BIG GUN – 97 Beyer Speed Figure for Fountain of Youth
Kentucky Derby fever erupts in Venezuela, colt named for Spanish town
to see Gunnevera’s pedigree..
After trailing his nine rivals during the early stages of Saturday’s $400,000 XpressBet.com Fountain of Youth (G2), Peacock Racing Stable’s Gunnevera unleashed a furious run on the turn into the Gulfstream Park homestretch and drew away to a commanding five-length victory.
The only one who may have covered the Gulfstream stretch with as much enthusiasm was his trainer, Antonio Sano, who sprinted along the racing surface toward the first turn following the running of the 1 1/16-mile race to great his impressive winner and accompany him to the winner’s circle.
Gunnevera, the 4-1 third betting choice who is stabled at Gulfstream Park West, provided Sano his most significant victory in the United States since emigrating from Venezuela.
“I’m very emotional,” said Sano, who has won several training titles in South Florida in recent years.
The program produced a record Fountain of Youth total handle of $26.6 million.
Gunnevera broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in his third career start July16 and went on to establish himself as one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds of 2016 while capturing the Saratoga Special (G2) in August and completing his juvenile season with an easy victory in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) in November.
Gunnevera, who finished second behind Irish War Cry in the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream in his 3-year-old debut Feb. 4 after encountering a bumping incident on the turn into the homestretch, trailed the field into the first turn Saturday as Gulfstream-based Three Rules set the pace around the first turn and on the backstretch. Pressed by Irish War Cry, the even-money favorite ridden by Joel Rosario, Three Rules and jockey Luis Saez set fractions of 23.43 (seconds) and 47.16 for the first half mile. Javier Castellano bided his time aboard the stretch-running Gunnevera, saving ground along the backstretch. Three Rules and Irish War Cry continued to show the way after leaving the backstretch as Practical Joke, the 3-1 second choice made an eye-catching move along the inside, followed by a surging Gunnevera on the outside.
Practical Joke, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner trained by Chad Brown, pulled alongside Three Rules leaving the turn into the stretch under jockey Jose Ortiz as Irish War Cry began to weaken and Gunnevera was looming boldly on the outside.
“I was feeling pretty good on the turn there,” said Brown, whose trainee was making his first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 5. “I thought the horse ran a great race considering the layoff. Gunnevera was much the best today – hats off to them. That horse was really impressive.”
Practical Joke continued fighting in the stretch to finish a half-length clear of Three Rules.
Gunnevera drew off impressively to complete the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.25.
Gunnevera’s victory was worth 50 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifying system putting the Peacock Racing Stable’s star in first place with 64 total points.
“I am the happiness man on earth. I thank God, Antonio Sano and Javier Castellano – all three champions. This is my biggest win. I’ve been around horses since I was 5 years old. I’ve had as many as 40 horses in Venezuela,” said Peacock Racing’s Solomon Del-Valle through an interpreter. “Antonio bought this horse for $16,000. Incredible. I love this horse. I get up every day at 4 a.m. to see the horse. I was 100-percent sure he would win today.”
Gunnevera’s performance rewarded his trainer’s confidence in him leading up to the Fountain of Youth.
“I feel very happy. The last race he lost the race because he got bumped. This was different – more horses, different speed,” Sano said. “I thought 100 percent that he would win today.”
Sano said the Florida Derby (G1) is Gunnevera’s next scheduled start.
Gunnevera was in the sales ring for about 30 seconds 2 years ago..
ALL HEART – AGAIN
Ontario-bred, Alberta-owned, Alberta breeder
Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart, who won last year’s Canadian Turf (G3) gate to wire, did it all over again Saturday when he broke on top and was never headed to win the $150,000 event by three quarters of a length at Gulfstream Park.
A 6-year-old by English Channel, Heart to Heart has won four of five starts across Gulfstream’s turf course and 12 of 27 starts. He covered the mile course Saturday under jockey Julien Leparoux in 1:32.63. He posted a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
Heart to Heart’s victories include last year’s Fort Lauderdale (G2) and Knickerbocker (G3) at Belmont Park.
Heart to Heart took the lead under Leparoux and set fractions of :22.94, :46.25 and 1:09.57 before holding off Bondurant. Conquest Panthera was third while Projected and Giant Run finished in a dead heat for fourth.
Trainer Brian Lynch (Heart to Heart): “This is the pride and joy of our barn. I’ve been preaching all week that he’s never trained better.”
“I always say he runs the turns like a rat in a barrel. I think they underestimate how much he gets away from them when he runs the turn, and I think that was the case today. There’s no one who fits him better. Julien has a lot of confidence in him and he has a lot of confidence in Julien.”
Heart to Heart was bred by Red Hawk Ranch in Ontario but his breeder Darrell Bauder hails from Alberta
Read more about Darrell Bauder here..
DORSETT wins Sandy Lane Gold Cup for second straight year
High Noon Rider – Keystoneforvictory 2nd and 3rd
By Kent Layne
Dorsett (Artie Schiller) became the third horse to win back-to-back Sandy Lane Gold Cups when he won the 36th running of the Caribbean’s most prestigious race at the Garrison Savannah this evening.
After the exciting finish there was a lengthy stewards’ inquiry on the winner but it was made final at the end and the positions stood.
As the gates opened Dorsett broke dead last, his fans and bettors seemed upset and possibly thought all hope was lost. Four furlongs out and Dorsett was still last as fans began to turn their backs as second place finisher the Ken Ramsey entry High Noon had kicked for home. But like a bullet from a gun Dorsett rocketed from last to first to grab the lead and send the Grandstand into an uproar.
UNIQUE BELLA CHALLENGED, HOLDS SWAY
Unique Bella reigned supreme once again in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes against 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles over the main track in 1:43.11. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Mike Smith, favored Unique Bella defeated five rivals in preparation for the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks at Santa Anita Park on April 8.
“It was pretty eventful,” quipped Smith after dismounting the massive filly by Tapit out of the Unbridled’s Song mare, Unrivaled Belle. “Sometimes you just have to stay out of the way of the good ones and they’ll run for you.”
After a slow start from the rail, Unique Bella sat behind Tap It All, with Santiago Gonzalez aboard, into the first turn. Not wanting to be trapped down by the rail, Smith made a quick decision and mounted an aggressive move in between horses, forcing stablemate Spooky Woods wide in order to get to the outside.
“I was wondering if Mike would stay on the rail or get out in the open,” stated Hollendorfer following the race. “He chose to get out in the open.”
Abel Tasman, off since her win in the Grade I Starlet on December 10, launched a game move at the 3/16 pole turning for home but never quite reached Unique Bella and was quickly put away when Smith waved his stick at “Bella” keeping his filly on task.
“Hats off to the winner,” stated Joe Talamo, who was aboard Abel Tasman. “What a special filly she is. I had a lot of horse and we had a beautiful trip.”
“When I saw her come into the lane I felt she was waiting on horses a little bit,” said Hollendorfer regarding Unique’s Bella’s stretch run. “Mike had to wave the stick but she responded right away. I wasn’t too worried.”
When asked what is next for his newest budding superstar, Hollendorfer confirmed that he would keep Unique Bella running against fillies and will point towards the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on April 8. “It’s a perfect progression. We’d like to go for the Santa Anita Oaks and if we win, or do well, then we’ll try to go to Kentucky for the Oaks.”
Unique Bella, owned by the Don Alberto Stable was off at 1-9 and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10.
With $60,000 awarded to the winner, Unique Bella now has lifetime earnings of $342,400 and a record of 5-4-1-0.
JOCKEY WINS 8 RACES ON ONE CARD
SHAMAN GHOST TO THE BIG ‘CAP NEXT WEEK
Stronach Stables” Shaman Ghost, who got a career best 112 Beyer Speed figure while running second to Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Jan. 28, will arrive at Santa Anita on Tuesday as he prepares for next Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap, to be run at a mile and a quarter.
“Most of the time, it’s pretty fast and speed favoring out there, but I like the way my horse ran in the Pegasus,” said trainer Jimmy Jerkens this morning from south Florida. “He usually breaks very well. In the Pegasus, he was up with the top flight, in front of California Chrome, into the first turn and then they ran away from him a little down the backside.
“I think they’ll have to go fast early and if they come back, a mile and quarter is a great distance for my horse. If any horse fits the distance, it should be him.”
Owned by Stronach Stables and bred in Ontario, Canada by their Adena Springs, the 5-year-old bay son of Ghostzapper will be Jerkens second starter in Santa Anita’s signature event for older horses as his Effinex ran third in last year’s edition.
No stranger to the “Big Stage,” Shaman Ghost won Canada’s biggest race for 3-year-olds, the mile and a quarter Queen’s Plate in July, 2015 at Woodbine. A 4 ¼ length winner of Belmont Park’s Grade II, mile and one half Brooklyn Invitational on June 11, 2016, he took the Grade I, mile and one eighth Woodward Stakes at Saratoga three starts back on Sept. 3.
Forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5 due to illness, Shaman Ghost’s next start was a third place finish in the Grade I, mile and one eighth Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25.
In what will be his first-ever Big ‘Cap mount, four-time Eclipse Award winning Javier Castellano, who was aboard for the Woodward, will fly in from Florida to ride Shaman Ghost next Saturday.