Winning trainer Doug O'Neill was concerned about his colt's outside post position in the Risen Star, but being wide turned to be a blessing in disguise when a traffic jam materialized in upper stretch along the inside.
Circular Quay had no chance after taking up severely in the stretch along the inside when the colt in front of him, Slew's Tizzy, clipped heels with the retreating pacesetter Makeithapencaptain and lost jockey James Graham. Circular Quay swerved to avoid the fallen rider. Meanwhile, Notional, racing four or five paths off the rail for Robby Albarado, burst away from the pack leaving the eighth pole and won by 2 1/4 lengths in a slow time of 1:44.18 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.
“Robby gave him a great ride," said O'Neill, who earned his first graded win at the New Orleans track. "We shipped three days out, which was an acid test to see how he would handle it. To have him run the way he did is unbelievable.”
Imawildandcrazyguy rallied late under Fernando Jara to head Zanjero and Jesus Castanon for second.
Notional, a California-bred son of In Excess, was coming off a four-length in in the one-mile San Rafael (gr. II) at Santa Anita one month ago. Breaking from the extreme outside post, Albarado kept Notional off the rail and well off a fast early pace of :23 and :46 4/5 set by 50-1 shot Makeithapencaptain, who was pressed by Beta Capo and Westwon.
"The post position was a concern, but we overcame that," Albarado said. "When I asked him, he has a real quick turn of foot for a horse that big. This horse is a real professional. He appears to be a real, real good horse.”
Coming off the turn after completing six furlongs in 1:11 4/5, the front-runners started to lose ground and the field bunched up. Circular Quay, ridden by John Velazquez, trailed the field on the clubhouse turn but was making up ground while charging along the inside when the field reached the stretch. Running room disappeared quickly after that, leading to Graham's fall. Circular Quay lost his momentum avoiding the accident but gathered himself late and ran on to finish fifth.
“He was flying by everybody at the end,” said Todd Pletcher, who will be Circular Quay’s trainer of record for his next start. “Obviously, we were very unlucky today, but I wouldn’t trade places with anybody now.
“There are troubled trips – but it would be hard to categorize exactly what this was today. The horse looks fine, and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) would be likely (as a next start).”
The Louisiana Derby is on March 10.
“It all happened right next to me," Velazquez said. "I was right behind (Slew’s Tizzy) and I hit the horse head-on. I don’t know how he (Circular Quay) didn’t go down. I just said my prayers.”
Graham was able to walk away from the fall and Slew's Tizzy finished the race sans rider.
Notional did not debut until Oct. 21 when he broke his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths in a six-furlong time of 1:09 at Santa Anita. He shifted to Hollywood Park's Cushion Track after that, finishing third in the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) Nov. 18 and sixth -- beaten 2 1/2 lengths -- in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) one month later. Overall, the $235,000 Barretts buy last March has won three of five with earnings of $313,200.
Vessels Stallion Farm bred Notional, who is out of the French Deputy mare Truly Blessed.
Sent off as the second choice, Notional paid $7.80, $4.80 and $4. Imawildandcrazyguy returned $8.60 and $6, completing an $80.60 exacta. Zanjero, in his first appearance since running second to Nobiz Like Shobiz in Aqueduct's Remsen (gr. II) Nov. 25, was $4 to show.
It was four lengths back to Izzie's Halo, who finished fourth in the 12-horse field. After Circular Quay came Westwon, Beta Capo, Spankey Come Home, Scat Thief and Makeithapencaptain. Weather Warning eased.
Teuflesberg and Buffalo Man scratched.