Bond Holder bounds home to win the FrontRunner Stakes.

Bond Holder bounds home to win the FrontRunner Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Maiden Bond Holder Surprises in FrontRunner

Mineshaft colt tallies in grade I test for I'll Have Another's connections Sept. 28.

Bond Holder went from maiden to grade I winner when he closed from well off the pace to capture the $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) for 2-year-olds Sept. 28 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).

Runner-up in a one-mile maiden special weight test in his previous start at Del Mar Aug. 31, Bond Holder's two-turn experience turned out to be key as he soared past weakening favorites Dance With Fate and Can the Man  in the final furlong to post a 10-1 upset by 2 1/4 lengths in the field of 10.

Bond Holder scored in his initial try on dirt for the I'll Have Another  connections of owner J. Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O'Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez, completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in a tepid 1:45.02 on a fast track. It was the second grade I win of the day for O'Neill; he won the Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park earlier with Private Zone.

"This race set up great for my horse because he likes to come from behind," Gutierrez said. "He seemed to like the distance today and I think that played a major part in his win. I don't think the dirt made much of a difference because he runs everywhere; it was the distance that was the biggest factor."

The victory puts the son of Mineshaft  into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The FrontRunner, contested until last year as the Norfolk Stakes, is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win & You're In" series race.

Bond Holder, a $125,000 Ocala select 2-year-old buy by Dennis O'Neill in March, broke through in his fifth lifetime start. Bond Holder was originally purchased for $90,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale through Warrendale Sales, agent.

"We had great expectations for this horse even though he was a maiden," said O'Neill assistant Leandro Mora, filling in for his absent boss. "He ran a huge race at Del Mar and we knew we had a legitimate horse. Mario has ridden the horse every time, but we told him just to let the horse alone and let him do his thing the last quarter of a mile. That's the way this horse likes to run–the last quarter of a mile."

Bred in Virginia by Lazy Lane Farm, The bay colt is the initial stakes victor out of Conquistador Cielo mare Cielo Girl, a multiple stakes winner.

Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) runner-up Dance With Fate finished second again, while Futurity winner Tamarando  rallied nicely for third after breaking last.

Bond Holder was content to save ground in seventh or eighth early as Test Ride outbroke the rest from the outside to lead Can the Man, Dance With Fate and Ontology. Test Ride slowed the pace following an opening quarter mile in :22.58, stepping the half in :46.62.

Can the Man, increasing the pressure on the backstretch, took a narrow lead on the far turn while completing six furlongs in 1:11.76. Bond Holder, meanwhile, progressed into sixth and had a clear aim at the leaders after angling out leaving the bend.

Can the Man maintained the lead into the homestretch for Martin Garcia and was engaged on his outside by Dance With Fate, who gradually took control approaching mid-stretch for Rafael Bejarano. Both were fighting but visibly tiring, setting the stage for Bond Holder.

With three lengths to make up at the eighth pole, Bond Holder swept past in deep stretch and drew off for Gutierrez, who shook his fist at the crowd as the winner cruised under the wire.

Dance With Fate finished two lengths in front of Tamarando, who hit the side of the gate and rallied past several to get the show spot for Julien Leparoux by three-quarters of a length over Can the Man. Flat Gone, Test Ride, Better Bet, Ontology, Even Echo, and Roundupthelute completed the order.

In addition to his runner-up effort at Del Mar last time, Bond Holder also produced a pair of thirds in sprints at the seaside track this summer. He debuted finishing fifth in the six-furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Betfair Hollywood Park July 13. His initial victory, worth $150,000, extended his career earnings to $186,000Under equal weights of 122 pounds, Bond Holder paid $23.80, $8.60, and $3.80 as the sixth choice in the field, keying a $93 exacta. Dance With Fate, the slight 2-1 pick over Can the Man, returned $3.80 and $2.80. Tamarando paid $3.20.

Schoolofhardrocks scratched.