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Norvsky Catches Jeranimo in San Gabriel

With stable star Acclamation temporarily out of action, California-bred Norvksy stepped into the breach and ran down 7-10 favorite Jeranimo on Monday to gain his first graded stakes victory in Santa Anita’s 65th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Gabriel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf.


Under the guidance of jockey Rafael Bejarano, Norvsky closed strongly to overtake the defending champion by 1 ½ lengths in 1:47.03 with comebacking millionaire The Usual Q. T. another 2 ¾ lengths back in third.


“Usually, I trot out Acclamation (a winner of five successive Grade I or Grade II stakes last year) for an assignment like this,” said Don Warren, who trains Norvsky, a 6-year-old gelded son of Vronsky for the Old English Rancho’s E.W. and Judy Johnston and partner Leonard Riggio.


“I was as surprised as anybody because I didn’t think he could beat a good horse like Jeranimo,” continued Warren. “I really respect Jeranimo and The Usual Q. T. And to think I didn’t have to bring out Acclamation to beat those two--I’m very happy with the outcome today.”


Warren even said he had seriously considered the Crystal Water Stakes, an ungraded $100,000 event restricted to Cal-breds on Jan. 28, as an alternative to the San Gabriel for Norvsky, whose biggest previous victory had been accomplished in Santa Anita’s California Cup Classic in October. Field size, Warren said, led to his final determination.


Bejarano kept Norvsky near the rear of the six-horse field as Martin Garcia urged Jeranimo to the lead early on. The odds-on choice took the field through modest fractions of 23:69, 48.41 and 1:11.78. The Usual Q. T., returning from over 7 ½ months on the sidelines, made a run at the leader turning for home. The millionaire was rebuffed, but blue collar-type Norvsky surged past Jeranimo just inside the sixteenth pole.


“We were really going slow in the beginning and I was wondering if the pace would stay that way,” Bejarano said. “So I just tried to get in close and not stay too far back. At the half-mile pole, I was trying to improve my position.


“When I got to the stretch, my horse showed me a big kick. I knew he was going to win the race then. My horse is still learning, and I think the perfect distance for him is either a mile-and-one-sixteenth or a mile-and-and-an-eighth.”


Warren noted that, even though the early fractions were not fast, the race set up for his bay gelding. “They were ding-donging it, those two (Jeranimo and The Usual Q.T.), up there in front” he said. “Even though they were going only in 48-and-change, it’s all a matter if you’re ding-donging it head-and-head. How fast you go doesn’t matter. When you’re racing, you’re racing and it’s taking something out of you.”


Mike Pender, who trains Jeranimo, said the favorite became “confused” by the way the race unfolded. “This was the first time he was even on the lead by himself,” Pender said. “Going in, we knew he might get a little confused by it, and he did. He didn’t know what he was doing out there. He usually has a target. He runs better with a target, but you’ve got to take the race as it shapes up.”


Norvsky’s first graded stakes victory was worth $90,000 while elevating his career earnings to $487,844 from a 6-7-3 record in 18 starts. He paid $8.20, $2.80 and $2.40. Jeranimo returned $2.20 and $2.10. The show price on The Usual Q. T. was $2.20.



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