In the previous race, the one-mile Delta Downs Princess (gr. III), undefeated Shane's Girlfriend and jockey Flavien Prat won by 13 1/4 lengths. Both winners were awarded 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks, respectively.
For most of the 1 1/16 miles, Peacock Racing Stable's Gunnevera, under jockey Javier Castellano, raced at the back of the 10-horse field as Our Stormin Norman and Hot Sean dueled for the early lead. The leading pair set fractions of :23.18, :47.05, and 1:12.52 through six furlongs. In a confident move, Castellano asked Gunnevera to go wide through the final turn and the 2-year-old colt responded, circling the entire field to drive down the stretch and stop the clock in 1:45.15.
"He's a come from behind horse, and I wanted to see how the race unfolded in the first turn," Castellano said. "I wanted to take advantage of the early speed and save ground and it worked out perfectly. When I asked him a little bit (on the backstretch) he responded with a beautiful stride. He's a great developing horse and the way he finished, I think he will get better with more distance."
Hot Sean finished second, four lengths ahead of Dangerfield in third. J Boys Echo, Balandeen, Pat On the Back, Thirstforlife, Tip Tap Tapizar, Line Judge, and Our Stormin Norman completed the order of finish.
Sent off as the 5-2 favorite, Gunnevera returned $7.80, $4.40, and $3.40 across the board.
The son of Dialed In also won the Saratoga Special (gr. II), just like last year's Jackpot winner Exaggerator , who then went on to win the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, and Betfair.com Haskell (all gr. I).
Gunnevera now has a record of 3-1-0 from 6 starts for trainer Antonio Sano, with earnings of $771,000.
"We will probably run in Florida and likely point to the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) along the way," Peacock Racing's Jaime Diaz said.
"We are a new barn but we are having a good time taking it race by race," he added about the ownership group, which includes Solomon Del-Valle and Guillermo Guerra.
Out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Rage, the chestnut colt was purchased by Sano for $16,000 from Brandywine Farm and Stephen Upchurch at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. Gunnevera is Peacock Racing's second purchase.