Tim O'Donohue's Wallyanna was running where his 23-1 odds said he should be coming off the turn in the $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT). But the longshot kicked into second gear with a powerful late burst to upset the 1 1/16-mile turf event Aug. 8 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
With 11-10 favorite Bobby's Kitten trying to hold on after showing the way from the gate through the stretch, the former claimer mounted a tremendous surge from near the back of the pack to fly past his 3-year-old rivals. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. split horses with the Mario Pino trainee, overtaking Long On Value to his outside before sailing past the rail-skimming Bobby's Kitten to win by a length. The final time was 1:40.66 on firm ground.
"In the morning, this horse has really matured in his training," Pino said. "He's really pushbutton. He was a little rank the first couple of starts we had but now he's starting to relax. I just told Irad, 'If you just sit on him, he'll do what you want. When you call on him, he'll do what you want.' That's exactly how it worked out."
Fourth in the July 2 Centaur Stakes at Indiana Grand but winner of three in a row prior to that, Wallyanna earned his first graded score. The 3-year-old Langfuhr colt took the May 17 James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico Race Course prior to his Indiana loss.
O'Donohue and Pino claimed him from breeder Mike Tarp and trainer Dale Romans for $35,000 March 16 while winning of a one-mile maiden turf event at Gulfstream Park.
"His last race, he was way back," said Pino of the Centaur. "There was no pace and he lost a lot of ground. It was not a great trip. There weren't a lot of 3-year-old races around and this spot was here. The horse was doing great, so we took a shot. He was long odds, and I don't like to run long-odds horses, but I just felt like he deserved a shot, and we'd step up and see what happens, and it worked out."
Bobby's Kitten was expected to rebound in the Hall of Fame Stakes off an eighth in the Belmont Derby Invitational (gr. IT) July 5. Sharp from the get-go, the Chad Brown trainee struck out for the lead from the outside post and claimed it, getting a quarter in :24 flat and a half in :46.77 under tacit pressure from So Lonesome while running rank under Javier Castellano.
"He broke out of the gate on the lead," Castellano said of Bobby's Kitten. "I'm not going to take it away when he can seize it. But (So Lonesome) put pressure a little in the second quarter. When he put pressure, I tried to rate the best I could. He ran a good race, no question about it. He's an honest horse; he always shows up. Unfortunately, today he didn't show up the last part."
Wallyanna was content to race near the rear in the field of six, and never threatened while Bobby's Kitten clicked the three-quarters in 1:10.34 and sprinted away for a two-length lead turning for home.
The stretch drive was another story, however, as Wallyanna chased through a 1:34.43 mile to collar the leader in the final sixteeenth under left-handed urging from Ortiz. Bobby's Kitten held for second by a neck, while Give No Quarter got up for third, an neck better than Long On Value.
"My trip was perfect," Ortiz said. "My horse broke good and I tried to save ground, and ride him like the trainer told me, 'Ride him with confidence.' That's all I did and he responded for me. (Pino) told me last time he was too far back, so don't be too far off the pace. I just broke out of there and gave the horse a chance. You never know if you can catch a horse like (Bobby's Kitten); he's a good horse."
"The first quarter went really well," Brown said of the beaten favorite's run. "I was disappointed with the second two quarters, I thought the horse was going too fast. It's unfortunate. They just caught him near the wire. The winner looked really good today."
Wallyanna returned $49.20, $11.60, and $4.20 while Bobby's Kitten paid $3.30 and $2.40. Give No Quarter brought $2.80, while Long On Value, Bashart, and So Lonesome completed the order of finish. Matterhorn was entered for the main track only.
Bred in Kentucky by Tarp out of the Tale of the Cat mare Magibel, Wallyanna improved his record to four wins from six starts for earnings of $222,748. He was the first Saratoga winner for Pino, Colonial Downs' leading trainer in 2011.