On Sunday afternoon, Mike Repole of Repole Stables, owner of 13-year-old Cool N Collective, reflected on his gelding’s game second in Sunday’s first race at Aqueduct.
The son of Ruhlmann was making his first start in New York in this stint of Repole’s ownership; last fall Repole bought Cool N Collective for the fifth time since 2006 with two goals in mind: to race Cool N Collective in New York so that he could become the oldest horse in anyone’s memory to win a race in New York, and to retire the horse to a good home.
Those goals co-exist uneasily in Repole.
“He came back fine,” he said yesterday afternoon. “[Jockey Mike] Luzzi said that he didn’t want to pull up, and the pony had to go get him after the race—he didn’t want to stop.”
Cool N Collective set the pace in the $7,500 claiming event, setting easy fractions and loping along through three-quarters of a mile. Racing on the rail, he was challenged in the stretch by Who Needs to Know, going eyeball to eyeball and digging in with every step. Behind those two, Saratoga Lulaby swung off the rail, pulling away and winning by nearly three lengths, but Cool N Collective refused to concede second place, holding on by a head.
“He fought with the horse down the stretch the whole way,” Repole said. “He just fights, head to head down the stretch. And he came back great—he wasn’t even huffing and puffing. He looks like he’s seven or eight.”
Asked about what’s next for the horse, Repole admitted, obviously conflicted, “I don’t know if he’ll have a next start; it’s up to the horse. If he’s got so much as a bruise, I’ll retire him; he has to be 100%.”
His concern for Cool N Collective wrestles with his desire to see the horse win, especially when he sees his horse run like he did today. “He’s had 80 starts and he’s a solid, solid horse who loves to run. In March there’s a race that’s an easier spot for him, so we could run him in February, point him to that, and maybe get the win.
“I want to do what’s right for the horse, and do what’s right for racing, too. It would be a great story to retire him after he becomes the oldest horse to win a race in New York.”
As much as he wants the win, he acknowledges that even without it, Cool N Collective is a great story: “You’re writing about him, Dave Grening wrote about him in the Form, NYRA’s doing a story on him, TVG talked about him. A lot of people are paying attention to him, and I understand why: it’s why I wanted to get him back so badly. He’s the first horse I visit when I go to the barn.”
Repole has begun thinking about where Cool N Collective will go when his racing career is over; he wants to make sure that his bay gelding will have a good home, with plenty of room to run around. He says that he does the same for all of his horses. “When my horses are done, no matter how old they are, I always make sure that they have a good home. I support horse rescues financially; everyone has to take responsibility for their own horses, has to take care of them.”
But in Cool N Collective’s case, he’s not sure, at this point, what “taking care” of him would be. “I want to do what’s right for the horse,” he says emphatically. “He loves to run, so should he keep racing? Or should he be retired?
“Which is better?”