Sunday's inaugural $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby was designed as the new year's first stepping stone to the classics, and if the outcome is any indication, racing fans are in for another wild ride on the Triple Crown trail in 2012. Calder shipper Reveron, an 8-1 chance in his stakes debut, fended off the sustained bid by Nick Zito's well-regarded Casual Trick, while 3-1 favorite Ancient Rome was never involved and beat just one home.
Like those better-fancied rivals, Stipa Racing Stable's Reveron was stretching out to two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile affair. The Agustin Bezara trainee was coming off two convincing victories at his Calder base, a six-length maiden conquest on November 5 and a 2 1/4-length decision in an entry-level allowance on November 26.
Reveron's New Year's Day heroics extended his winning streak, preserved his perfect partnership with jockey Fernando Jara, and also crowned a banner day for Bezara.
"We think this he is the best three-year-old in Florida right now," Bezara said through a translator. "This is my first stakes win in the U.S. and the biggest day I've had since I came here two years ago."
Bezara a former training champion in his native Venezuela, currently trains five horses at Calder, and three of them won Sunday. Reveron's stablemates Mommy's Image and Sweetlandofliberty landed the 3RD and 5TH races, respectively, on the card.
Jara, best known as the regular rider of 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, hasn't been conspicuously successful in recent years. But judging by his well-crafted ride aboard Reveron, he might be ready to break back into the big time.
Jara spotted Reveron perfectly in second, tracking 29-1 shot Nachas and Joy through splits of :23 2/5 and :47 2/5 on the fast track. King Kid raced just to the inside of Reveron in third, and Casual Trick was lapped onto Reveron's outer flank in fourth.
When Reveron went after Nachas and Joy and took command through six furlongs in 1:11 4/5, Casual Trick also advanced, and loomed boldly turning for home. Reveron still appeared to have plenty in reserve, and he kept up the gallop into the stretch. Casual Trick also seemed to have more up his sleeve, however, and ratcheted up the pressure as he lengthened stride.
The more sternly Casual Trick pressed, the more Reveron found. Refusing to let him pass, Reveron grittily clung to the lead and held a half-length margin at the wire. The Songandaprayer colt, who clocked 1:37 3/5 for the mile, took a shade more than seven seconds to cover the last sixteenth, posting a final time of 1:44 3/5. The fifth choice in a field of 11, Reveron paid $19, $8.40 and $4.60.
"I had to ask him a little bit in the first part of the race because the first turn comes up so fast," Jara said. "After that we were in good position and my horse really performed well. He dug in and wouldn't let the other horse by."
"He (Casual Trick) ran very hard," jockey John Velazquez said of the 3-1 second choice, "but he was fighting me a little bit to pass that horse in the stretch. The winner was more experienced than mine and my horse was still a little green today. He just broke his maiden and was going two turns for the first time.
"I think he's still learning. He actually handled the two turns really well. If he continues to mature and get better, I think he's going to be very good."
Despite the slow time, the top two pulled well clear of the remainder of a fairly strung-out field. King Kid checked in another 5 1/2 lengths astern in third, himself 3 1/2 lengths ahead of early leader Nachas and Joy. Ravelo's Boy, Silver Menace, Politicallycorrect, Gold Megillah, Rex's Last Tour, Ancient Rome and Yourhonorandglory completed the order of finish.
Reveron now sports a mark of 5-3-1-1, $104,460. Second after a slow start in his career debut on September 10, the dark bay was a close third next time on October 16. Whether through seasoning, or simply added ground, he jumped up in a seven-furlong maiden, and scored his allowance win at the same distance.
Bred by Cabotaba Partnership in Kentucky, Reveron was sold for $20,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. A half-brother to the multiple stakes-placed Carolina Mist, he is out of the winning Awesome Again mare Carolina Sunrise, who is in turn a three-quarter sister to stakes winner and graded stakes producer Stately Star. Reveron's second dam is multiple Grade 3 victress Stylish Star, and his family includes the versatile Grade 3 star Brownie Points.
Although the Grade 3 Holy Bull on January 29 is the next stop on Gulfstream's road to the Derby, Bezara wasn't ready to set any plans in stone.
"We'll see how he comes out of it," the trainer said. "He goes the (two-turn) distance. We'll consider the options."