Great Hunter, shipped east from California by trainer Doug O'Neill, won the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) Saturday at Keeneland, upsetting odds-on favorite and previously unbeaten Circular Quay by 1 3/4 lengths.
Under Victor Espinoza, Great Hunter was in fourth after a half-mile and took the lead in deep stretch to get his second win for owner J. Paul Reddam.
Great Hunter, by Aptitude
, had won only one of five starts but showed his ability by running second in three straight graded stakes in California before being shipped to Keeneland. He earned $310,000 Saturday to boost his bankroll to $430,000.
French Transition and Teuflesberg made the early lead, with Street Sense and Bold Start tracking behind. As the field went a quarter in :23.30, Great Hunter, under Victor Espinoza, had moved to third and 1-2 favorite Circular Quay was in fourth. They ran a half-mile in :46.69.
Through the turn for home, Teuflesberg went by and got the lead but gave it up quickly as Street Sense swept past and looked like he would win the race. After checking on the turn, Great Hunter, at 5-1, swung five wide and came by to get the lead while clear on the outside rivals. Circular Quay, who bumped with the winner earlier, came on the outside but never challenged Great Hunter. He just got the place spot by a nose over Street Sense and Calvin Borel.
"I don't know if he really liked the surface a whole lot," jockey Garrett Gomez said of the 2-5 runner-up. "All the way up the backside, he never seemed to be comfortable and I couldn't get him to really pick them up... He didn't run a bad race, but I didn't think he ran his race."
Great Hunter ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.09. He paid $13.60, $4, and $3.40. Circular Quay paid $2.40 and $2.20 and Street Sense $4.40.
"We thought the horse could go two turns, that's why we decided to send him over here," said Leandro Moro, assistant to O'Neill. "We've been talking to the owners, and it looks like he's going to head to the Breeders' Cup (Bessemer Trust Juvenile) next."
According to Mike McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher who trains Circular Quay, the son of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch
is still bound for the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile on at Churchill Downs Nov. 4.
"We picked up a lot of experience today, he was bumped around a few times, and Garrett did a great job getting him out and giving him a chance to make that late run," McCarthy said. "He just didn't have enough to win. I don't think we can be disappointed."
Bred in Pennsylvania by Ivy Dell Stud, Great Hunter was a $30,000 Keeneland September yearling.
Birdistheword finished fourth, followed by Passport, Bold Start, Teuflesberg, and French Translation.