Arthur B. Hancock III’s Wanderin Boy made a successful return to the races Friday by scoring a 4 1/4-length gate-to-wire victory over Half Ours in the $112,300 Alysheba Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) on a sloppy track at rainy Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani and trained by Nick Zito, Wanderin Boy covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.45 in the first of six stakes races on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) card.
Wanderin Boy set fractions of :23 3/5, :48 and 1:12 4/5 under confident handling before pulling clear of the 2-1 choice Half Ours mid-stretch and cruising home. The previously undefeated Half Ours, ridden by John Velazquez, held second by 1 1/2 lengths over Student Council, with Robby Albarado aboard. The first three finishers ran 1-2-3 at each call.
“He’s a very athletic horse," said Nakatani, who was aboard Wanderin Boy for the first time. "He did it the right way. Nick told me to put him on the lead. I said, ‘OK, that’s fine.” And that’s what we did.”
It was eight lengths back to Perfect Drift, who was followed by Brother Bobby, Smokeyjonessutton and Summer Book. Jonesboro scratched.
“He bobbled all the way around there, falling down the whole time," said Garrett Gomez, who rode the 8-year-old gelding Perfect Drift, now winless in his last 13 starts. "He was on ice skates. About three jumps out of the gate, he just fell (into the mud) and kept falling and falling and falling.”
In his first start since placing sixth in last November’s Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, second choice Wanderin Boy paid $7.80, $4 and $3.40. Half Ours, who was a perfect 5-for-5 entering the Alysheba, returned $3.80 and $3.20. Student Council was $3.60 to show in the field of seven.
“He ran a tremendous race," Zito said of Wanderin Boy, noting the layoff . "We were worried about Half Ours, obviously. Hopefully, that horse will stay in the sprint races.”
"This was the first time (Half Ours) had been over a track like this but you really can’t take anything away from the winner," Velazquez said. "My horse seemed to have everything against him today though. He had to get beat someday. It’s unfortunate that he got beat today on a track that he didn’t care for but he still ran good.”
Zito said he is looking at Churchill's Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) June 16 for Wanderin Boy's next race.
For Wanderin Boy, a 6-year-old homebred son of Seeking the Gold, the victory was the eighth in 16 career starts with the $68,236 winner’s share increasing his total bankroll to $722,215.