Rock Fall finds more late, takes Vosburgh as heavy favorite
A stalking third as Wildcat Red and Weekend Hideaway traded leads through a quarter in :22.23 and a half in :45.21, Rock Fall ranged up to be on even terms at the top of the stretch. However, the four-year-old son of Speightstown soon found himself in a dogfight with 12-1 chance Stallwalkin' Dude, who poked his head in front at the eighth pole.
Forced to dig deep, Rock Fall re-rallied inside that rival to gain the edge in the final yards as Stallwalkin' Dude capitulated to both the winner and Salutos Amigos, who overcame a troubled to start to earn runner-up honors with a late, wide rally.
Owned by Stonestreet Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, Rock Fall returned $2.80 after completing six furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.70.
After dropping his debut in April 2014, Rock Fall has reeled off seven straight wins and heads to the $1.5 million TwinSpires.com Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland on October 31 as the probable favorite.
Although this effort was not as visually impressive as many might have expected against this field, and certainly didn't look as easy as some of his efforts earlier in the year, Castellano said after the race that Rock Fall "just took off for me, very easily. It was perfect though and a good set up for my horse."
"He's blessed with a lot of natural talent but to go along with that he's got a lot of fight, which is great," Pletcher added. "There are a lot of similarities between him and his sire and the way they train. You wouldn't necessarily know they're as good as they are. Watching in the mornings, he can be a little idle, but you just have confidence that come game time he'll show up. He takes care of himself well.
"I was a little worried, I didn't quite overdo it with training coming into this race. I wanted to get this one and still have something for the Breeders' Cup, so I was hoping I didn't cut it too close and he pulled it out. It's a fine line between running well in the prep and hoping you have something left for the Breeders' Cup. He's been winning races since March and seven in row so we just want to continue ticking over."
Rock Fall has experience winning at Keeneland, having taken an allowance there in April by nine lengths. He later beat Stallwalkin' Dude by 3 3/4 lengths in the True North (G2) in his stakes debut, but was all out to beat The Big Beast by a nose in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga last time.
In addition to facing the best sprinters in training five weeks from now, Rock Fall will also be battling some negative history going into the Sprint. Artax (1999) remains the only horse ever to pull off the Vosburgh-Breeders' Cup Sprint double, and for several other Sprint winners it's proved better not to peak in the Vosburgh. Among those was Speightstown, in 2004.
Salutos Amigos, easily the best of the rest from a macro perspective, could also go on to the Sprint, although a title defense in the $200,000 Bold Ruler (G3) at Belmont the same day might make more sense.
(Rock Fall photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)