The 5-year-old Giant Wrecker overtook Jambalaya soon after the start and, following an opening quarter mile of :23 1/5, gained a comfortable advantage while clicking off fractions of :46 2/5 for the half and 1:10 for six furlongs. Leading by two lengths in the stretch, Giant Wrecker was all out to win the head bob after being caught in the final stride by Host and John Velazquez. Giant Wrecker came home in 1:39 3/5 for the 1 1/16-mile distance at odds of 16-1.
“He had a beautiful trip," Castellano enthused. "There wasn’t too much speed in the race and he settled down and got comfortable down the backside. He was a little rank the first part and we had wanted to cover him up, but with the lack of other speed, I just let him go ahead and he held on until the end."
Host was second by nearly two lengths over Jambalaya, who loomed menacingly under Rafael Bejarano but was outrun through the stretch and settled for third, with Kiss the Kid fourth. Miesque's Approval, last as the field of seven reached the clubhouse turn, rallied mildly in his first start since posting a 24-1 upset in the Netjets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 4 to earn Eclipse honors two weeks ago.
Edward P. Evans' homebred Giant Wrecker ran ninth in Gulfstream's 1 1/16-mile Fort Lauderdale Jan. 6 in his tune-up for Saturday's race. The Canadian Turf was the first stakes victory for the chestnut son of Giant's Causeway --Homewrecker, by Buckaroo. He ran third in the Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct on Breders' Cup day in his only previous graded stakes effort. Giant Wrecker has won six of 15 lifetime starts with earnings of $203,910.
Trained by Mark Hennig, the winner paid $34.20, $12.80 and $7.40. The grade I winner Host, on the sidelines since running fourth in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) last March, returned $5 and $4.40 in an encouraging comeback. Jambalaya, returning from an absence of more than three months for trainer Catherine Day-Phillips, was $4.60 to show.
“He’s been a little slow developing, but he’s been coming around," Hennig said.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, Miesque's Approval, who won four of his last five races last year, was never involved Saturday.
“We had a decent enough pace to run at and he tried to finish, but he didn’t have his usual kick," jockey Eddie Castro said.
Jet Propulsion and Demeteor trailed.