Pandagate storms to victory in Gander Stakes

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Pandagate improves to 2-for-3 with victory in $100,000 Gander Stakes at Aqueduct. NYRA Photo.

Christophe Clement shipped Pandagate back to his native state with confidence for the Arrogate ridgling’s first foray into stakes company and was rewarded.

Pandagate overcame a hard bump at the start and powered to a 5 ½-length victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Gander Stakes, improving to 2-for-3 in the process and giving his connections reason to think about bigger things down the road.

“He’s been training very, very well at Payson Park and we were excited to see him run,” Clement said. “Thank you to all the owners to be so patient. He’s a stakes winner and a New York-bred going long on dirt, so it’s a lot of fun for us.”

A 9-length winner in his debut under Dylan Davis during the Belmont at the Big A meeting, Pandagate reunited with that rider for the 1-mile Gander. He was ridden by Victor Carrasco when second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional in early December. Davis liked the reports from Clement and his team and also came into the Gander with confidence aboard the morning-line pick and eventual post-time 7-5 favorite.

“He’s been training down at Payson Park with Clement’s crew,” Davis said. “They did a great job getting him ready. He had a little layoff, but I just wanted to break him well and not get too much distance from the front leaders. That is what the boss said.

“I haven’t seen him in a while, but the Clement crew gave me videos of him working and in the paddock. It was nice to see him again, he’s still the big horse that I knew before, but he was a little more mentally better today. Just hopefully will keep on improving.”

Pandagate wound up squeezed between Bali Amour and Brown Don’t Stop at the break and was last while The Big Torpedo, Liberty Central and Doc Sullivan scrimmaged through the opening quarter in :24.42.

The Big Torpedo, a 10-length maiden winner last time out and the 5-2 third choice, continued on the lead through the half in :48.55. Liberty Central, who hounded the leader most of the way on the backstretch and on the far turn, took the lead just before hitting 6 furlongs in 1:14.15 just as Pandagate found his best stride several paths off the rail. Pandagate widened his advantage all the way through the lane, kept to task by Davis to win in 1:40.67 over the fast track.

Doc Sullivan finished second, a neck in front of Liberty Central with Brown Don’t Stop fourth. The Big Torpedo and Bali Amour completed the field.

Pandagate’s connections celebrate victory in Sunday’s Gander Stakes. NYRA Photo.

“He did get a little bump there at the break but he got into stride, got on the bridle, and switched off, then at the three-eighths pole, I turned him out,” Davis said. “It took a little while to get going but once he did that, he was game. I kept him to task all the way to wire because he is still a young horse that doesn’t know what is going on, but he has a nice big stride and galloped out, not really that tired.”

Clement also heaped praise on Davis’ effort.

“Dylan knows him well and it was a perfect ride,” he said. “He was a little bit lost coming out of the gate and Dylan got him to settle. Then he got into a very good rhythm and when he decided to pick it up, he finished well. He’s a nice horse and by Arrogate – it’s a nice family. Everything seems to be working out nicely, and I’m just very grateful to the owners. I’m delighted to train this kind of horse.”

Bred by Fred Hertrich III and out of the stakes-placed New York-bred Sky Mesa mare Kitty Panda, Pandagate sold to Clement, as agent, for $130,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He races for Adelphi Racing Club, Madaket Stables, Corms Racing Stable and On The Rise Again Stable.

Pandagate is one of three winners – all New York-breds – out of Kitty Panda. She’s also the dam of three-time winner and $151,380-earner Panster and the two-time winner Countable. Kitty Panda is also the dam of a 2-year-old colt by City of Light. Hertrich purchased Kitty Panda, in foal to Blame, for $160,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale.

Pandagate picked up $55,000 for the Gander victory, boosting his bankroll to $101,650.

Clement didn’t commit to any specific for Pandagate’s next target, but is thinking about some lucrative summer stakes in the New York-bred 3-year-old division.

“At the moment, he just won, so we are going to enjoy that for 24 hours,” Clement said. “The way the program is made, the two New York-bred races going long on the dirt are the New York Derby at Finger Lakes or the Albany at Saratoga. That’s a long way down the road, so let’s try to find him something in late March or early April going long on dirt. Let’s keep him eligible for everything and enjoy this for a moment.”

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