Jorge Navarro had an inkling he had negotiated himself a bargain when he convinced owners Michelle and Albert Crawford to lay out $80,000 to purchase El Deal privately earlier this season. After giving the son of Munnings a wicked litmus test during the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) July 29, it was safe to say the trainer's gut had resulted in one serious return on investment.
El Deal's first venture into grade 1 company produced a performance that was top-level at every point of call as he broke like a shot out of post 3 in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt and never let his challengers have a fighting chance en route to a facile eight-length victory at Saratoga Race Course.
Navarro, who has conditioned such top sprinters as grade 1 winner Private Zone and X Y Jet, can now say he has another bullet in his holster. Since buying El Deal earlier this year on behalf of the Crawfords, the 5-year-old horse is unbeaten in three starts since joining his barn including a gate-to-wire win in the Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth Park June 11.
Though Navarro initially toyed with keeping El Deal against softer company and sending him to Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in coming weeks, he opted instead to see if there was a new stable star in his midst or just a solid minor stakes performer.
"You know I wanted to see what kind of horse I had," Navarro said. "It's the middle of the year, I needed to find out what kind of horse I had—either Breeders' Cup competition or just $50,000 stakes caliber. I guess he proved it today.
"I wasn't going to take him to Mountaineer, he wasn't going to prove anything there. We're getting ready for the Breeders' Cup and big races at the end of the year, so I wanted (the) owners to have fun. I called them up and said I thought it was time to see what he's about. I guess he is what he is."
The complexion of the Vanderbilt was altered with about an hour to post when it was announced that defending race winner and morning-line favorite A.P. Indian was scratched due to an ankle ailment.
Sent off at 5-2 odds in the now seven-horse field, El Deal took full advantage of his status as the main speed, rolling out an opening quarter-mile in :22.50 and a half-mile in an honest, but not insane, :45.28 before barreling off the final turn and ending any hope that one of the closers would be able to make up serious ground over a Saratoga track playing most favorable to his ground-saving, front-end trip.
Previously trained first by Andrew Lakeman and then Francisco D'Angelo, El Deal finished fourth in the Jan. 1 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) in his only prior graded try and was ninth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes Jan. 28 before being obtained by Navarro.
"I knew how fast he is and I knew that he carries his speed really good," Navarro said. "We'll see what's next for him. He likes a (break) of 45-50 days, so that's what he'll get. I think I did the right thing by taking him to all those (previous) tracks and prepping him there. I called the owners and said I thought it was time to see what we have and he proved it."
Bred in Kentucky by Martha Buckner, El Deal improves his record to nine wins from 16 starts with $505,025 in earnings. He paid out $7.10, $4.80, and $3 across the board and is out of the Out of Place mare Spirit of Wailea.