ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2017)—In what quickly developed into a two-horse race, a short head separated Gormley and American Anthem in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes, with Gormley prevailing under Victor Espinoza in 2017’s first graded prep to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 8. Trained by John Shirreffs and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Gormley, a Kentucky-bred colt by Malibu Moon, got a flat mile in 1:35.89 on Santa Anita’s sloppy main track.
With Mike Smith gunning favored American Anthem from the rail, Espinoza sat a close second just off the leader’s right hip into and around the Club House turn. As the field made its way into the far turn, the top two separated themselves and “threw down” the final quarter mile in a thriller that looked like it could go either way.
“That was a great race,” said Shirreffs, who sent Gormley out to win the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes here two starts back on Oct. 1. “We’re very proud of him. He’s quick. He starts quick, he gets away quickly, but then he checks himself as he gets into the race and he relaxes. It was great to see him pick it back up again and get it done.”
Although favored on the morning line, Gormley, who came off a disappointing run in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5, was the 8-5 second choice and paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.40.
A first-out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs on Sept. 4 at Del Mar, he now has three wins from four starts. In addition to the winner’s share of $60,000, he also picked up 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
“This type of thing never gets old,” said co-owner Jerry Moss, who also won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo. “He’s got a lot of heart and I know he’ll go further than this.”
“I expected him to run the way he ran today,” said Espinoza, who’s ridden Gormley in all four of his races. “I know he’s still improving but I think he only gets better and better. Hopefully, he gets a lot better…In the Breeders’ Cup he broke slow but today, he came into the race in really good shape and got into it right away.”
A gutty first-out maiden winner at six furlongs on Dec. 3 at Del Mar, American Anthem was faced with a tall order stretching out against the likes of Gormley in only his second start. Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Bob Baffert, American Anthem got hammered late to even money and paid $2.60 and $2.20.
“For only his second time out, that was pretty impressive,” said Smith. “If we’d been on the outside…I think that probably would’ve helped out a little bit getting beat a half a nose.”
Ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, Big Hit ran on for third, finishing some 13 lengths behind the top two. Off at 11-1, he paid $3.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.54, 45.46, 1:10.13 and 1:22.70.
VICTOR ESPINOZA, GORMLEY, WINNER: “It was nice yes. I expected him to run the way he ran today. I know he’s still improving but I think he only gets better and better. Hopefully, he gets a lot better, but with this race and his next, he has a lot of potential to keep growing.
“It didn’t surprise me how well he broke out of there today. When he’s feeling good, he breaks quickly and already running. In the Breeders’ Cup he broke slow but today he came into the race in really good shape and got into it right away.”
MIKE SMITH, AMERICAN ANTHEM, SECOND: “For only his second time out, that was pretty impressive. If we’d been on the outside…I think that probably would’ve helped a little bit getting beat a half a nose.”
JOHN SHIRREFFS, GORMLEY, WINNER: “That was a great race. He’s still young. You never know what they’re going to do so it’s always interesting. We’re very proud of him.
“He’s quick. He starts quick, he gets away quickly. But then he checks himself as he gets into the race and he relaxes. It was great to see him pick it back up again and get it done.
“Chantal (jockey, Sutherland who has been working him in the mornings) has given me a lot of confidence in how he’s doing. She’s a rider who really understands what is going on underneath her and is very expressive about it, so she’s been a big help.”
JERRY MOSS, OWNER GORMLEY: “This type of thing never gets old. He’s got a lot of heart and I know he’ll go further than this. John’s doing all the right things as usual. This was a beautiful horse race and the fans got a thriller. No idea where we’ll run next.”
Source: Santa Anita Park