Ridden by Joe Bravo, Earle I. Mack's Grand Hombre caught pacesetter Gimmeawink at the top of the stretch and drew off to a 5 1/4-length upset victory in the $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. III) at Philadelphia Park on Monday.
Dynever, the 3-2 favorite, was squeezed at the start and was forced wide on both turns before finishing sixth in the 10-horse field. Multiple graded stakes winner Toccet dropped out of contention at about the three-eighths pole and finished fifth.
Bravo noted that most of the riders had the same strategy for the Derby, contested over a sloppy track.
"The track all day was favoring speed," said Bravo, "and it was better to be off the fence. I knew the other riders would be trying to get early position, so I decided to take back a bit."
Into the first turn, Grand Hombre was trapped on the deep inside as more than half the field was closely bunched near the front. "I was definitely concerned about how he might react," Bravo said. "But he never flinched. He stayed very relaxed and gave me every bit of confidence. He may have only raced four times, but he displayed maturity well beyond his experience."
Still racing on t he inside, Grand Hombre got shuffled a bit nearing the half-mile pole and fell back to seventh before Bravo got his horse going with four furlongs left to go.
"What a move he made down the backside," Bravo said. "He was going by those horses like they were trees."
Grand Hombre had improved his position to second approaching the quarter pole and took aim at the leader. The colt passed Gimmieawink and finished the nine furlongs in 1:49 over a track labeled muddy.
Sent off at 5-1, Grand Hombre returned $13.40, $7.20, and $5.60. Gimmeawink, a 29-1 longshot, returned $17.60 and $10.60, with 36-1 shot Ashmore getting up for third and paying $11.80 to show. Christine's Outlaw off at 28-1 odds, completed a superfecta that was worth $38,661.70.
The victory was the fourth in as many career starts for Grand Hombre, a son of Grand Slam bred in Kentucky by Mack. Trained by Dennis Manning, Grand Hombre was making his stakes debut in the Pennsylvania Derby and has now earned $516,000. The colt broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park last March and then won two allowance races at Monmouth Park this summer.
There were two other stakes on the Labor Day card at Philadelphia Park.
The $75,000 Steve Van Buren Handicap went to Double S Stable's Barbara O'Brien, an Eltish filly who faced being scratched from the race when she wouldn't allow herself to be tacked up and didn't get onto the track until two minutes to post. With Bravo aboard, she raced from just off the pace to take the lead with a furlong remaining and went on to win by four lengths. Trained by Harry Benson and off at 12-1 odds, she paid $26.60 to win.
The $100,000 Pennsylvania Oaks was won in wire-to-wire fashion by Michael Gill's City Fire, a Carson City filly ridden by Jose Ferrer for trainer Mark Shuman. Favored at 6-5, she paid $4.60 to win.