Breeders’ Cup 2018: Classic Longshot Gunnevera

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthMargoth’s multiple graded-stakes winner Gunnevera breezed five furlongs Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park West in advance of his next anticipated start in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 3.

With regular rider Edgard Zayas aboard, Gunnevera completed the distance in 1:02 over a wet-fast main track, second-fastest of 13 horses. It was his first work since overcoming a wide trip to rally from 11th and finish second to Yoshida in the Woodward (G1) Sept. 1 at Saratoga.

“He did it very easy. We wanted to give him an easy work after his race at Saratoga,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “I’m so happy with the work and how my horse is doing. I’m so proud of the way he’s come back from the race.”

Sano said Gunnevera will have another breeze next Sunday over his home track, this time in company, before heading to Churchill Downs Friday, Oct. 26.

“Next week he’ll do a little bit more,” Sano said. “He’ll work one more time with a couple horses. I want to get a little stronger work before we go to Churchill.”

A 4-year-old son of Dialed In that has won earned more than $3 million, Gunnevera ran third in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in January before sustaining a nasty foot injury while finishing off the board in the Dubai World Cup (G1) March 31. Given two months in Ocala to allow the foot to heal, he returned with a sharp 6 ½-length victory in an Aug. 10 optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park prior to the Woodward.

Gunnevera finished in a dead heat for fifth with inaugural Pegasus winner Arrogate in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. They were 6 ¼ lengths behind winner and 2018 Pegasus winner Gun Runner.

“I’m so happy to be going back to the Classic for a second year,” Sano said. “My horse is doing very good and we are looking forward to trying again.”

Well That Was Something – According to Dew

handicapper Justin DewA New Handicap Star in the Making

by Justin Dew

It may have been a mild step down in terms of graded status, but City of Light’s win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday has put the rest of the handicap division on notice that there is a new force to be reckoned with as we move towards the Grade 1 dirt routes for older horses to be run between now and November.

Previously just a sprinter, City of Light had won back-to-back Grade 1s at 7 furlongs in California. His win Saturday at Oaklawn was not only his first start out of California, but also his first beyond 7 furlongs and his first attempt going two turns. He won like he was born to do it all along, earning a career-best 107 Beyer Speed Figure. And while I have never been a huge Accelerate fan, you can only beat those who show up to face you. And looking ahead, it’s not hard to envision City of Light going heavily favored in some of this country’s top route and sprint races and possibly making a run at….dare I say it?…..Horse of the Year.

I think the early favorite for 2018 HOTY was probably West Coast on the basis of his solid efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus Invitational. And many observers will chalk up his Dubai Wold Cup loss to the speed/rail bias that has been firmly established. He is justifiably still #1 on most handicap division rankings. But how good is he? His signature win to date is his romp in the Travers last August, and while it was a visually impressive performance, and while I have respect for Gunnevera and the ill-fated Irap who ran behind him, I’m not so sure that field was super-tough. West Coast might be a grinder with a higher cruising speed than we are used to seeing in grinders. He’ll get his share of wins in 2018. But if I may steal and slightly alter a line from There Will Be Blood, “When it’s time for the showdown, he won’t be there.” At least that’s my opinion.

Belmont Park horse racingI bet on Sharp Azteca in the Pegasus, and while the start certainly didn’t help him, that wasn’t his distance.  I think he’s going to be most effective this year going a mile. I think it’s fair to put Accelerate a notch below the best based on what we saw yesterday. He’s just not an elite horse in my opinion. And I feel like we know, at this point in their careers, what Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity are capable of. Yes, they are useful horses. But they aren’t going to scare anyone away from anything. Diversify and Good Samaritan also come with class, but don’t seem to bring their ‘A’ game often enough.

So who does that leave as the potential big guns in the handicap division? Can Army Mule stretch out? Will he even try? I tell you who could have made some noise this year. Forever Unbridled. It’s too bad she’s been retired. I would have loved to see her in the Stephen Foster and then a couple of those New York Grade 1s in the summer.

Ok. Prediction time. In this murky fog of a discussion where we’ve touched on Horse of the Year, handicap division leader, and Forever Unbridled, I’m ready to call it….

2018 Horse of the Year: City of Light (unless, of course, Justify wins the Triple Crown.)

Kidnapped Trainer, an Orphaned Horse and the Chance of a Lifetime at the KY Derby

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthTrainer Antonio Sano never expected to be here, having escaped Venezuela after being kidnapped twice. The same can be said about a strapping foal who became an orphan shortly after his birth when his mother dropped dead. Yet, here they are at the Kentucky Derby, looking to fulfill an impossible dream with improbable storylines.

Sano found… [Read more…]

The Unbelievable True Story of Trainer Antonio Sano

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthHe is now training a major Kentucky Derby contender

Antonio Sano was Venezuela’s most successful thoroughbred trainer. Race after race, 3,338 times, his horses won as his reputation as the “Czar of the Hippodrome” grew. Until he lost it all in the span of 36 agonizing days. Not at the track, but in a cell of a room that had no windows, no toilet, no… [Read more…]