The field may have been scratched down to four for the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (G3), but David Gruskos' Chublicious still found a way to provide a stunner in the six-furlong sprint at Laurel Park Sept. 16.
The longest shot on the board at 10-1, the New Jersey-bred Hey Chub gelding wore down 3-1 Blu Moon Ace late to score his first graded stakes by a neck in a final time of 1:08.75, while the 1-2 favorite, Whitmore, struggled to find a closing kick and finished third, another 1 1/2 lengths back.
Chublicious was engaged in the early pace, but dropped into a stalking third as Blu Moon Ace and Awesome Banner dueled through an opening quarter-mile in :22.65. Awesome Banner began to fade early in the turn, and Blue Moon Ace opened up a four-length lead through a half-mile in :45.31.
Chublicious loomed the only threat in the stretch with an outside run, and made up 1 1/2 lengths in the final furlong to just get the victory under jockey Horacio Karamanos.
"I broke good out of the gate and had outside position," Karamanos said. "He tried to go on the lead, but I didn't want to let him go, so I sat behind the speed. I know (Awesome Banner) and (Blu Moon Ace) had to go, and I waited for (Whitmore) because he's the big favorite in the race.
"I paid attention to the horse on the lead. I know (Awesome Banner), after the three-eighths pole, he had no more gas to go. I followed (Blu Moon Ace), but I waited for (Whitmore), too, to see what happens. At the top of the stretch, I let my horse switch leads and said, 'Give me whatever you have.' (Blu Moon Ace) was getting tired a little bit and coming over on me, but my horse was coming with very good action and we passed him."
Trained by Claudio Gonzalez, the winning gelding was previously conditioned by Jorge Navarro in his last three races at Monmouth Park, where he won the John J. Reilly Handicap and finished second in the Charles Hesse III Handicap. Gonzalez was also listed as Chublicious' trainer in his prior two starts at Laurel—a fourth-place finish in the Dave's Friend Stakes and a runner-up effort in the Fire Plug Stakes.
Bred by Joe-Dan Farm out of the Arch mare Sassy Broad, Chublicious now has a 10-4-2 record from 23 starts and $533,754 in earnings. Prior to the De Francis Dash, all four of his stakes wins came at Monmouth.