Outsider Grand Arch, rallying through the long Woodbine stretch, caught favored Excaper in the final couple of strides to register his first stakes win in the $187,759 King Edward (Can-IIT) June 22 (VIDEO).
Jim and Susan Hill's Grand Arch, never out of the money in 14 career starts, had his consistency rewarded after displaying an explosive late burst under jockey David Moran. Trained by Brian Lynch, the 5-year-old Arch gelding had placed in four prior stakes tries before his breakthrough victory Sunday.
Bred in Kentucky by Hunter Valley Farm and Stephen Hillen, the winner is out of the unraced El Gran Senor mare Bacinella.
Overlooked at odds of 11-1, Grand Arch prevailed by half a length over Connaught Cup (Can-IIT) winner Excaper. the 8-5 choice in a field of eight older turf runners. With recent Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) winner Utley running third, the final time for the one-turn mile heat was a sharp 1:32.49 over firm turf.
Grand Arch had just one beaten up the backstretch with Utley on his outside as Excaper attempted to take the field all the way under Eurico Rosa Da Silva. Excaper carved lively quarter mile fractions of :23.47, :45.78, and 1:08.56 while maintaining a half-length advantage over the pressing Are You Kidding Me, with River Seven and Laugh Track stalking.
Excaper kicked away in upper stretch to open a three-length advantage through the lane. Moran, unhurried throughout aboard Grand Arch, angled his charge off the rail to rally alongside Utley, finding a gap between rivals near the eighth pole. Grand Arch surged for the wire under right-handed urging, getting up in the drive just in time.
Grand Arch carried 117 pounds and paid $25.20, $8.80, and $3.90 as the sixth choice. Excaper, who finished 1 1/4 lengths clear in second, returned $3.60 and $2.60. Utley, who was outkicked by the winner in deep stretch with Edgar Prado aboard, paid $3.20 to show while shouldering top weight of 123 pounds. The exacta was worth $86.60, while the trifecta came back $309.10.
River Seven finished fourth, followed by Are You Kidding Me, Tesseron, Seekingthediamond, and Laugh Track.
Grand Arch won for the third time in seven tries on the Woodbine lawn. The victory was his first in three starts this year and improved his career line to 4-4-6 in 14 starts with earnings of $340,100. He was third in his most recent start May 9 at Churchill Downs, a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race on turf, beaten by half a length after forging a narrow lead in the stretch.
In consecutive starts last year, Grand Arch was third in both the Nijinsky (Can-IIT) and Sky Classic (Can-IIT) stakes at Woodbine, second in the Labeeb at Woodbine, and third in the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill.
Moran was pleased with the effort from Grand Arch Sunday.
"I just waited until the last second. Brian told me to get him settled and ride him like he was the best horse in the race and he won like he was the best horse in the race," he said.
Lynch was full of praise for the well-timed ride from Moran.
"He's been working a lot of horses for us this year and his timing and patience are fantastic. He gave that horse a great ride today," said Lynch.
Purchased by the Hills for $120,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale through consignor Iroquois Bloodstock IV, Grand Arch is the first graded stakes winner from her dam, who has produced six winners from seven starters.
Earlier on the card, Conquest Top Gun took the $137,798 Victoria Park Stakes for 3-year-olds for Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell's Conquest Stables and trainer Mark Casse.
Ridden to a gate-to-wire win by Da Silva, the son of Pioneerof the Nile out of the Jump Start mare Early Vintage scored by 5 3/4 lengths as the 3-10 favorite among four entrants. Conquest Top Gun, bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms, completed nine furlongs on Polytrack in 1:50.96 and paid $2.70.
Conquest Top Gun won Woodbine's Marine Stakes via disqualification May 25 and now has three wins from five starts.