Giant Expectations hands defeat to West Coast elite in Grade 2 San Antonio

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Santa Anita/Zoe Metz

By Sarah Mace

Whatever lofty expectations trainer Peter Eurton, along with the partners of Exline Border Racing, Gatto Racing and Garrett Zubock, may have entertained on Tuesday afternoon for the Grade 2, $300,000 San Antonio Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Santa Anita, Giant Expectations exceeded them – and more.

Guided by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, the 4-year-old New York-bred colt by New York sire Frost Giant (Sunrise Stallions / Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions in Stillwater) led every step of the way in the San Antonio, soundly defeating the West Coast-based elite of his division by 3 1/4 lengths as the longest shot on the board at odds of 13-1.

The short, but star-studded field was led by Bob Baffert-trained Collected, slated to pay .30 cents on the dollar following his runner-up finish to divisional leader Gunrunner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4. Collected’s stablemate, the stalwart 6-year-old, $4.3 million-earner Hoppertunity was second choice at odds of 9-2. Completing the field were graded winners Accelerate (8-1) and Prime Attraction (10-1).

Alertly out of the gate from post two, Giant Expectations was up with the vanguard after the bell. The chestnut colt then advanced between horses, and took charge by the time the field entered the clubhouse turn, leading by a length.

Cruising through a quarter mile in 24.69 and half in 49.19, Giant Expectations extended his lead to 1 1/2 lengths along the backstretch. The pursuers, in a field that measured 4 1/2 lengths from front-to-back, were Prime Attraction in second, Accelerate three-wide in third, Hoppertunity in fourth at the fence and Collected trailing the field.

Continuing comfortably around the far bend as Prime Attraction and others began to be asked for more, Giant Expectations sprinted clear in the stretch without a serious challenge. Making it look easy, he crossed the wire a 3 1/4-length winner, clocking a mile in 1:36.84 and posting a final time of 1:43.07.

Santa Anita/Zoe Metz

Accelerate finished second, a neck ahead of Collected, who salvaged third for the bridge jumpers. Another half length back, Hoppertunity, who had a big chance inside when the field went wide at the head of the stretch, came up short and finished fourth, followed by Prime Attraction the last of five.

Stevens affirmed that the pace made the race. “It looked like we were going to see a sub-23 first quarter, and we covered the first quarter in :24 and change and the half at almost :50, and the race was pretty much over. He’s got a great turn of foot the last quarter mile, and it was a lot of fun.”

The veteran pilot continued, “I was pleasantly surprised at the opening fractions – I thought I was going to have to use him pretty good, but my plan was to put him on the lead or close to it. I just didn’t want to have dirt in his face. I had a big smile on my face going around the first turn – the race was won going into that first turn.”

Eurton concurred. “When I saw :49 and change [for a half mile] I wasn’t surprised at that point [to be on the lead], because he is a very fast horse. You can see that by the way he works, but he needs to get out of the gate, which he did today.”

“He was a little tight [after the break],” Eurton continued, “but [Gary Stevens] kind of sent him away from there and the next thing you know it was :24 and :49 and it was game over. He’s just an amazing horse who needs his kind of race.” Eurton has no immediate plans for Giant Expectations’ next start.

Giant Expectations took seven tries to break his maiden (which he did at Belmont in his 2017 debut in May), but marked himself as a colt with a future in 2016 with a runner-up finish to Arrogate, when the latter broke his maiden on June 5 at Santa Anita. Giant Expectations then launched his 2017 campaign with three straight wins and a second, culminating in a victory in the Pat O’Brien Stakes in his stakes debut at Del Mar on August 26.

Giant Expectations, who paid $29.00 for a $2 bet, owed his longshot status in the San Antonio not only to the quality of the competition, but also to a perceived tailing-off of form in his two most recent starts, where he finished fifth and sixth, respectively, beaten by a combined 19-plus lengths, albeit with excuses. A bad actor in the gate before the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship on October 7, in the Breeders’ Cup dirt mile on November 3 Giant Expectations started poorly and got shuffled back.

According to Stevens, his regular rider, “I don’t think people knew how good his Breeders’ Cup race was – he absolutely got left at the start, and he didn’t like the dirt getting kicked in his face. He was really the only horse that closed any ground at all that day.”

With Grade 2 wins in the Pat O’Brien and San Antonio under his belt, and a record of four wins, three seconds and third from 13 starts, Giant Expectations has earned $449,200.

Bred by Sunrise Stables and foaled at Saratoga Glen Farm in Schuylerville, Giant Expectations first sold for $85,000 as a short yearling at the 2014 Keeneland January sale. A $70,000 buyback at the same venue in September, he was purchased by Ryan Exline for $135,000 at the 2015 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds.

The colt is one of three winners from three foals to start out of Sarahisittrue, a winner by Is It True, who was bred in New York by Herman Wilensky and campaigned by IEAH Stables. Sarahisittrue has been bred exclusively to Frost Giant since 2010. Her most recent foals are colts: juvenile A True Giant, plus an unnamed yearling and unnamed weanling.

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