Off for five months and making his first start around two turns, I'll Have Another produced an easy upset victory at odds of 43-1 in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 4 (VIDEO).
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, who usually rides in Canada, was aboard I'll Have Another, who defeated seven other 3-year-olds to give trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam their second win in the Lewis Stakes. They previously won with Great Hunter in 2007.
I'll Have Another, always in contention, ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in a sharp 1:40.84 on a fast track. Taking the lead leaving the far turn, I'll Have Another finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of Empire Way, a full brother to 3-year-old filly champion Royal Delta.
``Oh my God that was nice,'' O'Neill said in the winner's circle, squeezing Reddam.
Reddam said that I'll Have Another is named for his response to his wife, Zillah's nightly query of, ``Do you want any more cookies?'' as he lies on the couch.
Liaison , the 3-2 favorite, failed to finish when he was squeezed and clipped heels in the homestretch with Groovin' Solo and dropped jockey Rafael Bejarano. Liaison, the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner in December for trainer Bob Baffert, did not fall in the incident and left the track under his own power. Bejarano, who walked to the on-track ambulance, rode the following race as scheduled.
Groovin' Solo, who went on to finish third, was disqualified, moving Rousing Sermon up to the show spot.
Baffer said afterward that Liaison, who had a three-race winning streak, was not injured. Baffert's other Lewis starter, Sky Kingdom, finished sixth.
I'll Have Another was a winner at first asking over maidens last July at Hollywood Park, then ran second in Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes (gr. II). O'Neill shipped I'll Have Another to Saratoga for his next start in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5. The son of Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Flower Alley injured a shin while finishing a distant sixth on a sloppy track and had not raced since. The colt had been working well at Hollywood for his return.
Harvey Clarke bred the winner in Kentucky. Picked out of the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. 2-year-olds in training sale last April for $35,000 by Reddam and O'Neill's brother, Dennis, the chestnut colt is out of the Arch mare Arch's Gal.
"We thougt this horse was a two-turn horse," Reddam said afterward. "We were just hoping he'd run well and move forward."
O'Neill added: “He’s an incredibly talented colt and we decided to take a chance in here. We thought he could hit the board and we’d move forward, but he ran unbelievable. Mario gave him a great ride. He’s always trained fantastic, but we never saw this coming to be honest with you. This is incredible."
I'll Have Another raced on the outside of Liaison as Isn't He Clever, breaking from the rail, hustled to the front. The Riley Allison Futurity winner at Sunland Park led the field through fractions of :23.03, :46.77, and 1:10.52 before I'll Have Another increased the pressure while three wide on the far turn. Liaison began to lose ground as they approached the stretch and I'll Have Another hit the front.
I'll Have Another kicked free under urging by Gutierrez to lead by two lengths at mid-stretch and continued strongly to the wire while drifting in a bit late.
"I have won a lot stakes back home, but this is my biggest here," said Gutierrez, who rode the colt for the first time.
Empire Way, who trailed early with Joel Rosario aboard, rallied from fourth at the furlong pole to finish second by 2 3/4 lengths. He took a big step forward for trainer Mike Harrington after running fifth in the CashCall Futurity last time out.
Rousing Sermon, the CashCall futurity runner-up ridden by Joe Talamo, was next in the official order, followed across the wire by Isn't He Clever, Sky Kingdom, and Chips All In.
I'll Have Another's second win in four starts boosted his career bankroll to $184,000. He paid $88.60, $35.80, and $12.
Empire Way returned $11.80 and $6.20 and completed a $798 exacta. Rousing Sermon paid $3.40 as part of a $1 trifecta that returned $3,461. The $1 superfecta was $18,554.20.