Giant Expectations, a New York-bred four-year-old piloted by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, won a spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Friday, Nov. 3 at Del Mar with a convincing triumph in Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at seven furlongs.
Giant Expectations rallied powerfully through the stretch to overtake Calculator and win by a length and one-half in the O’Brien, a “Win and You’re In” qualifying event for the Breeders’ Cup on the first weekend in November. Calculator, who had taken the lead in the upper stretch under Rafael Bejarano, was a clear runner-up, two and three-quarter lengths in front of Silent Bird, with Mr. Hinx fourth in the field of ten sprinters. Moe Candy, the lukewarm 3-1 favorite, wound up last after breaking slowly and rushing up to be a pace factor. Danzing Candy, the pre-race favorite, was withdrawn Friday after suffering a career-ending injury.
Giant Expectations, a son of Frost Giant owned by Exline Border Racing and Gatto racing and trained by Peter Eurton, accomplished the distance in a swift 1:21.08 to earn first money of $120,000 with his third win in ten outings. His bankroll is $253,200. To his backers, he returned $11.40, $6 and $3.40. Runner-up Calculator paid $8 and $4.40, while Silent Bird returned $4.20 to show.
In Saturday’s supporting feature, the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes for three-year-olds, Battle of Midway rallied to the lead in the upper stretch and drew off to an impressive six and one-quarter lengths triumph under jockey Flavien Prat.
The son of Smart Strike, who was third to Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby last spring,l was always prominent in the one-mile affair, drove past 9-5 favored Gato Del Oro turning for home and cruised to the wire an easy winner.
Gato Del Oro, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, stayed on for second, four and one-quarter lengths ahead of 2016 Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt, with Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley a well-beaten fourth in his first race since finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes June 10.
Battle of Midway, owned by Don Alberto Stable and Winstar Farm and conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran the distance in 1:35.94 for his fourth victory in eight starts. First prize of $60,000 pushed his earnings to $620,000. Sent to the gate at 3-1, Battle of Midway paid $8.40, $3.60 and $2.80. Gato Del Oro returned $3 and $2.60, while Klimt paid $3 to show.
Bejarano won three races on the card to give him 25 winners this season, three behind leader Prat who won with Conquest Typhoon in the sixth at $8.60 and Battle of Midway in the Shared Belief. Bejarano’s winners were Lucky Romano at $10.20 in the fifth, Popyhowusspelcupcak at $9.20 in the eighth and Lovely Anzi at $15.20 in the tenth. Apprentice Evin Roman scored on Swirling in the third to up his total to 24.
In the first ride of her career, ten-pound apprentice jockey Maria Falgione was a winner aboard Tee Em Eye in the second race Saturday. Tee Em Eye won by three and one-half lengths and paid $13.60.
GARY STEVENS (Giant Expectations, winner) – “He broke sharp and he was right in it. I used one of his gears a little earlier than I wanted to to get position. There was some “jockeying” going on out there, especially between (Kent) Desormeaux (on Silent Bird) and me. We were going in and out, but my horse loved it (the competition). He’s a bulldog. I rode him last time and he ran great. I thought he was sitting on something big. He showed it today. And I think he’ll actually be better off if they run him a mile. (The win gave him automatic entrance into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.) He’ll have more time to settle going into that first turn and I expect he’ll run big.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO (Calculator, second) – “He got away a little slow, but we got a good position pretty quick. He got through there, then threw his ears up. Then the winner was by us. He ran good, though.”
KENT DESORMEAUX (Silent Bird, third) – “He showed up. The fastest race of the meet by far and he was right there. Hadn’t run in more than five months, but he was right with them today.”
PETER EURTON (Giant Expectations, winner) – “He showed up today and I’m really proud of him. Gary (Stevens) chose him over Kobe’s Back basically because of the youth, this horse is four. I didn’t think he would run this big, but I’m glad he did. We’re pretty happy right now.”
FRACTIONS: :22.69 :45.14 1:08.83 1:21.08
The stakes win was the third of the meet for rider Stevens and his third in the Pat O’Brien. He now has 97 stakes wins at Del Mar, third most of any jockey.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for trainer Eurton and his first in the Pat O’Brien. He now has eight stakes wins at Del Mar.
The owners are Exline Border Racing (Ryan Exline of Thousand Oaks, CA and Justin Border) and Gatto Racing (Dan Gatto of Encinitas, CA).
Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club