Dandino Seals Deal in American St. Leger
Last year, Botti saddled Jakkalberry to take the inaugural edition of the 1 11/16-mile turf event. He repeated Aug. 17 with 4-5 favorite Dandino, a 6-year-old Dansili runner who races for Darren Dance's Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock. Dance is also the owner of Jakkalberry.
Under jockey Ryan Moore, Dandino got up with a late burst in a four-horse blanket finish, edging out Suntracer and jockey Eddie Castro by half a length. Najjaar was three-quarters of a length back in third, while Code of Conduct finished fourth (VIDEO).
The winner accomplished his victory in spite of some active race-riding from other members of the field, who kept him pinned down through the early going.
"I was locked in the whole race, but he was the best horse," Moore said. "He picked up natural. I thought I'd keep it simple, but they were on top of me the whole race."
Dandino was well-reserved in the seven-horse field, far behind a pace set by an overly eager Ojos De Hielo. That one pulled rider Quincy Hamilton through opening fractions of :26.28, :53.82, and 1:18.01 before he was collared by Ioya Bigtime, who then hooked up for a mile in 1:42.53.
Those two separated themselves seven lengths from the rest of the field, and Ioya Bigtime grabbed the lead turning for home as Ojos De Hielo stopped. But Code of Conduct and Najjaar were both looming, with Dandino quickening to their outside and Suntracer mounting a bid outside him through 1 1/4 miles in 2:07.25.
The Botti trainee kicked in strongly in the final sixteenth, edging out his rivals with a powerful late burst. He finished the distance in 2:50.78 on a turf course rated firm.
"Very testing ride," said Liz Dance, wife of the owner. "Bit of a check at the top of the straight, which worried us, but Ryan found the gap. A magnificent ride."
"I got stuck the whole way on the rail," Castro said of the runner-up. "The pace was slow. I needed more space. I'm happy with his run. The horse (Dandino) pushed me ought a little bit and he (Suntracer) worked very hard."
Dandino returned $3.60, $3, and $2.40 while Suntracer brought $5.40 and $4.60 at 8-1. Najjaar paid $3.60 while a head in front of Code of Conduct, as Wigmore Hall and Ioya Bigtime completed the order of finish. Ojos De Hielo was eased.
Dandino, a European group II winner coming off a strong runner-up finish one length behind Thomas Chippendale in the June 22 Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) at Ascot, improved his record to 8-8-1 from 25 starts. The $237,600 winner's share of the purse boosted his earnings to $985,399. He was bred in Great Britain by Elite Racing Club out of the Generous mare Generous Diana.
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