Front-running Sean Avery, under all-out pressure from jockey Joe Bravo, nosed odds-on choice Trappe Shot to produce a 17-1 stunner in the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Saratoga Aug. 7.
The win was the first in a graded stakes for the 5-year-old gelding, named for the New York Rangers hockey star. Owned by Black Swan Stable, Sean Avery is trained by Allen Iwinski, who registered his first grade I victory. Darley bred the bay son of Cherokee Run--Latin Lynx (by Forest Wildcat).
“The race itself was just so exciting,” said Iwinski. “Going right down to the wire. Head-and-head. ‘Are we going to get there? Are we beat?’ He just hung in. It was just an exciting race, besides the fact it was my first grade I win.”
Sean Avery opened a two-length edge over Calibrachoa while stepping an opening quarter-mile of :21.91. He maintained his edge through a half-mile in :44.56 with Apriority advancing into second.
Trappe Shot, after a slow start, raced comfortably on the outside in fourth for jockey John Velazquez and advanced on his rivals into the stretch as the 7-10 favorite. Sean Avery proved stubborn on the front end as Trappe Shot labored to reach equal terms under much urging in deep stretch.
With their respective jockeys working frantically, the two exchanged head bobs in the final strides with Sean Avery getting the nod. Final time on a track rated "good" was 1:09.71.
“He kind of relaxed out there and he was all by himself,” said Bravo. “Really, honestly, I thought Trappe Shot beat us. I really did. At the wire he had the nose, but Sean knew he was there and stuck his head out and didn’t want to let him get by. He tries so hard.”
Trappe Shot was the heavy pick off his 8 1/2-length romp in the muddy True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 11.
“It’s disappointing to lose because this was a grade I race and it means so much to a stallion’s potential,” said Trappe Shot’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin. “The post position, obviously, had us racing wide. The track was favoring speed. (Velazquez) said everything was against us; speed on the inside and he had to use him hard and ask him twice. A jump before and a jump after (the wire), we’re a winner. It was a tough loss. Still, he ran great for what he had to do.”
Calibrachoa, always within striking distance for Javier Castellano, finished 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third.
Winner of the Longfellow Stakes with Bravo aboard at Monmouth Park June 5, Sean Avery has won four his five races in 2011. He was coming off a runner-up finish as the 1-2 choice in the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth July 4.
Sean Avery began his career in 2008 racing for Iwinski, finishing third in a Saratoga juvenile race captured by eventual graded stakes winner Munnings. He raced for Michael Hushion in 2009, making four starts and winning two races before he was injured.
When offered the chance to train Sean Avery in 2011 following the bay's rehabilitation, Iwinski leapt at the opportunity.
“The owners called me up in Florida and asked if I wanted Sean back,” said Iwinski. “Do you have to ask that question? So they sent him to me, and he was training fabulous. He was rehabilitated with Lynn Boutee in Ocala, Fla. When she sent the horse to me, he quickly came to hand. We worked him maybe four times off a 15-month layoff, so she really did most of the work and the preparation for his comeback.”
In his only previous graded stakes try, Sean Avery finished sixth in the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in November 2009.
Sean Avery earned $150,000 for the Vanderbilt victory, his sixth in 10 starts, boosting his career total to $338,180.
Sent off as the second-longest shot in the field of eight, Sean Avery carried 115 pounds and paid $36.20, $10, $6.30. Trappe Shot returned $2.80 and $2.10. The exacta was worth $113. Calibrachoa was $6 to show.
Apriority was 3 1/4 lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Noble's Promise , Hamazing Destiny , Bank Merger, and Atta Boy Roy .