LAUREL, MD – Calvin Borel built a successful career by sticking close to the rail, but the Hall of Fame jockey left the rail as soon as he could Saturday at Laurel Park while riding Ivan Fallunovalot in Saturday’s $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial (G3) sponsored by Maker’s Mark.
Borel’s out-of-character strategy resulted in a 4 ½-length victory aboard the Texas-bred gelding, who scored his 15th career triumph but his first graded-stakes success in the De Francis Dash, highlighting a Fall Festival of Racing program that offered seven stakes worth a total of $825,000.
The attractive multi-stakes program generated a total handle of $4.513 million, an increase of 19.6 percent over last year’s total handle of $3.775. In-state handle increased by 16.4 percent.
Following a clean start from the gate as the 3-1 second betting choice in a field of six, Ivan Fallunovalot was outsprinted to the lead along the backstretch by 1-5 favorite X Y Jet. Shortly after the odds-on-favorite crossed over to the rail, Borel eased his mount off the rail to engage the pacesetter on the outside. After pressing the pace past fractions of 22.34 (seconds) and 45.73, Ivan Fallunovalot pulled alongside X Y Jet on the turn and assumed the lead at the top of the homestretch. The son of Valid Expectations kicked in through the stretch to register a commanding victory in 1:10.07.
“We broke a tad slower than usual for him. I got him in the race early and went really slow. We backed it up a lot. I just let him go up to him and the best horse that’s going to finish is going to win. That’s what it amounted to,” Borel said.
After calling it a career last fall, Borel came out of retirement during the summer and has ridden 19 winners from 213 mounts in the Midwest.
“This is my first stakes win since coming back on a thoroughbred. I won an Arabian stakes at Churchill earlier this year,” Borel said. “It’s been awhile since we were at Laurel.”
Rockinn On Bye, a 14-1 long shot ridden by Taylor Hole, finished second, a neck ahead of X Y Jet. The De Francis was X Y Jet’s second start since finishing second in the Golden Shaheen (G1) on the Dubai World Cup program in March. He finished a tiring fifth in the Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont Park Oct. 1. The son of Kantharos brought a five-win streak, including victories in the Mr. Prospector (G3) and Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream Park, into the Golden Shaheen.
“We just weren’t able to catch him,” said Emisael Jaramillio, who rode the Jorge Navarro-trained X Y Jet. “My horse tried, but just couldn’t catch up.”
More often than not, there is no catching Ivan Fallunovalot, who entered the DeFrancis with 14 wins from 23 starts.
Trainer Tom Howard claimed Ivan on behalf of Arkansas owner Lewis Mathews Jr. for $25,000 out of a win at Oaklawn in March 2014. The reigning Texas-bred Horse of the Year has since won 11 races and $741,000 for his new connections, including Saturday’s $150,000 winner’s share.
Ivan Fallunovalot was scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 5 but was withdrawn due to chronic hoof issues that were resolved in time to make the De Francis.
“We had to pass the Breeders’ Cup due to quarter cracks, but everything fell into place for this race. This will set us up good for Oaklawn,” said Howard, who bargain claim has won all four of starts this year since finishing a troubled ninth in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
Ivan Fallunovalot is scheduled to shoot for his third straight victory in the $100,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn in January.