When 38-1 odds were posted for Paret ahead of the $80,000 Tiller Stakes at Belmont Park June 4, it was clear that bettors were more than reserved in their feelings that he would be first across the finish line.
But the 6-year-old Harbour Watch gelding owned by Matthew Schera and Orangella Racing Stable was not to be counted out. Guided by Jorge Vargas Jr., Paret maneuvered his way to the lead with expert precision and outran his 11 competitors at every point of call to score his first stakes win in the United States.
Paret made 16 starts in Australia before being transferred to the barn of James "Chuck" Lawrence II midway through his 2019 season. He hit the board four times in his first five starts for Lawrence—all stakes.
"He was really nervous the first time I ran him in the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico," Lawrence said. "I didn't have him very long; we kind of ran him off the plane. He was nervous and real strong in the race. He has a lot of class and a lot of talent."
Unraced since October, Paret broke sharply and was soon speeding to the front. Running three wide through a quarter-mile in :23.90, he eked out a slim head lead over Noble Indy, who dropped back slightly into second to press the pace.
Still wide coming out of the first turn, Paret was positioned on the outside along the backstretch. As the half-mile went in :49.67, he increased his margin to 1 1/2 lengths.
Jockey Jose Lezcano urged Noble Indy forward exiting the backstretch, and they were within striking distance entering the far turn. The pair were only a length behind Paret at the mile mark but cut the corner sharply entering the stretch and backed off the lead to drift to 11th.
Dot Matrix and Joel Rosario conserved their energy along the backstretch in midpack before angling out wide to make a run for the lead. Exiting the final turn, the pair drove hard through the field in an attempt to chase down Paret.
Not to be outdone, Paret was spurred on under patient handling from Vargas. The pair were able to turn back the late challenge from Dot Matrix and crossed the wire a head in front. The final time for the 1 3/8 miles was 2:14.05 on turf rated firm.
"Chuck told me he had been away for a few months and was a little sharp, so I let him be happy," Vargas said. "He was sharp, so I just let him go to the lead. When he hit the backstretch, he jumped to the right lead and relaxed and came back to me. I thought from there I was going to be OK.
"I asked him before we hit the turn. I knew it was pretty early, but I wanted to see what I had and he gave me some. I sat back and waited a little more, and when I asked him to run again, he jumped and was ready to fight."
"We've been working with this horse, trying to just get him to chill out and turn off, and it obviously worked," Lawrence said. "What a nice horse; he gets all the credit. This horse gets turned out at 5 every morning in his own paddock. Then we train him a few days a week out back on the hills. He trains primarily on Michael Dickinson's Tapeta (track), and he just thrives on it. We turn him out rain or shine every day, and he just loves it.
"We just wanted to get back racing. It has been a tough go for everyone in the country, just trying to make payroll and keep your help on. Matt (Schera) was loyal enough to leave horses with me. I had a few leave, and it really hurts trying to keep your help on. This is a big relief."
Bred in Australia by Qatar Bloodstock, Paret is out of the Encosta de Lago mare Enduja, who most recently foaled a colt by Ocean Park. Paret has a 5-2-5 record from 22 starts with earnings of $306,328.