Prevails in Close Five-Horse Finish
By Dick Downey
With content from Santa Anita
Set down while a few lengths off the pace leaving the half mile pole, Gormley kept to his task through the lane en route to a half-length win in the Santa Anita Derby.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, trained by John Shirreffs and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Gormley got the nine furlongs in 1:51.16.
Gormley was sent off at 6-1 in a field of 13 and paid $14.40, $7.20 and $5.00.
The win was a return to form. Gormley took the FrontRunner Stakes in his second start on Oct. 1 and the Sham Stakes two starts back but was fourth in the San Felipe Stakes on March 11. With the $600,000 first prize from the $1 million Santa Anita Derby purse, he now has earnings of $920,000.
Battle of Midway, American Anthem and Royal Mo, Gormley's stablemate, fought for the early lead, and there was a blanket finish among the top runners. Battle of Midway stayed on stubbornly to finish second, and Royal Mo finished third, beaten a length. Reach the World, who was 10 lengths off the pace after the first half-mile, closed well to finish another half-length back in fourth, and Iliad, who finished fifth, was beaten only two lengths.
The remaining order of finish in the large field was Kimbear, Term of Art, Irish Freedom, Milton Freewater, Midnight Pleasure, So Conflated, American Anthem and Comma Sister.
Fractions in the race were 22.66, 46.55, 1:10.92 and 1:37.55.
Gormley was awarded 100 Kentucky Derby points, 40 went to Battle of Midway, 20 to Royal Mo and 10 to Reach the World. Kentucky Derby point totals for those four horses: Gormley 125, Battle of Midway 40, Royal Mo 30, Reach the World 10.
Gormley is a son of Malibu Moon out of the Bernstein mare Race to Urga and was bred in Kentuky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate.
John Shirreffs, trainer of Gormley and Royal Mo: I think the key was Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move. This is very exciting. It’s thrilling to have a Kentucky Derby horse, and it’s for the same owners as Giacomo.
"Royal Mo ran really big. If he had a better post position, you wonder how he would have done.I really wasn’t paying attention to the fractions. I just saw my horse and he got behind horses including Royal Mo.
"Gormley is an evolving horse.He’s very precocious and very excitable. I just need to turn that energy of his into positive use. It’s a lot of growing pains with a talented horse. I think using the tongue tie certainly helped us today. We’ll see how this shakes out. We’ll see how he comes out of this race in the morning and if all is well, we’ll point to the Kentucky Derby.”
Winning jockey Victor Espinoza: “Today the big difference is that he was ready. Something went wrong last time, he was good but not quite where I wanted. I was a little bit disappointed, but it seems like today he was on his toes, on his game and I was really ready for it. All it takes is having a lot of confidence in him against the other horses and with John we were hoping he chose the right one.
“He’s really quick out of the gate, and today the plan was to take him back and make him run because it seemed like there was a little bit of speed in the race. I had a little bit of a hard time taking him back, but all I had to do was jerk him one time, a bit harder than I wanted, and that’s all it took. He relaxed very nice.
"Down the backside, I started laughing to myself because I knew I was in a good position, and I knew all the horses in front of me were going to stop. He showed me he’s capable of going the distance. The only problem is his size; he’s not very big but he’s tough, and that’s what I like about him. He works really hard, and that’s what it takes.”
Jerry Moss, winning co-owner: “It’s been such a great time bringing both of these horses up and both came through beautifully today. We’re just so grateful. It’s been a beautiful time. It was fantastic to see Royal Mo do so well today. Gary (Stevens) rode him perfectly. He was even the pacesetter for a while. It’s such a great day, and we’ll see Gary back on him.
Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Battle of Midway: “I think he ran a pretty good race. If he didn’t get pressured so much early, I think we would have won, but that’s how things go. I’m very happy with him. He’s been progressing all along, and if he can continue, he should be a contender.”
Corey Nakatani, aboard Battle of Midway: “He ran really well. I wish we could’ve gotten a breather at some point, but it didn’t work out that way. He ran dynamite. It’d be nice (to win the Kentucky Derby).That’s what we’re here for.”