The 16-1 longshot in the field of seven, long-distance specialist Hunter O'Riley surged down the inner turf course stretch at Saratoga Race Course July 29 and managed to snag a win in the final strides of the $250,000 Bowling Green Stakes (G2T).
Under jockey Florent Geroux, the 4-year-old Tiz Wonderful ridgling came flying from last in the 1 3/8-mile event, moving stride for stride alongside grade 1 winner Bigger Picture, and scored by a neck in his first graded victory for owners Sean Shay and Michael J. Ryan.
"I had a great trip. We work nicely together," said Geroux. "We weren't going that fast but by the second quarter everybody was looking at each other, and there was nothing going on. There was pushing trying to get each other out of the way, and I was just sitting back there."
Closing Bell took the lead early and Hello Don Julio pressed the pace from the outside as a quarter-mile went in :25.87. Favorite and last out grade 1 winner Ascend stalked from fourth but moved up to second around the second turn as Hello Don Julio took over to lead the field through fractions of :49.78, 1:14.16, and 1:37.72 for a mile.
Around the final turn, Sadler's Joy moved up on the outside and took the lead coming into the stretch. But that didn't last long as Bigger Picture and Hunter O'Riley came flying from the back of the pack and hit the wire 1-2. Bigger Picture got a neck over Sadler's Joy, who had to settle for third. The final time was 2:12.94 on the turf rated firm.
"I had confidence going in. He tries every time he runs so its like we get a piece of it every time he runs," said winning trainer Jimmy Toner. "We figured we finish third or fourth today it'll be a good effort and we'll look for something after that. It's like one of those things, you're going to get that break-out race, and today was that breakout race so we're really excited. I said well, maybe we'll get up for a piece of it, then said 'oh wow, we might get there.'"
Ascend, Hello Don Julio, Frank Conversation, and Closing Bell completed the order of finish.
Hunter O'Riley returned $34.60, $12.40, and $6.60 across the board.
After Saturday's win Hunter O'Riley now boasts a 4-2-4 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $361,460.
The newly minted graded stakes winner finished fifth last out in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (G3T). In the June 9 test, he moved from 10th to fifth with a late run but was unable to sustain the drive, finishing two lengths back from the winner Red Cardinal (IRE).
In his two other starts this year, he won a 1 1/2-mile turf allowance at Keeneland in April and finished off the board in the W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3T) at Gulfstream Park in January. In 2016, he ran third in two other black-type events.
Bred by Mike G. Rutherford out of the unraced Bernardini mare Oblige, Hunter O'Riley was first purchased by Jarazen Stable at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale and then was purchased as a 2-year-old for $50,000 by Sean Shay at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale.