ARCADIA, CA — Set down while well off the pace leaving the 1/2-mile pole, Gormley kept to his task through the lane en route to a 1/2-length win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, trained by John Shirreffs, and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, the Malibu Moon colt covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.16 while picking up 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
“I think the key was Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move,” said Shirreffs. “This is very exciting. It’s thrilling to have a Kentucky Derby horse, and it’s for the same owners as (2005 Kentucky Derby winner) Giacomo. Royal Mo (third place finisher, also trained by Shirreffs and owned by the Mosses) ran really big. If he had a better post position, you wonder how he would have done.”
Fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes here on March 11, Gormley went off at 6-1 in a field of 13 3-year-olds.
“Today, the big difference is that he was ready,” said Espinoza. “He’s really quick out of the gate, and today, the plan was to take him back and make him run, because it seemed like there was a little bit of speed in the race. I had a little bit of a hard time taking him back, but all I had to do was jerk him one time, a bit harder than I wanted, and that’s all it took.
“He relaxed very nice. Down the backside, I started laughing to myself because I knew I was in a good position, and I knew all the horses in front of me were going to stop. The only problem is his size. He’s not a very big horse, but he’s tough, and that’s what I like about him. He works really hard and that’s what it takes.”
A winner of the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes in his second start on October 1, Gormley took the Grade 3 Sham Stakes two starts back and now has three graded stakes victories included in an overall mark of 6-4-0-0. With the $600,000 Derby first prize, he now has earnings of $920,000.
Fractions on the race were 22.66, 46.55, 1:10.92, and 1:37.55.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Jerry Hollendorfer’s Battle of Midway pressed the issue throughout and finished second, a 1/2-length in front of Royal Mo. Battle of Midway earned $200,000 and 40 Kentucky Derby points, which should be enough to garner him a starting spot in the gate on May 6.
“He ran really well,” said Nakatani. “I wish we could’ve gotten a breather at some point, but it didn’t work out that way. He ran dynamite.”
Royal Mo, who broke from the far outside, pressed the pace along with Battle of Midway and American Anthem, then held onto third by the wire. A stablemate to Gormley, Royal Mo banked $120,000 and collected 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
“It’s been such a great time bringing both of these horses up and they both came through beautifully today,” said Jerry Moss. “It was fantastic to see Royal Mo do so well today. Gary (Stevens) rode him perfectly. He was the pacesetter for a while even. We’re just delighted.”
Reach the World was 1/2 of a length behind in fourth, with Iliad, Kimbear, Term of Art, Irish Freedom, Milton Freewater, Midnight Pleasure, So Conflated, American Anthem, and Comma Sister completing the order of finish.
Gormley returned $14.40, $7.20, and $5. Battle of Midway brought back $7.80 and $5.40, while Royal Mo paid $7.60 to show.
Jockey Victor Espinoza, Gormley: “Today, the big difference is that he was ready. Something went wrong last time; he was good, but not quite where I wanted. I was a little bit disappointed, but it seems like today, he was on his toes, on his game, and I was really ready for it. All it takes is having a lot of confidence in him against the other horses, and with John (Shirreffs), we were hoping he chose the right one.”
Trainer John Shirreffs, Gormley and Royal Mo: “I think the key was Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move. This is very exciting.
“I really wasn’t paying attention to the fractions. I just saw my horse, and he got behind horses, including Royal Mo. Gormley is an evolving horse. He’s very precocious and very excitable. I just need to turn that energy of his into positive use. It’s a lot of growing pains with a talented horse. I think using the tongue tie certainly helped us today. We’ll see how this shakes out. We’ll see how he comes out of this race in the morning, and if all is well, we’ll point to the Kentucky Derby.”
Owner Jerry Moss, Gormley and Royal Mo: “We’re just delighted. I don’t know what else I can say. I’m out of words.”
Racing Manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, Gormley and Royal Mo: “We’re so proud of these horses, you can’t believe it. We’ve known they’ve had talent all along, so to see it come to fruition at this stage is just wonderful.
“We hope Royal Mo makes it on points because he deserves to go, too! He’s such a nice horse, so that really speaks volumes for our other horse.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Battle of Midway: “I think he ran a pretty good race. If he didn’t get pressured so much early, I think we would have won, but that’s how things go. I’m very happy with him. He’s been progressing all along, and if he can continue, he should be a contender.”
Santa Anita Park