Gentlemen's Bet, Delaunay Face Off Again in Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap
By Jon Forbes | 08/01/2013 05:01 PM ET
Gentlemen's Bet and Delaunay, the top two finishers from the Iowa Sprint Handicap, will be reunited and attempt to stake their claim for divisional supremacy when they compete in the 29th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
The Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows was the first stakes win for Gentlemen's Bet, who improved his record to four wins in five starts and snapped Delaunay's winning streak at six.
Gentlemen's Bet, a 5 ¾-length winner of an optional claimer in May at Churchill Downs, was part of a three-way scramble for the early lead, racing a length from the front along the rail in third before he was angled off the fence. After putting away the top two, Gentlemen's Bet was challenged by Delaunay, briefly lost the lead while racing between horses, turned back that opponent, and reclaimed the advantage en route to a 1 ¾-length victory.
The Iowa Sprint was the second stakes start for Gentlemen's Bet, who was third three starts back in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap in April at Oaklawn Park.
"Delaunay is a great horse, and like any athlete they can have better days," said Ron Moquett, who trains Gentlemen's Bet for Harry T. Rosenblum. "Delaunay is going to run a great race. We're looking at it like they are all going to run their 'A' game. We'll see how we stack up against them. We respect them, but at the same time we look forward to the opportunity. These are sprinters, and they are going to run six furlongs. They're the fastest horses around, so you better bring your 'A' game. You know nobody is coming to Saratoga for the Vanderbilt if they don't think they can win. These are the fastest horses in the United States, and we want to state our case."
Gentlemen's Bet, installed at 9-5 on the morning line, will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario. He drew post position 2, outside of Bahamian Squall (post 1, 7-2) and inside of Delaunay (post 3, 8-5).
"He's ratable. I love him sitting right off of horses," said Moquett.
Delaunay has won seven of nine starts, all stakes, since being claimed by trainer Tom Amoss for owner Maggi Moss. After dominating minor and listed stakes in Kentucky and Louisiana, the 6-year-old easily handled graded stakes competition when he won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes by four lengths in May. The 111 Beyer Speed Figure Delaunay received for his Duncan F. Kenner triumph in March at the Fair Grounds is the fourth highest among all horses who have competed at a mile or less in 2013.
In the Iowa Sprint, Delaunay broke outwardly and brushed an opponent, raced two lengths off the lead in fourth, made a three-wide bid for the lead, and failed to match strides with Gentlemen's Bet.
"He didn't break all that well and he gave the field a few lengths," said Amoss. "In fairness, Gentlemen's Bet ran a great race and we're going to have to improve in order for us to win."
Amoss said he was disappointed with Delaunay's first breeze over the Saratoga main track (four furlongs in 52.24 seconds on June 20) but that he was encouraged by how the 6-year-old handled the surface in his second breeze (four furlongs in 48.10 on July 27).
"Transitioning him to the Saratoga track has been a bit of a process," admitted Amoss. "He didn't work all that great in his first work over the track, but his second work was better. We're hopeful he's going to handle the track."
Rosie Napravnik will ride Delaunay once again in the Vanderbilt.
The Vanderbilt will be the first start outside Florida for Bahamian Squall, who stalked the pace and made a three-wide run to capture the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 6 at Calder Race Course. It was Bahamian's Squall's first victory from four starts as a 4-year-old. At 3, he won the Sunshine State Stakes for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park.
"He's growing up and getting stronger," said trainer David Fawkes. "Don't get me wrong - he was nice as a 3-year-old, but he had a nice break this spring and came back stronger. [Delaunay and Gentlemen's Bet] are probably the best in the country, but I expect my horse to improve. If we're going to go to the Breeders' Cup, we're going to have to face them at some point."
Luis Saez retains the mount aboard Bahamian Squall.
Justin Phillip seeks his first win since his three-quarter-length victory in the Count Fleet. In two starts since the Count Fleet, the Zayat Stables color-bearer was second in the Grade 2 RTN True North Handicap in June at Belmont and fourth in the Smile.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the call aboard Justin Phillip, 5-1, from post 4.
Completing the field is four-time graded stakes winner Caixa Eletronica, who won a 1 1/8-mile starter allowance on Sunday at the Spa.
The field for the Grade 1, $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap: