Repole was investing in a longterm future. He and Pletcher had no notions of the dark bay colt being a precocious 2-year-old.
To their surprise, Stay Thirsty developed quicker than his pedigree suggested. After finishing second in his career debut, Stay Thirsty broke his maiden by 51/2 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion going 6 furlongs at Saratoga last August.
Despite stumbling at the start, Stay Thirsty managed to run second to Boys At Tosconova in the Grade I, 7-furlong Hopeful Stakes last September. Though he was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, beaten 141/2 lengths by his brilliant stablemate Uncle Mo, the fact Stay Thirsty made it to that point had his connections thinking he was ahead of the game.
"He's bred to be a 3-year-old," Repole said. "If you told me he was going to break his maiden going 6 furlongs, we would not have believed it. We would have thought this is a horse who as he goes further, gets better. He got beat up pretty bad by Uncle Mo in the Breeders' Cup, but so did everyone else."
With Uncle Mo set to make his 2011 debut next weekend in the 1-mile Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Saturday's 11⁄16-mile Gotham is an ideal chance for Stay Thirsty to get a headline or two for himself.
The only stakes winner in the Gotham field is Toby's Corner, the impressive winner of the Whirlaway Stakes going 11⁄16 miles over a muddy Aqueduct track on Feb. 5.
Given the early speed he showed in his first three starts, Stay Thirsty could control the pace on Saturday.
More than anything at this point, Repole wants to see his "other" Derby contender take control of his destiny.
"Stay Thirsty has $110,000 in graded earnings, so he'll need to win or finish second or third in his next two starts (to make the Derby field)," Repole said. "The way this race came up, I think he's well spotted. I want to win this race as much for him as anyone else because he gets no respect."