05/01/2013 6:54PM

Atlantic City: Perfect Officer's nose hits wire first in Tony Gatto Dream Big


On paper, there was a massive gap between Perfect Officer, who barely missed winning the second Grade 3 stakes of his career less than three weeks ago, and Jersey Blue Giant, a New Jersey-bred who was winless on turf and badly beaten by $20,000 claimers in his two most recent starts. On Atlantic City Race Course’s turf course, however, the two sprinters reached the finish line nearly on even terms.

Heavily favored Perfect Officer ($3), ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, nosed out 20-1 longshot Jersey Blue Giant and jockey Shannon Uske to win the $53,200 Tony Gatto Dream Big Stakes on the closing day card Wednesday. The winning time for the five-furlong turf sprint was 57.80 seconds.

Perfect Officer, a 7-year-old gelding, had to wait for racing room and was ahead of only one horse with a furlong remaining. At that point, he split horses and rallied along the rail to just prevail.

Perfect Officer was coming back quickly after finishing third, beaten only a head, in defense of his title in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland on April 13. Trained by Tony Dutrow for David A. Ross Racing Stable, Perfect Officer also won the Tony Gatto in 2011. Overall, he is 9 for 33 lifetime.

In contrast, Jersey Blue Giant was making his first start since finishing 10th of 11 runners in a $20,000 claimer for New Jersey-breds last September at Monmouth Park. His best performance in four losing efforts on turf came when he was third in a five-furlong restricted stakes at the Meadowlands last May. He was the longest shot in a field reduced to six horses by four scratches. Yet within yards of the wire, Jersey Blue Giant held a narrow advantage and was just nipped at the line. He was a half-length clear of third-place finisher Kens Cape, who held a half-length advantage at the stretch call.