Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones' Trojan Nation, a head second in the April 9 Wood Memorial (gr. I) as a maiden before venturing to the Triple Crown trail, finally broke through on his ninth try July 31 at Del Mar.
In his first start on turf, the son of Street Cry out of 1996 champion 2-year-old filly Storm Song raced in sixth early, found trouble closing in the stretch, but ultimately prevailed to win the 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight event by three-quarters of a length.
Trapped behind horses in the lane, Trojan Nation and jockey Drayden Van Dyke found space between horses and surged to the wire.
"He's always been a nice horse and it looked like he was enjoying the turf," trainer Patrick Gallagher said. "In the back of my mind, there was always some grass pedigree with him."
After his Wood run, Trojan Nation came in 16th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), then 10th in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (gr. I).
"I can breathe now," Gallagher joked of the colt's unusual path to maiden victory.
Van Dyke, who rode Trojan Nation three times before, said he got a good sense the colt would take to the grass in the clubhouse turn.
"He loved it," the jockey said. "He's never been on it—never even worked on the turf. I was a little worried about my trip, but in the first turn I could tell he was really getting a hold of it."
Trojan Nation finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.58 on firm turf.