‘This Is For Jose’: Discreet Lover Scores Emotional Excelsior Victory

With an explosive late kick, Discreet Lover gave owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis his first graded stakes win in the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Leaving from post 2 at odds of 7-1 with Manny Franco in the irons, Discreet Lover stumbled out of the gate and rushed up early to take up a stalking position in fourth in the field of seven. Zanotti and Control Group battled up front through fractions of 24.81 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.72 for the half.

Discreet Lover began to make his winning move at the half-mile pole. Passing foes leading into the quarter-pole, Franco guided Discreet Lover six wide in the upper stretch. Driving past with Zanotti, Control Group, and Harlan Punch at the eighth-pole, Discreet Lover extended his lead to score by 2 ½ lengths.

His final time for the 1 1/8-mile distance was 1:50.45.

“When he went down out of the gate, I said we’ve ‘well I’ve got to use plan B’,” said Franco. “Take back and wait as long as I could. As soon as I tapped him on the shoulder, he picked them up and he was going so well.”

Returning $17.60 for a $2 win wager, the 5-year-old son of Repent boosted his career earnings to $630,860.

“I bought him at the sale for $10,000 at the Timonium sale,” said St. Lewis. “He tries all the time, doesn’t matter what. He just grabbed his quarter coming out of the gate, so I got to go back and look at him, but he tries all the time. He eats good, he doesn’t care who he runs against. He’s always trying. He comes up here a lot of times and finishes fourth, and third and today he finally did it.”

The winner’s circle ceremony was an emotional moment for trainer Parx Racing-based trainer St. Lewis. Discreet Lover was ridden by the late Jose Flores in his previous six races and Flores would have had the mount in the Excelsior, said St. Lewis. Flores passed away on March 22 due to injuries suffered in a spill three days earlier in a race at Parx.

“He used to ride this horse all the time,” added St. Lewis. “He rode most of my horses, and he passed away a few weeks ago. He rode this horse Saturday [March 17] in the stakes [Harrison E. Johnson at Laurel Park], and on Monday he died. He would’ve come up here and rode him today, but when he passed away I asked Angel Cordero [agent for Manny Franco]. I love Jose, he was like a brother to me. I keep saying this is for Jose.”

Following Zanotti in second was Harlan Punch, Backsideofthemoon, Control Group, Wild About Deb, and Admiral Blue.

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