Multiple graded-stakes winner Gunnevera made a triumphant return to the races Sunday at Gulfstream Park, where the 3-year-old son of Dialed In tuned up for a scheduled start in the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes (G1) with a five-length score in the $ 100,000 Tangelo Stakes.
“My horse is back 100 percent,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “The race was very easy for him today. He’s gained weight. He’s very happy. And now we’ll go to the Travers.”
Unraced since finishing fifth in the Preakness Stakes, the Antonio Sano-trained colt was favored at 1-10 against four rivals in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds. Ridden for the first time by Edgard Zayas, Gunnevera was fanned wide on the first turn before closely tracking the field from fifth along the backstretch as long shot Arrecife set slow fractions of 25.94 seconds and 50.96 for the first half-mile. Zayas kept the Kentucky-bred colt clear on the outside and asked his mount for some run heading into the far turn. Gunnevera responded with a three-wide move to pass the tiring pacesetter and Prince Tito leaving the turn into the homestretch without much encouragement. The odd-on favorite drew off to a comfortable victory, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.30.
“He did it pretty easy as we expected. On the first turn Prince Tito was trying to take him a little outside. So I saved some ground. He was much the best. I was trying to stay out of trouble so I put him back on the outside and made one run,” Zayas said. “He did it pretty easy. Once he got to the stretch he fired up.”
Owner Salomon del Valle, a Venezuelan businessman, was on hand for Gunnevera’s victorious return to action.
“I’m happy with his race. He showed that he is a great horse,” said del Valle, who is the sole owner of Gunnevera after recently buying out his partners in Peacock Racing Stables.
Front Loaded finished second, two lengths ahead of Manolete.
Gunnevera had been training sharply over the Gulfstream Park West track in preparation for Sunday’s race, producing five consecutive five-furlong bullet workouts while ridden by Zayas.
The victory aboard Gunnevera put Zayas just four wins away from No. 1000, a mark he has rapidly approached in less than five years. The 24-year-old jockey rode his first winner at Calder [Gulfstream Park West] Nov. 17, 2012 after attending jockey school in Puerto Rico.
Following Gunnevera’s sharp effort Sunday, Sano stated that Zayas would retain the mount for the Travers.
Gunnevera broke his maiden at Gulfstream last summer in his third career start after finishing behind eventual Florida Sire Stakes champion Three Rules in his first two starts. The Kentucky-bred colt came right back to win the Saratoga Special (G2) and would close out his 2-year-old campaign with a 5 ¾-length triumph in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).
The Sano trainee launched his 2017 campaign with a second-place finish behind Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream before closing from last to win the Fountain of Youth (G2) going away by 5 ¾ lengths. In the Florida Derby (G1), Gunnevera dropped back to last after breaking from the far-outside post position before making a strong run to finish third behind Always Dreaming, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
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