Gervinho grabbed the lead in deep stretch and prevailed gamely over the fast-closing Greeley Awesome to win the opening division of the Oceanside Stakes on opening day at Del Mar July 17 (VIDEO).
The opening-day Oceanside, for 3-year-olds at one mile on the turf, was split into two divisions. The second division was won by Rising Legend, who nipped the surging Gabriel Charles on the wire (VIDEO).
Jockey Joel Rosario, visiting Del Mar before the summer meet at Saratoga begins, won four races on the opening-day card.
Attendance was reported as 43,030, marking the ninth consecutive year that the opening-day crowd topped 40,000 at the seaside track.
Gervinho, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, chased pacesetter Manando from the inside in fifth until angled outside of a couple of rivals leaving the far turn. Shouldering top weight of 123 pounds, he made a powerful bid to get the lead from Freakin Rocket past the furlong mark and took narrow advantage. The California-bred son of Unusual Heat then dug down deep as 14-1 shot Greeley Awesome finished strongly under Julien Leparoux to nearly produce an upset. The final time was 1:33.88 over firm turf.
Freakin Rocket held third with Mike Smith aboard after posting fractions of :22.61, :46.06, and 1:09.94, while 9-5 favorite Undrafted took up off off heels in the drive and settled for fourth.
Gervinho, who paid $7.80 as the second choice in the field of 10, is trained by Carla Gaines for owner Keith Brackpool, the former chairman of the California Horse Racing Board who is now the chairman of racing in the state for track owner The Stronach Group. Gervinho earned his second stakes victory following last fall's Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Off since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 3, the bay colt returned to action with a runner-up finish in the Silky Sullivan Stakes June 9 at Golden Gate Fields.
Barry Abrams and Madeline Auerbach bred the winner out of the Out of Place mare Foreverinthegame. Gervinho was a $49,000 yearling buy at Barretts in October 2011. the victory improved his career record to three wins and a second from five starts with earnings of $219,140.
Hronis Racing's Rising Legend was a game winner of the second division at odds of 7-1. Stuck outside all the way around, Rising Legend was closing well on the outside but was checked by 47-1 Olympic Blue, who drifted out late after taking the lead from pacesetter Rosengold. Angled wider still by Julien Leparoux, Rising Legend got a slim advantage approaching the wire. The British-bred son of Rock of Gibraltar would barely prevail over the fast-closing Gabriel Charles, who altered course to the inside in deep stretch for Victor Espinoza and just missed.
Rising Legend, timed in 1:33.96, paid $17.60 for the win..
Olympic Blue held on for third, with Rosengold fourth.
Trained by John Sadler, Rising Legend was a rallying second to Den's Legacy —the 2-1 favorite in the Oceanside second division—in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) June 23 at Hollywood Park in his only prior United States start last November. He had a record of 2-2-2 in six starts in Britain.
Cheveley Park Stud bred the winner out of the Miswaki mare Miswaki Belle.