Jockey Kent Desormeaux returned to Santa Anita Park Sunday to guide William Currin's 11-1 shot Stormello to a neck victory in the $247,000 Norfolk Breeders' Cup (gr. II) for 2-year-olds.
Every one of the nine juveniles in the field was running the Norfolk's 1 1/16-mile distance for the first time. Stormello, who broke from the extreme outside post to settle in third on the outside of the pacesetting Principle Secret, drew even in deep stretch after rallying thee wide and got up in a time of 1:43.
Desormeaux, who is currently riding in New York after a long stint as one of the leading riders in Southern California, won his fourth Norfolk.
Currin trains the winning chestnut son of Stormy Atlantic
--Wilshewed (Carson City), and is co-owner and co-breeder along with Al Eisman.
"My main man Kent flew out to ride one horse," Currin said. "He gave up all his work in New York because he believes in this horse.
"It's a given he'll run in the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile)," Currin added, "and look out to all the other ones."
Best Pal (gr. II) winner Principle Secret, under pressure from Spot the Diplomat from the outset, may have been softened up by the fast fractions in his first two-turn try. With Alex Solis aboard, they went :22 2/5, :45 4/5 and 1:10 1/5 before Principle Secret began to edge away from Spot the Diplomat in the stretch. However, Stormello was never far back and gradually drew close in the final sixteenth of a mile, getting up in the final jumps under left-handed urging from Desormeaux.
"I didn't think Alex was going to let us by in the final sixteenth," Desormeaux, "but when I switched to the left hand he gave me a little more. In the last 100 yards I asked him for his life. He fought hard."
Spot the Diplomat, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, held on for third, 6 1/2 lengths behind.
Horse Greeley, the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) hero, had a nightmare trip under Victor Espinoza. After rearing in the gate prior to the break, he was away awkwardly, bumped and trailed into the clubhouse turn when he appeared to nearly clip heels while pulling hard, veering out sharply. He continued to race extremely wide around the first turn and on the backstretch, made some headway down the backside but tired on the far turn and was eased.
"He came out of the gate and got bumped quite a few times early." Espinoza said. "Going into the turn, I took hold of him and he didn't like it. He got out with me. It was his first time around two turns and he's learning. He's a very good horse, it was just one of those races."
It is expected that Horse Greeley, along with the first two finishers in the Norfolk, will continue on to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup event on Nov. 4.
After breaking his maiden by 3 1/2 lengths at Del Mar July 29, Stormello ran third in both the Aug. 13 Best Pal, where he finished 5 1/2 lengths behind Principle Secret, and the Del Mar Futurity Sept. 6, when he was beaten by three lengths.
Desormeaux, who rode the colt for the first time in the seven-furlong Futurity, said he knew then that Stormello would thrive going a route of ground.
"When I got off him at Del Mar I told Mr. Currin he was going faster under the wire than he was at the start of the race," he said. "I knew he'd love two turns, but he didn't relax until we started down the backside. He's got stamina, plenty of speed and he's tactical ... He's a talented, capable horse who isn't going to have to make up 10 lengths at the top of the lane. He showed a lot of determination and heart today."
Stormello, who has won two of five in his career with earnings of $230,200, paid $25.80, $8.40 and $5. Principle Secret, in his first start since the Best Pal win, returned $4.40 and $3.20. The California-bred Spot the Diplomat, making his first appearance against opening company after a pair of state-bred stakes wins, was $5.40 to show.
Swiss Ski finished fourth, followed by Roman Commander, Malt Magic, Horse Greeley, Lucky Thirteen and Sunshine Ridge.