Trainer John Shirreffs always thought Jerry and Ann Moss' Gormley was capable of stalking and pouncing.
But on the racetrack, he couldn't settle. When he had everything his own way, the Malibu Moon colt flashed talent—like in FrontRunner (G1) and Sham (G3) stakes victories—but when things didn't go his way, he threw in a clunker.
In the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 8, however, Gormley showed a different dimension. Aided by a furious, three-way speed battle on the front end, between Battle of Midway, American Anthem, and stablemate Royal Mo, Gormley settled near the front of the second flight, well behind the early leaders.
The fractions went in :22.66, :46.55, and 1:10.92 through six furlongs, when jockey Victor Espinoza began to ask Gormley to improve, and he moved into contention in the final turn. In a tiring stretch run, the bay colt just seemed to outlast the rest of the 13-horse field, and hit the wire a half-length ahead of a determined Battle of Midway. Another half-length back in third came Royal Mo, with Reach the World fourth and Iliad rounding out the top five.
"He's really quick out of the gate, and today the plan was to take him back and make him run, because it seemed like there was a little bit of speed in the race," Espinoza said. "I had a little bit of a hard time taking him back, but all I had to do was jerk him one time—a bit harder than I wanted—and that's all it took. He relaxed very nice. Down the backside, I started laughing to myself, because I knew I was in a good position and I knew the horses in front of me were going to stop."
Battle of Midway and Royal Mo did hang in tough—albeit through a :13-and-change final furlong—but they could not hold off Gormley, who finished the 1 1/8-miles in 1:51.16, the slowest Santa Anita Derby time since 1957, when Sir William won the race.
"I think the key was Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move," Shirreffs said. "This is very exciting. It's thrilling to have a Kentucky Derby horse and it's for the same owners as (2005 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner) Giacomo. Royal Mo (also owned by the Mosses) ran really big. If he had a better post position (than 13), you wonder how he would have done.
"Gormley is an evolving horse. He's very precocious and very excitable. I just need to turn that energy of his into positive use."
Bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate out of the Bernstein mare Race to Urga, Gormley has four wins from six starts and $920,000 in earnings. Sent off at 6-1 odds, He paid out $14.40, $7.20, and $5 across the board. He ranks second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 125 points.
Shortly after the race, Spendthrift Farm—which stands Malibu Moon—announced that Gormley will stand at B. Wayne Hughes' operation upon his retirement.
"It's been such a great time bringing both of these horses up, and both came through beautifully today," Jerry Moss said. "We're just so grateful. It's been a beautiful time. ... We're just delighted. I don't know what else I can say. I'm out of words."