SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Gunnevera followed up on a recent maiden win at Gulfstream Park with a relentless charge through the stretch to take Sunday’s 111th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special at Saratoga Race Course.
Sent away at 9-1 in the field of five 2-year-olds, Gunnevera was allowed to settle into stride down the backstretch as Get Lit N Get Wild set a fast pace of 21.97 seconds under pressure from Sonic Mule, Tip Tap Tapizar and 1-2 favorite Recruiting Ready.
Recruiting Ready was positioned widest, forcing the action into the turn, when he leaned in and soundly bumped Tip Tap Tapizar, who in turn bumped Sonic Mule, as Gunnevera remained well off the skirmish.
Recruiting Ready swept to the lead after a half-mile in 45.04 seconds under Irad Ortiz, Jr. and moved well clear nearing the furlong marker, but by that point Javier Castellano had swung Gunnevera widest of all with a full head of steam, and they wore down the 2-5 favorite in the closing yards to win by a length.
Recruiting Ready finished 14 lengths clear of the rest, but after a stewards’ inquiry and an objection by Ricardo Santana, Jr. aboard third-place finisher Tip Tap Tapizar, he was disqualified and placed fourth behind that rival and Sonic Mule. Get Lit N Get Wild completed the order of finish.
“My horse is a really good horse,” said Castellano, who was winning his fourth race on the card. “We came from behind, in the clear and finished really well. I think I had a really good setup today and everything went the right way. Long-term, he is going to be a really nice horse.”
Gunnevera, a son of freshman sire Dialed In, ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17 flat, and earned $120,000 for Peacock Racing Stables LLC. With the favorite placed out of the money, the chestnut colt returned mutuels of $20.40, $8.20 and $10.20 for a $2 wager across the board.
“I liked the race, but I told Castellano, ‘he’s slow but the last three furlongs are strong,'” said winning trainer Antonio Sano. “I like this horse at a longer distance. We’ll see you September 5th here [for the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful]. He just needed more distance. It was a good job from Castellano.”
Recruiting Ready, who also squandered a clear lead at odds-on in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor, was racing with blinkers off.
“It’s just a little immaturity that he has the last part,” said trainer Horacio DePaz. “He thinks he has it done and then he backs off. He looked pretty comfortable, and that horse was flying there at the end.”
Saratoga Special Quotes
Antonio Sano, winning trainer of Gunnevera (No. 4): “I liked the race but I told [Javier] Castellano, ‘he’s slow but the last three furlongs are strong.’ I liked this horse at a longer distance. We’ll see you September 5 here [for the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful].”
“He just needed more distance. It was a good job from Castellano.”
Javier Castellano winning jockey aboard Gunnevera (No. 4): “My horse is a really good horse. We came from behind, in the clear and finished really well. I think he had a really good setup today and everything went the right way.
Everything worked out great, we had a perfect trip. Long term, he is going to be a really nice horse.”
On his four wins today: “It’s amazing. It’s a really tough and competitive game. There are a lot of great riders here. It’s a tough colony and as you can see the standings are all pretty close in numbers. Today was a great day.”
Horacio DePaz, trainer of fourth-place finisher and beaten favorite Recruiting Ready (No. 5): “He just said he idled a bit there at the end and backed off the bit. It seems like he likes to run better when he’s on the bit. It’s just a little immaturity. He thinks he has it done and then he backs off. He always gets run down. He looked pretty comfortable, and that horse was flying there at the end. That’s a pretty nice little horse to run him down.”
On disqualification from second to fourth: “Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] told me when the other horse [Tip Tap Tapizar] switched leads he came out a little bit and bumped off of him and went in. I’m not sure. He said he didn’t come over. He held his ground.”