Jerry and Ann Moss’ Gormley ran right into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) picture with his impressive wire-to-wire performance in Saturday’s $300,000 Frontrunner Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita Park. The recent Del Mar maiden winner, who set all the pace in splits of :23.72, :47.18, 1:11.48 and 1:36.79 before stopping the clock in 1:43.57, is trained by John Shirreffs and was ridden to victory by Victor Espinoza.
At odds of more than 10-1, Gormley paid $23.60, $5 and $3. Klimt, at 2-5, crossed the wire three lengths behind the winner, capping off the $24.50 exacta and returning $2.20 and $2.10. Near 4-1 chance Straight Fire was third, 4 ½ lengths behind the runner-up, and was good for $2.20. The $.50 trifecta paid $30.70.
Midnight Pleasure, Vibe and Plum Daddy rounded out the order of finish after Secret House left the gate without his jockey, Santiago Gonzalez. Stewards declared the Doug O’Neill trainee a non-starter after determining the rider stepped off the horse just before the gates sprung open.
The top pair made for an interesting exacta for art lovers, as Gormley shares his name with renowned British sculptor Antony Gormley and runner-up Klimt was named for Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.
“You know, it’s always a surprise as you well know,” Shirreffs said. “You train in the morning and you hope they can improve in the afternoon. You don’t ever know until the afternoon. After you’ve won your first race you settle in and you just move on. He’s a young horse, he’s learning. He needs to focus a little bit and once he gets focused, he’s got it handled. He looks like a million bucks, he’s a beautiful horse and he’s doing really well. I like that when he got into that big gear he has, he didn’t get too excited for a young horse and, today, he was all business.”
Gormley was bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Castleton Lyons and the Kilboy Estate and was a $150,000 RNA at Keeneland September a year ago. The bay son of Malibu Moon became racing’s newest Grade I winner in just his second start and has now earned $216,000 in both of his career starts.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who tightened the girth on Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt, wasn’t terribly happy with the colt’s finish, but still looked forward to running Kaleem Shah’s colt in the Breeders’ Cup in five weeks.
“Exactly what I was afraid would happen, happened,” Baffert said. “He got pretty far back early and that gave him a lot to do. He just didn’t fire away from the gate, didn’t break like we were hoping he would. But he ran a good race, he closed. We know he can handle the distance. This will sharpen him for the next one. I think he got a lot out of it today. He got a lot of dirt in his face and handled it pretty well. The quality is there, it just needs to come out of him.”