LAUREL, MD – David Gruskos’ Chublicious made his return to trainer Claudio Gonzalez a winning one, getting up late to take Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.
The 6-year-old gelding sat in third under rider Horacio Karamanos, stalking the early pace set by Blu Moon Ace through fractions of :22.65 and :45.31. Circling the turn three deep, Chublicious closed the gap down the stretch and prevailed at the wire by a neck in a final time of 1:08.75.
“I told the jockey, ‘The horse breaks clean, lays off the speed, and then makes a big run into the turn and keeps on going,’” Gruskos said. “That’s exactly what he did.”
Heavy favorite Whitmore stalked the pace as well but didn’t have enough speed to close into and finished 1 1/2 lengths behind in third. Awesome Banner completed the order of finish for the small field. Struth, Mr. Jordan, and Favorite Tale were scratched.
“At the top of the stretch, I let my horse switch leads and said, ‘Give me whatever you have,'” Karamanos said. “(Blu Moon Ace) was getting tired a little bit and coming over on me, but my horse was coming with very good action, and we passed him.”
Having spent much of his career transferring back and forth between the barns of Gonzalez and Jorge Navarro, Chublicious moved back to Gonzalez following Laurel Park’s refusal on Wednesday to accept any Navarro entries. The move came on the heels of the fallout from controversial cellphone video of Navarro and one of his owners, Randal Gindi, taken last month at Monmouth Park and posted on YouTube.
“I was planning on using this race with Claudio for a while,” Gruskos said. “This is nothing new. The horse runs 1:08. The horse has been running 1:08s on the sheets for two years. This is no mystery.”
Chublicious returned $22.40 to win and $6.40 to place, while Blu Moon Ace brought back $4.40 to place. There was no show betting.