Taste of Paradise tastes victory in the Vosburgh.

Taste of Paradise tastes victory in the Vosburgh.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Hunch Pays for Taste of Paradise in Vosburgh

Trainer Gary Mandella played a hunch that Taste of Paradise would appreciate the wide turn and sandy surface of Belmont Park and came away with a shocking victory in the Vosburgh (gr. I) Saturday at odds of 26-1.

The longest shot in the field, the Southern California-based shipper had been winless in six starts this year. But he had been rounding into form with a pair of third-place finishes at Del Mar in his most recent starts – the Bing Crosby (gr. I) and Pat O'Brien (gr. II) handicaps.

"A lot of the riders out in California have said that as soon as he goes into the turn, he tries to back out a little bit," said Mandella. "The best remedy for a horse like that is to get him on a wider turn. We've been wanting to run him here at Belmont Park."

Teamed with Garrett Gomez for the first time, Taste of Paradise, breaking from the outside in the field of eight, raced off the rail, found room between horses at the head of the stretch, and came roaring through the lane to win going away by two lengths in a time of 1:08 4/5 for the six furlongs.

Taste of Paradise shocked a stellar field in the Vosburgh, the leading East Coast prep race for the Oct. 29 TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) over the same Belmont track.

"He has been a little bit problematic, but he was training great and his feet are better than they have been in a while," Mandella said. "He was a little hesitant at the top of the stretch, but when he saw daylight, he knew what that meant. He cut and he was gone. Garrett rode a great race. We'll take him back to California. I need to monitor his feed on a daily basis and we'll ship back here."

Both Gomez and Taste of Paradise are getting used to each other and to Belmont Park.

"I worked him the other morning for the first time," Gomez said. "Gary told me to play it by ear and to do what I think was best. I felt like the horse was comfortable coming off the backside. I was happy at the three-eighths pole. I started swinging around at the top of the stretch. I changed my mind and went and split horses. Then, when I put him out in the clear, he was running. I can't ask the horse to do any better than what he just did."

Tiger Heart, ridden by Edgar Prado, held on to nip Lion Tamer and John Velazquez, part of the Michael Tabor-owner favored entry, for second. Silver Wagon, who came on late for Jerry Bailey, was a close fourth.

"I'm disappointed we got beat, but he ran big,"said Richard Dutrow Jr. of the runner-up. "He broke good and I guess some of the other speed didn't. Edgar got him settled in nice and the horse usually does that. Turning for home, it seemed like Frankel's horse (Mass Media) wanted to keep us down in there. He kept laying on us and laying on us and that might have cost us something but we weren't going to beat the winner today."

Dutrow said that if Tiger Heart qualifies for the field – the Vosburgh was his first stakes start of the year – he would take a shot in the BC Sprint.

Lion Tamer was a neck back in third, and it was a head back to Silver Wagon in fourth. I'm the Tiger, Mass Media and Unfurl The Flag were close as well, but was farther back to disappointing Pomeroy in eighth. Woke Up Dreamin and Uncle Camie trailed.

Mandella, son of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, earned the biggest win of his career. Co-breeder David B. Bloom owns Taste of Paradise, a 6-year-old horse by Conquistador Cielo whose last victory came in the Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III) at Hollywood Park last December. The winner, who earned his sixth victory in 27 career tries, pushed his bankroll to $807,455.

The Kentucky-bred Taste of Paradise benefited from a fast pace set by Uncle Camie, who opened up a four-length lead after early fractions of :21 4/5 and :44 2/5. Coming off the turn, Uncle Camie tired, giving way to I'm the Tiger and Tiger Heart. But Taste of Paradise, racing in mid-pack on the outside, soon took control under a vigorous hand ride from Gomez, who is enjoying a great comeback season after battling substance abuse problems.

Taste of Paradise lit the tote for a payoff of $55, $18.60, and $6.30, topping a $354.50 exacta with Tiger Heart ($6.40, $3.40), part of the Buckram Oak Farm entry with Silver Wagon. The late-running Lion Tamer was $2.60 to show.

"It's just a shame – the whole thing," said Pomeroy's jockey, Joe Bravo. "It just wasn't our day today. I really believe I was on the best horse. Both horses came in on us at the start. Turning for home, we were running with them, and then we got shut off again. It's a shame we had to be in that predicament."

(Chart, Equibase)