Albert and Michelle Crawford's El Deal was impressive in Saturday's G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, speeding away from the gate with the lead and extending it down the lane to best his rivals by eight lengths. The 5-year-old son of Munnings had never won a graded stakes race prior to the Vanderbilt, and the victory marks his third consecutive win. Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Jorge Navarro, El Deal covered six furlongs over Saratoga's fast main track in 1:09.26.
“I respect all the horses in the race,” Navarro said. “That's why we were here: to see what kind of horse he is. I think I did the right thing by taking him to all those [previous] tracks and prepping him there. I called the owners and said I thought it was time to see what we have and he proved it.”
As expected, the speedy El Deal went immediately to the front of the seven-horse Vanderbilt field, clearing by a length to mark the first quarter mile in 22.50 seconds. Green Gratto traveled in second, nearly two lengths in front of the trio of Limousine Liberal, Awesome Banner and Ready for Rye. El Deal slacked off the pace a bit around the far turn, turning in a half-mile fraction of 45.28 seconds while 1 1/2 lengths in front of Green Gratto, and Limousine Liberal began to close the gap in front of him.
It was a five-wide charge around the far turn, but none were within three lengths of the frontrunning El Deal. Green Gratto tried to hold on just off the rail while Awesome Banner slid through on his inside, while Limousine Liberal was three wide for his challenge. Also in the mix were Bird Song, widest of all, and Ready for Rye between rivals.
“He's a fast horse and I took advantage. Jorge Navarro did a great job. I never rode the horse before,” said Castellano. “He told me break out of the gate and don't look back. [He said] try to put him in the lead and don't look back and let him roll. That's his style. He's one dimensional. I followed the instructions and just enjoyed the ride.”
All through the stretch, Castellano kept after El Deal as the horse extended his margin of victory to a solid eight lengths on the wire. Awesome Banner was able to get up for second, while Limousine Liberal had to settle for third. The late-running Bird Song checked in fourth.
“I knew how fast he is and I knew that he carries his speed really good,” Navarro continued. “We'll see what's next for him. He likes a [break] of 45-50 days, so that's what he'll get.”
Bred in Kentucky by Martha Buckner, El Deal was a $57,000 weanling purchase at the Keeneland November mixed sale. He won his first four starts before a 10-month break from the races, then had trouble finding the winner's circle in stakes company thereafter. After a brief freshening in early 2017, El Deal returned to win a handicap at Charles Town and then a listed stake at Monmouth Park before his Vanderbilt triumph. Overall, he boasts a record of nine wins from 16 starts with earnings of over $500,000.
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