Despite losing his footing briefly, Keith Brackpool's Gervinho rallied in
time to deny Den's Legacy by a half-length in Monday's $100,000
Beach Stakes at Santa Anita. The unbeaten colt thus emerged as a candidate
for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf over the same course and one-mile distance.
"At the three-eighths pole, my horse slipped really bad," winning rider Rafael Bejarano reported. "When he was coming he slipped right away, so I tried to get a hold of my horse, that's why I lost a couple lengths. Once I saw the stretch I pulled him up and he came running. He showed me a big kick."
The Carla Gaines pupil had employed a similarly impressive closing rush in his debut. In a 5 1/2-furlong maiden for California-breds on Del Mar's Polytrack, Gervinho closed from near the back of the pack to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
Stretching out to two turns, and switching to turf, figured to be ideal for the son of Unusual Heat, and he was accordingly bet down to even-money favoritism in the Columbus Day co-feature. Bejarano once again allowed Gervinho to drop back early.
Dancin Upside Down went straight to the lead and carved out splits of :23, :46 3/5 and 1:10 4/5. Den's Legacy was tracking in a ground-saving third. Racing in the next flight behind him was Gervinho, who was in striking position until Bejarano felt him slip on the far turn. The rider exercised caution to make sure that Gervinho was in good order, and as a result, he lost ground at a crucial point in the race.
Meanwhile, Den's Legacy was bravely getting through a tiny opening on the inside at the head of the lane. Overtaking the pacesetter with his rail-skimming maneuver, Den's Legacy looked to have made the winning move.
By that point, Gervinho had regrouped from his minor slip, and Bejarano angled him out for clear room. Quickening smartly, he reeled in Den's Legacy and finished the firm-turf mile in 1:34 2/5.
"He lost his footing (turning into the stretch)," Gaines said. He (Bejarano) said that's the reason he was so far back. He was starting to make a move and like the ground slipped out from under him. He really thought he got hurt."
Den's Legacy turned in a fine turf debut himself, crossing the wire 2 1/4 lengths clear of Dancin Upside Down. Next came I'm Wide Awake, Visualization and Buckleberry Grey.
"I thought (Den's Legacy) had done enough to win the race," his rider Garrett Gomez said, "but Carla's horse ended up making that late run and finished up really well. But our horse did everything a horse is supposed to. He did stuff that two-year-olds really don't do. He was very responsive to everything I asked him to do, even going through the hole. There was a tight hole when I turned for home and he didn't even think about it, he just ran right through it. He finished up well, he just got beat today."
Gervinho, who paid $4.20, $2.60 and $2.20, boosted his earnings to $102,000. His owner is looking forward to the Breeders' Cup.
"What a stretch kick," Brackpool said. "We're going to look seriously at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. That's the hope. The Juvenile Turf, if we can get in."
"We got to look at it, right?" Gaines confirmed.
Bred by Barry Abrams and Madeline Auerbach, the bay colt is a full brother to talented turf sprinter Lakerville, who missed by a nose in the August 15 Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar. Their dam, the Out of Place mare Foreverinthegame, is herself a daughter of Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Invitational runner-up Fondly Remembered. This female line is also responsible for Grade 2 heroine and multiple Grade 1-placed Memorette.