New York-bred Wired Bryan upset the $300,000 Sanford Stakes (gr. II) for 2-year-olds at odds of 7-1 July 21 at Saratoga Race Course, running away from his rivals through the stretch by 5 1/4 lengths (VIDEO).
Racing second on the turn on the inside with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, the gray/roan son of Stormy Atlantic took care of pace rival Hollywood Talent at the top of the stretch. He was let loose in the lane while recording a six-furlong time of 1:11.06 over a fast track.
Trainer Michael Dilger, a former assistant to Todd Pletcher until this year, earned his first stakes win—with his first stakes starter.
"Sorry, I'm hoarse," the elated Dilger, 35, of Mulingar, Ireland, told reporters afterward. "I was cheering a little bit. He's New York bred; there were no restricted stakes races until later on in the year. The timing fit to run him here."
The race carried a $100,000 graded stakes bonus for the winning connections, making the winning purse $220,000.
Anstu Stables' homebred Wired Bryan is 2-for-2 in his career after humbling a state-bred maiden field by 7 1/4 lengths going five furlongs at Belmont Park June 19. He has earned $256,000. The winning colt is out of the stakes-placed Runaway Groom mare Red Melody.
Southern Blessing emerged from the pack to get second at odds of 22-1 as the two longest shots in the field formed the exacta, which was worth $254. Hollywood Talent was third.
The favorites in the six-horse field, the 99th renewal of the Sanford, did not fare well. Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) winner Debt Ceiling, the 9-5 favorite, was eased in the stretch after being rank on the backstretch and racing from well back rounding the bend. Second choice All in Blue, sent off at 2-1, stumbled badly out of the gate from the inside post and struggled home fourth.
Wired Bryan and Hollywood Talent, ridden by Joel Rosario, pressed for the lead through a swift quarter mile in :22.40 and the half in in an equally quick :45.31. Wired Bryan, leading by a half-length at the quarter pole, opened up a clear advantage in the drive but felt the whip from Bridgmohan in the final furlong to keep him from drifting out.
"He was a total professional," Bridgmohan said in crediting Dilger's training job. "He left the gate running and he had running on his mind. For a young horse to be down on the fence like that—he got passed around the turn—and he showed enough heart to come back and put them away late. He's a pretty decent little horse.
"He did relax pretty good," the jockey added. "I told Mike I don't think he's strictly a speed horse and has to be on the lead; I think he'll settle and that will make him more effective. He's a very smart horse. I'm happy I was the chosen pilot."
"I was a little nervous when he got headed, when Joel (Rosario on Hollywood Talent) came up on his outside. I have to admit I was a bit nervous at that point," Dilger said.
Southern Blessing trailed the field under Rosie Napravnik into the turn before the pair sorted their way through the field in the stretch to get up for second by 1 1/2 lengths over Hollywood Talent. All in Blue, Jake's Magic Hat, and Debt Ceiling followed.
Wired Bryan paid $16.40, $8.30, and $4.20 across the board. Southern Blessing, who graduated in his debut May 24 at Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Asmussen, returned $16.80 and $6.50. Hollywood Talent, runner-up to Debt Ceiling in the Bashford Manor June 29, was $3.80 to show.
It was the first loss in four starts for Tim O'Donohue's Debt Ceiling, the only stakes winner in the field coming in.
"Just had a horrible trip, that's all," said John Robb, trainer of Debt Ceiling.
Yes Liz scratched.
New York Racing Association is awarding a bonus to any 2-year-old maiden winner at Aqueduct Racetrack or Belmont Park during the spring or summer who goes on to win a graded stakes race at a NYRA track in 2013.