Vincent Viola: ‘The Belmont Is Absolutely The Race That I Covet The Most’

As a horse racing enthusiast, owner, and a native New Yorker, Vincent Viola holds the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes in the highest of regards. When asked by friends and family which race he most wants to win, he said he holds the American Classic at Belmont Park in the same regard as the Kentucky Derby.

Viola was able to cross the “Run for the Roses” off the checklist when Always Dreaming took him and numerous other owners, including wife Teresa Viola and fellow Brooklynite Anthony Bonomo, on a memorable ride in winning the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Two years later, the successful businessman again found himself heading to the winner’s circle on one of the racing’s biggest days when Vino Rosso, whom he co-owned with Repole Stable, captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita en route to earning the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Dirt Male.

But when Dr Post goes into the starting gate for Saturday’s 152nd edition of the Belmont Stakes, he’ll be attempting to give his owner a victory in the race that he holds the nearest and dearest to his heart.

“The Belmont is absolutely the race that I covet the most,” Viola said. “The race has a fantastic tradition. It’s a different race this year given the circumstances at hand, but it still carries the history and memories of fantastic editions in the past. I’ve always put the Belmont right up there with the Kentucky Derby.”

Owned by Viola’s St. Elias Stable, which is a nod to his father’s middle name, Dr Post will be a second Belmont Stakes contender for Viola, who launched the electronic market making company Virtu Financial in 2008, five years before becoming owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.

Frequent visits to Belmont Park and Aqueduct as a child with his father piqued Viola’s interest in the sport of kings.

“I went to the racetrack as a young man with my dad regularly,” Viola recalled. “My dad taught me how to calculate odds, watch odds and figure out the impact of money in the mutuel pools, so from a mathematics and handicapping standpoint he taught me a lot about the game. I’ve been a real fan of the sport, but I never imagined that I would own a horse or help manage horses at this level. I would say it was a childhood romance. It’s a heart and soul sport, I just wish more people would be blessed with opportunity to be introduced to it.”

Viola got his first taste of being a part of the Belmont Stakes when Vino Rosso ran fourth to Triple Crown-winner Justify in 2018.

Though light on experience, Dr Post gives his connections reason to believe a celebration could be imminent as he enters this year’s Belmont Stakes – his graded stakes debut – having demonstrated noticeable progression in each of his three career starts.

Highly regarded early on, the dark bay son of Quality Road was fourth as the favorite on debut at Belmont Park in July, where he finished behind subsequent stakes winners Green Light Go and Another Miracle.

“We were very excited about Dr Post’s maiden opportunity. He didn’t run to his form and was training a lot better than he ran that day,” Viola said. “He may have hung a little bit but when we did work on him. We saw he was a little banged up. He’s always been mature, easy to train, very professional. He’s almost so talented that he measures up to the challenge at hand and taking our time with him proved to be the right thing to do.”

Since returning off the bench, the lightly raced Dr Post has rewarded that patience by scoring two victories this year at Gulfstream Park. After breaking his maiden on March 29 following a nearly nine-month layoff, he handled his first two-turn test with aplomb, capturing the Unbridled Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on April 25.

“If you watch his maiden win, he was really perfectly mature in the race,” Viola said. “If you watch the Unbridled Stakes, which was a decent field, he did not have an easy time and he displayed a tenacity and a real champion’s heart that I hope carries him forward. People are down on the quality of the field this year, but I think these are some good horses. It’s a well-stocked race. I’d love to run against [Grade 1 winners] Maxfield and Charlatan for sure, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Dr Post is named after Viola’s family doctor, for whom his father was a patient, and has become close to Viola’s family over the years.

“He really was a saving grace in my father’s life. He had heart disease and he kept him healthy for 20 years. He became my doctor and he’s really become more than just a doctor for me,” Viola said.

Dr Post , listed at 5-1 on the morning line, will attempt to make Viola’s dream a reality when breaking from post 9 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

The post Vincent Viola: ‘The Belmont Is Absolutely The Race That I Covet The Most’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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