Richard Otto's homebred Sir Anthony provided a stunning 25-1 upset in Saturday's Grade 3 Harlan's Holiday Stakes, given a beautiful ride by Brian Hernandez, Jr. to slip through a seam at the rail and upset the 1-9 favorite Audible by a neck on the wire. It was the first graded stakes win for the 3-year-old son of Mineshaft, completing 1 1/16 miles over Gulfstream's sealed main track in 1:45.14. Trained by Anthony Mitchell, the Illinois-bred Sir Anthony has now won his last four consecutive starts.
“He's been a promising young colt who took a while to figure it out, but now that he's figured it out who knows where we go from here,” Mitchell said. “He ran a couple of races where it was like, 'What's going on?' It just didn't make sense, but ever since he won the [Bruce D. Memorial] at Arlington he's just got progressively better and better. The owner, I'm so delighted for. He bred the horse and he's been with me for a very long time and we've enjoyed a lot of success. He predominately breeds Illinois-breds and we've done pretty good with them. But going ahead and beating the likes of Audible – that's huge. I mean, I can't put words to that.”
Audible broke slowly from the innermost post position in the six-horse field, shuffled back nearly to last as the field cruised under the wire for the first time. Up front, the pair of Ron Paolucci-owned starters duked it out for the lead, with Sightforsoreeyes coming out on top to mark the first quarter-mile in a moderate :25.16. Meanwhile, Sir Anthony was cruising along at the back of the pack, about six lengths off the lead.
Javier Castellano moved Audible over off the rail, but was hemmed in and forced to take rain-sodden dirt in fifth position for most of the backstretch run. Castellano tried to ease the colt back in order to guide him to the outside, but Audible was having none of it and continued to slog through the sealed surface in the same position.
“He always breaks like that,” Castellano said. “He's not a sprinter horse. He's more of a two-turn, come-from-behind horse. He broke with the field and that was the good thing about the post. You're able to save all the ground on the first turn and see how it develops. They went pretty quick and he was right there, not too far back. Unfortunately, it was hard to gain ground on this track.”
When the pace began to pick up entering the far turn, Audible was slow to get started, and Castellano had to throw the reins at him several times in order to get a response. That hesitation did allow the colt to angle out four-wide into the clear, but Hernandez was making a bold bid at the rail in the hopes that a seam would open up as the field straightened up for the short stretch run.
Hernandez' gamble paid off, and he had Sir Anthony on even terms with the four-wide Audible at the head of the lane. Audible battled gamely down the center of the track, but was a bit flat in the final sixteenth to finish a neck behind Sir Anthony at the wire. It was another several lengths back to Apostle in third, and Village King checked in fourth.
“We had a great trip,” Hernandez said after Sir Anthony's victory. “We were able to work our way to the fence from the six-hole. I watched a few replays of this horse and over at Hawthorne they went slow the first three-quarters in a couple of his races and he was still able to close into them and run them down. Today, I just kind of rode him like that. I figured if I got to the three-eighths pole in good shape, he'd punch home, and he did. My horse is an old pro and he's shown that he doesn't mind being [inside]. All the pressure was on Audible and we were just going to hopefully sneak up on him and we were able to save all the ground and get through.”
Bred in Illinois by his owner, Sir Anthony is a second-generation homebred out of the multiple stakes-placed Smart Strike mare Mourette. The ridgling has now won five of his 14 lifetime starts, earning just shy of $200,000.
“I said to [jockey] Brian [Hernandez] going out, 'Brian, believe in this horse. This horse has got two gears. One will take you there and one will put you in front if we're good enough,'” Mitchell continued. “Looking at [the race] he was going well within himself. He's kind of not a lazy horse but a relaxed horse. But when you ask him he'll find it. Mentally he's really come around and starting to prove the type of individual he is. But watching the race I was comfortable, but then going into the turn I was very comfortable. I thought we're going to have a horse race here. And that's what it was and Brian did a hell of a job, a superb ride.
“Audible was on the outside, but we're either going to get it or we're not. But he committed, the horse put his head in front and he didn't give up.”
Audible was making his second start back since finishing third in the Kentucky Derby earlier this year. Last month, the Florida Derby winner made an easy return to the races with a win in the listed Cherokee Run Stakes at Churchill Downs, and trainer Todd Pletcher has been gearing him up for a tilt at the Pegasus World Cup at the end of January.
“He never really seemed like he fired,” Pletcher said after the Harlan's Holiday. “You hate to use the track as an excuse, but obviously it rained quite a bit and they sealed the track. Javier said up the backside it was pretty uneven; there were dry spots and wet spots. It seemed like he was just never really taking him there handing the track the way we would have hoped. I think the track has changed since the previous meet. They made some adjustments to it and I think it's still settling in a little bit. I don't think he really handled it. We didn't know what everyone else was going to do. We just let Javier ride his race, but he was never really taking him. He had to kind of ask him to get into every position he tried to.”
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