Last of the nine-horse field in Saturday's G2 Holy Bull at first call, Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables, Scott Akman and Paul Braverman's Harvey Wallbanger found room at the rail to cross the wire just over a length in front. The 3-year-old son of Congrats, ridden to victory by Brian Hernandez, Jr., surprised bettors at odds of 25-1 in the points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Ken McPeek, the colt completed 1 1/16 miles over Gulfstream's fast main track in 1:43.69.
“It's a horse race,” said McPeek. “You can't duck one, can you? He showed he had some good, solid ability. I was thinking he'd rise up to whatever level you put him in. All we did last fall was really kind of teach him what to do. The end of the season he was a little tired after his fourth race and we backed off, came down here, and took our time. I had some options to run in an a-other-than and I told [co-owner] Harold [Lerner], 'Let's find out how good he is, because he can't be training any better.' Today, told [jockey] Brian [Hernandez Jr.], 'If they go, let them go. Don't worry about it. Just tuck in, save some ground, and make your run.'”
The 4-5 favorite and previously unbeaten Maximus Mischief broke sharply, but he was overtaken by the speedy Epic Dreamer who shook away to a two-length lead entering the backstretch. Meanwhile, longshot Harvey Wallbanger was at least 10 lengths off the leaders, trailing the field through the early fractions of :23.18 and :46.76.
Hernandez crafted a rail-skimming trip for Harvey Wallbanger around the far turn just as Maximus Mischief came up to challenge the frontrunning Epic Dreamer. Moving right alongside Harvey Wallbanger was 99-1 chance Everfast, but jockey Chris Landeros had to swing outside the leading duo of Maximus Mischief and Epic Dreamer in the short stretch run.
Harvey Wallbanger got through at the rail, however, and scooted clear to a one-length win over Everfast. Maximus Mischief held on for third over Epic Dreamer.
“It was great,” Hernandez said. “We had a horse that likes to come from behind and we thought they'd go quick in front. I was able to just kind of sit there. I knew to trust in my horse, because he was second in a couple of good maiden races and he always runs to his competition so I thought he'd give a good showing today. We'd have been happy if he'd have been second or third, but for him to jump up and win showed that he's a good horse and he's turned into a good 3-year-old. When we turned for home and I got within range of them, I thought I had enough horse to where I'd get past them. I mean, he spurted through there quickly and he did it like a good horse.”
Bred in Kentucky by Tony Holmes and Dr. and Mrs. Walter Zent, Harvey Wallbanger was a $50,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton July sale. It took the colt four starts to break his maiden, though he has never finished worse than second; overall, his earnings stand at nearly $300,000.
“He had four races and we trailed a few back-to-back, and his last race was actually an audible,” explained McPeek. “I entered him off an extra, without even working him, and he won anyway. Then it was just a matter of getting down here and backing off him a little bit and giving him a little time to recover from a few races in the fall. He's a good, solid horse. We tried to teach him how to run, certainly finish, come up the inside or outside or whatever it takes, and he's learned his lessons, and Brian did a wonderful job getting him there.”
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