ARCADIA, Calif. – It’s almost like old times for John Shirreffs and Jerry Moss.
The trainer and the Rock `n Roll Hall of Fame member are headed back to the Kentucky Derby together. This time, they’ve got two contenders.
Gormley won the $1 million Santa Anita Derby by a half-length, while stablemate Royal Mo finished third Saturday in Southern California.
In 2005, Shirreffs and Moss won the Kentucky Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo, named for a son of Sting. Moss made the rock hall as co-founder of A&M Records.
“It’s been such a great time bringing both of these horses up and both came through beautifully,” Moss said in the winner’s circle at Santa Anita.
Two other horses broke into the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field with victories Saturday.
Irap won the $1 million Blue Grass by three-quarters of a length in a 31-1 upset at Keeneland, while Irish War Cry took the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York by 3 1/2 lengths.
At Santa Anita, Gormley ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.16 under Victor Espinzoa and paid $14.40 to win at 6-1 odds. In his previous start, Gormley finished fourth in the San Felipe after winning the Sham Stakes.
“He showed me he’s capable of going the distance,” Espinoza said. “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.
Battle of Midway was second, followed by Royal Mo and Reach the World fourth.
Royal Mo is 22nd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard that determines the field for the May 6 race, but could still get in.
Illiad, the 3-1 favorite trained by Doug O’Neill, finished fifth in the 13-horse field. O’Neill saddled three other horses: Term of Art (seventh), Milton Freewater (ninth) and So Conflated (11th).
Bob Baffert, a four-time Kentucky Derby winner, had a disappointing day. He saddled Reach the World, along with eighth-place Irish Freedom and 12th-place American Anthem. That leaves the Hall of Famer without a colt in the top-20 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with next week’s Arkansas Derby the last major prep remaining.
Blue Grass Stakes
Everything in Irap’s record suggested him being an afterthought behind unbeaten favorite McCraken. Of his previous seven starts, he had three seconds, three fourths and a third.
All of which made the longshot’s upset in the Blue Grass sweet as it was surprising to everyone except jockey Julien Leparoux.
“All his races, three seconds, they were good races,” Leparoux said. “We had the perfect trip, and it came to reality.”
Irap ($64.60) was in contention from the start in the seven-horse field, and he held his ground throughout before taking charge to cover 1 1/8 mile in 1:50.39.
He pulled away from 7-2 third choice Practical Joke in the stretch to win, not only becoming the first to earn his maiden victory in the Blue Grass but snatch 100 points from 8-5 favorite McCraken.
O’Neill left no doubt that Churchill Downs is Irap’s next stop and said, “That’s the plan.”
McCraken was in the hunt and found running room in the stretch, but making up so much ground proved too tough and he faded.
“He ran his race, and it was a good third,” jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said.
Irish War Cry won the $750,000 race while bouncing back from a poor performance in his previous start.
Ridden by Rajiv Maragh, Irish War Cry ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.91 and paid $9 to win for trainer Graham Motion.
Irish War Cry had faded to seventh in the Fountain of Youth after dominating the Holy Bull.
Battalion Runner, co-favorite at 2-1 with Cloud Computing, was second. Cloud Computing finished third, while 21-1 shot True Timber was fourth.
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