Melmich’s win streak came to an end as Gigantic Breeze swept to victory in the $175,000 Autumn Stakes (Grade 2) on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
Undefeated in his first five starts of the season, Melmich trailed the five-pack of Autumn Stakes starters before staging a furious late bid, but ultimately came up one length short as Gigantic Breeze stole the spotlight with Gary Boulanger aboard for trainer Alexander ‘Sandy’ McPherson.
Following top three finishes in the local Grade 3 Dominion Day and Seagram Cup stakes behind Melmich, Gigantic Breeze returned to Woodbine for the Autumn Stakes after an impressive victory with a 118 speed ranking in the Presque Isle Mile.
Sent postward as the 7-2 second choice in the wagering, Gigantic Breeze followed in fourth-place through fractions of :24.96, :49.20 and 1:12.72 before coming through three-wide between horses on the final turn and taking the lead from the pacesetter and eventual third-place finisher Western Reserve in the stretch. Gigantic Breeze held clear of the oncoming Melmich the rest of the way to score his first graded stakes win in a final time of 1:42.38 over 1-1/16 miles.
“I had in my mind I was going to park him in behind a couple of horses and get him just to sit there as long as I wanted to and move when I thought it was time to go, whatever the pace was, he was going to tell me how fast or slow it was,” said Boulanger, who swept the first three races on Sunday’s program before winning the stakes feature. “He showed a tremendous turn of foot in Presque Isle and he’s always showed me a lot of talent. He’s just gotten better with every race. Sandy’s done a great job with him and he’s been a tremendous trip to ride. Everything he’s asked him to do, he’s done. He’s just gotten better every race.”
Owned and raised by Hopefield Farm, the four-year-old chestnut gelding by Giant’s Causeway out of Dixie and a Breeze has won five of his seven starts this year while earning the bulk of his lifetime bankroll totalling more than $385,000.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that every race is better than the preceding one, especially now,” agreed McPherson. “He’s been on an upward [swing] right from his first start this year. He’s improved, like visually. Every race is better than the one before. I mean, Melmich is a really good horse. He’s a good, good horse.
“If he [Gigantic Breeze] isn’t the best horse I’ve ever had, he’s close,” added the veteran horseman. “Ashboro was a good horse too. She could run with the top American graded horses. I think this guy could too.”
Gigantic Breeze paid $9.80 to win and $3 to place. There was no show wagering. He combined with Melmich ($2.10 to place) for a 4-5 exacta worth $13.50. A $1 trifecta of 4-5-1 (Western Reserve) paid $15.85 and a $1 superfecta of 4-5-1-2 (Tale of the Nile) returned $47.45. Dragon Bay completed the order of finish.