With Chad Schvaneveldt aboard, the 7-year-old bay horse earned his first stakes win and ended his five-race losing streak for trainer Neil Drysdale. The victory turned out Gamely Breeders' Cup to be a bittersweet one for owners David Bienstock and Charles Winner, whose well-regarded filly Three Degrees broke down in the Gamely Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park less than 30 minutes later and was euthanized.
Fantastic Spain was sluggish early and raced at the rear of the eight-horse field into the final turn of the 1 3/8-mile event when he launched his stretch bid from slightly off the rail. The son of Fantastic Fellow made up good ground, but was forced to take up when he came upon the retreating Railroad, who had chased the runaway pace of Now Victory. After clearing that hurdle, Fantastic Spain hesitated again before Schvaneveldt guided him between Now Victory and Notable Guest nearing the sixteenth marker. Once clear, Fantastic Spain drove hard for the wire and prevailed in the final jumps. The final time was 2:17 3/5, more than four seconds outside the track mark.
"When he left the gate, he just kind of loped away," said Schvaneveldt. "He wasn't into the bit at all the first time down the stretch, and I said, 'I hope he gets involved sometime.' He took hold of the bit down the backstretch and when the hole opened in the stretch, he shot through. He's so big it takes him a few jumps to get going, but once he got clear, I knew that other horse would really have to quicken to hold us off."
Notable Guest, the 4-5 choice also up from Southern California with Jorge Chavez aboard for trainer Bobby Frankel, was clearly second by two lengths over the English-bred Macduff, who circled the field five wide to gain a piece of the pie. Now Victory, who set ordinary fractions of :24 4/5, :48 2/5 and 1:12 4/5 yet led the field by up to seven lengths on the backstretch, finished fourth, followed by the Irish-bred Boule d'Or, Corey County, Railroad and Bravo Maestro. Only Now Victory among the eight starters was not based in Southern California.
Notable Guest appeared headed to victory when he overtook pacesetter Now Victory mid-stretch.
"When he took the lead he kind of a hung a little bit," said Chavez. "I felt like he had a lot more and I was surprised when he hung like that. Give credit to the winner, he ran a good race."
Fantastic Spain, who won for the fifth time in 15 lifetime starts and has now earned $359,808, paid $18.20, $5.80 and $4.20. Notable Guest, most recently third in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park two weeks ago, returned $2.60 and $2.20. Macduff earned his first graded stakes placing for Drysdale and paid $2.80 to show.
Drysdale posted back-to-back wins in the Golden Gate 'Cap in 1995-1996 with Special Price and Time Star.
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