With the scratch of race favorite Danzing Candy because of a training injury a day earlier, the Grade 2, $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes on Aug. 26 at Del Mar presented a unique opportunity for the 10 others entered in the seven-furlong sprint.
Exline-Border Racing and Gatto Racing’s Giant Expectations, a colt on the rise, seized the opportunity and a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Las Vegas Dirt Mile, as the Pat O’Brien was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying race.
With a closing trip from sixth under Gary Stevens, the New York-bred Frost Giant colt trained by Peter Eurton pushed past Calculator in the stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:21.08.
Calculator, who last won a graded stakes in the 2015 Sham Stakes, made a bold inside move from last early, took command in the stretch with a three-wide move, and held a one-length advantage with a furlong to run, but could not hold off Giant Expectations’ late rush. Calculator finished 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Silent Bird for the place honors and has hit the board in all six of his starts at seven furlongs.
“He got away a little slow, but we got a good position pretty quick,” said Calculator’s jockey, Rafael Bejarano. “He got through there, then threw his ears up. Then the winner was by us.”
It was the first win against open company for the 4-year-old Giant Expectations, who after six unsuccessful tries to break his maiden in Southern California, shipped to Belmont Park to break through against New York-breds by 9 ¾ lengths May 29. He then won a conditional allowance at Belmont June 8 and came in second behind eventual Shared Belief Stakes runner-up Gato Del Oro in another allowance July 19 at Del Mar, his first start back in Southern California.
“He showed up today and I’m really proud of him,” Eurton said. “Gary chose him over (sixth-place O’Brien finisher) Kobe’s Back basically because of the youth. This horse is 4. I didn’t think he would run this big, but I’m glad he did.”
Stevens was aboard Giant Expectations for the first time in the July 19 allowance.
“I rode him last time and he ran great,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “I thought he was sitting on something big. He showed it today and I think he’ll actually be better off if they run him a mile.”
Giant Expectations now has a 3-3-1 record from 10 starts and $253,200 in earnings.