Griffin's Juvenile Win Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2006 11:26 AM
Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2005 2:22 PM
After jockey Edgar Prado got his first Breeders' Cup win in the $1.59 million Alberto VO5 Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) the $1.6 million Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) provided the first Breeders' Cup win for trainer Doug O'Neill and rider Garrett Gomez.
With a big run on the outside, Stevie Wonderboy, owned by entertainer and entrepreneur Merv Griffin, ground out a win over Henny Hughes and heavily favored First Samurai in the Juvenile.
The 80-year-old Griffin, a 15-time Emmy winner, named the colt after singer Stevie Wonder, a frequent guest on his television show.
Stevie Wonderboy was one of the talk horses all week at Belmont Park based on an impressive workout Monday when he had the fastest move at four furlongs of 137 horses to work the distance.
Listed at 8-1 in the program, he went off 9-2 and rewarded those who showed confidence in his training.
Stevie Wonderboy won the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) Sept. 7 and then did not start again, O'Neill saying he didn't want to run the colt around two turns and then turn him back to the one-turn 1 1/16-mile at Belmont.
Dawn of War took the lead out of the gate and Henny Hughes was not far behind. Private Vow's bridle broke right out of the gate and he looked as if he had bolted but in fact was simply not able to be controlled by John Velazquez.
They went a quarter in :23.14, a half in :45.75 and six furlongs in 1:10.61. Gomez placed Stevie Wonderboy in a perfect spot just four lengths from the leaders as the field turned for home and Henny Hughes and Edgar Prado moved to the lead. Prado, who won the Juvenile Fillies with Folklore, looked like after being 0 for 41 in previous Breeders' Cup races he might go two-for-two.
But Stevie Wonderboy was rolling down the lane and caught Henny Hughes inside the sixteenth pole to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Henny Hughes had two lengths on favored First Samurai, who ran a good race but never threatened to win. The final time was 1:41.64.
"My horse has a heckuva turn of foot, but I had trouble getting to them for a minute," said Gomez, who had lost eight Breeders' Cup mounts before breaking through. "When he found his best stride at the sixteenth pole, he wore them down and ran a huge race."
The jockey was out of the business for nearly two years because of drug and alcohol problems. He even went to jail for 40 days for possession of narcotics in 2003, and spent six months in rehab.
Now, he's a leading rider on the West Coast. His first Breeders' Cup win was a dream come true.
"This is icing on the cake," Gomez said. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I feel like crying right now. I wondered if I'd ever ride again. To be in this position, I can't explain it."
"I thought he would hang on," said Prado, who rode Henny Hughes. "He gave me another gear when I asked him. I don't know where that other horse came from."
First Samurai entered the Juvenile with a perfect 4-for-4 record, but was no match in the stretch for the powerful finish by Stevie Wonderboy, who has now won four of five starts and likely wrapped up the Eclipse Award as 2-year-old male champion. The victory was worth $826,800 and pushed his career earnings to $1,028,940.
"He got a little nasty in the gate, but he had a decent trip," Bailey said of the favorite. "He took dirt in his face. He had a good run to the eighth pole, but he flattened out. It was a good trip. I'm disappointed, but not upset."
Brother Derek was fourth, followed by Superfly, Sorcerer's Stone, Dr. Pleasure, Stream Cat, Leo, Jealous Profit, Dawn of War, Ivan Denisovich, Set Alight and Private Vow.
Stevie Wonderboy paid $11, $5.90, and $3.80 while Henny Hughes returned $8.80 and $4.90. First Samurai paid $2.50. The winner is by Stephen Got Even
and out of the Summer Squall mare Heat Lightning. He was bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, Walter Zent and Tony Holmes.
Griffin purchased him for $100,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale earlier this year.
"The final time was fast," O'Neill noted. "I am glad I kept training him for one turn after the Del Mar Futurity and skipped the Norfolk (at Santa Anita). Two turns is such a different style of running and I'm glad I shipped early."
Stevie Wonderboy was winning his third straight race after running second and third in his first two outings at Hollywood Park.
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