By Sarah Mace
Chester and Mary Broman’s Haul Anchor, comfortable wire-to-wire winner of the Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct on December 29 at 1 mile and 70 yards, delivered an encore performance at the same trip on Saturday at the Big A with thoroughly convincing victory in the $100,000 Gander for New York-bred 3-year-olds.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and reunited with Runyon jockey Cornelio Velasquez for the afternoon, the Bernardini colt broke sharply from his inside post and established position at the rail. Favorite Bavaro, an undefeated Freud colt campaigned by Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm, also broke well and settled at Haul Anchor’s flank as the pair separated themselves from Carradine in third going into the first turn.
There was little change along the backstretch, as Haul Anchor maintained a three-quarter length lead over his rival and as the pair rounded the far turn, Haul Anchor began to draw off.
Haul Anchor kept steadily to his business in the lane, while Carradine, who had gained ground in the turn, took over second position in upper stretch. Carradine chased Haul Anchor persistently to the wire, but chased in vain as Haul Anchor garnered the win by 1 1/2 lengths. After solid fractions of 23.47, :47.14, 1:12.07, he stopped the clock at 1:38.95.
Bourbon Empire had leapt up at the start, hitting the gate, and trailed the leaders by more than 13 lengths after a half-mile. He finally got the chance to do some running in the stretch and got up for third. Bavaro was fourth. Caledonian, the field’s fifth horse was scratched. [REPLAY]
“My horse is a free runner,” commented Cornelio Velasquez. “I didn’t send him but he went out to the lead, so I let him go. The other day [in the Damon Runyon], it was the same thing. He tries hard, but he likes to be out there [in front]. He goes easy on the lead, he can run second, but he doesn’t want to be choked too much.”
McLaughlin’s New York assistant Joe Lee said, “He’s really matured and come into his own the last couple of months, so this effort today was encouraging. The plan coming in was to just break well and get into a good position leaving the rest to Cornelio.”
Continued Lee, “Coming into the race, I thought we might get into a speed duel with some of these other horses coming out of sprint races but we were confident in the way he’s been training in the mornings, and the trip and ride worked out great for us today.”
Haul Anchor, who improved his record Saturday to three wins and three seconds from seven career starts with $203,000 in earnings, began his career with a pair of solid runner-up finishes at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course in July and August, before breaking his maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs at the Spa on September 1.
Back downstate, the colt dead-heated for second two lengths behind Mirai in the Bertram F. Bongard at Belmont, but then threw in a clunker in the sloppy Sleepy Hollow on Showcase day, fading after flashing early speed in his route debut. After a brief freshening, the colt rebounded to take the Damon Runyon in style.
Chester Broman purchased Haul Anchor’s dam Whichwaydidshego (Storm Cat) for $425,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November sale. A winning half-sister to the multiple Grade 2 winner Fed Biz, she issues from the family of Minardi, Tale of the Cat and Johannesburg.
Whichwaydidshego has worked out well for Bromans, already producing multiple stakes winners Mark My Way (Noonmark) and Hard to Stay Notgo (More than Ready). On the ground are a 2-year-old full sister to Haul Anchor named Turn and Bern and a yearling filly by Will Take Charge. The mare was bred to Malibu Moon in 2016.