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Dilger Wins his Spa Debut as Wired Bryan Takes Sanford (G2)

By John Scheinman | 07/21/2013 07:02 PM ET
Wired Bryan
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

For the past seven years until January, Michael Dilger had worked as an assistant to Todd Pletcher, the all-time leading trainer at Saratoga Race Course.

On Sunday, Dilger, 35, stepped out from behind his former boss’ shadow, saddling Wired Bryan to win the 99th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Sanford for 2-year-olds.

The victory, just the third of his training career, came in Dilger’s very first start at the Spa and first try in a stakes race. Swarmed by well-wishers in the winner’s circle, the native of Mullingar, Ireland, tried to take in the moment.

“Today is my first stakes winner and first stakes runner,” Dilger said. “Sorry, I’m hoarse. I was cheering a little bit.”

The gray Wired Bryan, an Anstu Farm homebred son of Stormy Atlantic, delivered in resounding fashion for Dilger, taking the six-furlong Sanford by 5 ¼ lengths in a time of 1:11.06. 

A sharp 7 ¼-length winner of his debut June 19 in New York-bred company at Belmont Park, Wired Bryan went off at odds of 7-1 in the Sanford and paid $16.40 for a $2 win bet.

Under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, Wired Bryan went straight to the lead, but after a quarter-mile in 22.40 seconds, Hollywood Talent, runner-up in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on June 29 at Churchill Downs, poked his head in front.

“I was a little nervous when he got headed, when [Hollywood Talent’s jockey] Joel [Rosario] came up on his outside,” Dilger said.

Wired Bryan, however, showed maturity under pressure, regaining the lead while racing on the inside. Bridgmohan asked his mount for more at the top of the stretch, and he opened up by 2 ½ lengths. Southern Blessing, a 23-1 shot ridden by Rosie Napravnik, rallied to finish second.

“You can see what a phenomenal job Mike’s done with this horse,” Bridgmohan said of Dilger. “[Wired Bryan] was a total professional. For a young horse to be down on the fence like that; he got passed around the turn, and he showed enough heart to come back and put them away late. He’s a pretty decent little horse.”

Hollywood Talent finished third, followed by All in Blue, Jake’s Magic Hat and 9-5 favorite Debt Ceiling.

Increasing his record to two wins in as many starts, Wired Bryan earned $220,000 for the victory, including a $100,000 bonus The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is awarding to any 2-year-old maiden winner at Aqueduct Racetrack or Belmont Park during the spring or summer who goes on to win a graded stakes race at a NYRA track in 2013.

Wired Bryan now has earned $256,000.