Gran Estreno outfinishes Giant Oak and Mad Flatter to repeat in the Washington Park Handicap.

Gran Estreno outfinishes Giant Oak and Mad Flatter to repeat in the Washington Park Handicap.

Four Footed Fotos

Gran Estreno Repeats in Washington Park

With Michael Baze aboard, 7-year-old Argentina-bred horse wins again by half-length.

Blocked in the stretch, Gran Estreno exploited an unexpected opening at the rail to win the $120,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) for the second year in a row at Arlington Park Sept. 4.

Just five, after two were scratched, contested this "Breeders' Cup Challenge" race for the $5 million Classic (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. Gran Estreno prevailed by a half-length over favored Giant Oak and pacesetter Mad Flatter, who missed the runner-up spot by a neck. The final time for the 1 3/16-mile distance was 1:56.88 over the Polytrack.

With Michael Baze aboard the Mike Stidham trainee for the first time, Gran Estreno appeared to be in trouble in upper stretch. Giant Oak, closing on the outside, made what appeared to be a winning move to challenge Mad Flatter, who had led all the way while posting even fractions (;24.71, :48.63, 1:12.62).  Gran Estreno, forced to wait for room behind Mad Flatter after attempting to squeeze between horses, would soon benefit when Mad Flatter began drifting out in the final furlong, bumping Giant Oak, who did not sustain his momentum following an explosive burst on the final turn.

Gran Estreno took the lead at the rail in the final sixteenth of a mile and narrowly defeated Giant Oak, ridden by a frustrated Junior Alvarado, and Mad Flatter in the final strides.

“He didn’t break super sharp but I got after him a little bit,” Baze said of Gran Estreno. “It worked out good because if he had broken super sharp, I might have been four or five wide into the turn. I was fortunate to save ground all the way around there and get through on the rail.”

“Everything went right, the race was perfect, he went when I asked him, but when (Mad Flatter) went out he gave a break to the one that won the race,” said Alvarado. “There was nothing else that I could do, I just did my best.”

The winner, who is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup,  is an Argentina-bred 7-year-old son of Lucky Roberto--Great Stampa, by Senor Pete. Feel the Thunder Stable owns the chestnut horse who was bred by Eduardo Carlos Luther.

Gran Estreno, who won for the fifth time in six starts over Arlington's Polytrack, was coming off a third-place finish in an optional claiming tune-up over a yielding turf course Aug. 21. His last stakes score came in the 2009 Washington Park, which he won in front-running fashion by a half-length over Dubious Miss.

A lifetime winner of 11 races in 30 starts, Gran Estreno boosted his career earnings to $407,235 after collecting $60,000 for the win. A total of $30,000 from the original purse was returned to the Breeders' Cup fund.

Sent off as the fourth choice, Gran Estreno carried 118 pounds and paid $10.60, $3.20 and $2.40. Giant Oak, who was forced to take a wide path home, returned $2.80 and $2.60. The exacta paid $22.60. Mad Flatter was worth $2.60 to show.

Second choice Elusive Beat finished fourth, 7 1/4 lengths behind the winner, followed by Country Flavor.