10/20/2008 12:00AM

Gallant Son takes his shot at big time


ARCADIA, Calif. - The complexion of Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile changed on Monday when Believe in Hope was declared out due to a temperature and Coronet of a Baron was most likely headed to the Juvenile Turf.

Believe in Hope's defection opened a spot for Gallant Son - the pride of Emerald Downs - to run in the Juvenile. In a field that includes fashionable pedigrees and at least one million-dollar purchase, Gallant Son will be championed by those who support underdogs.

Gallant Son, a son of Malabar Gold, sold for a mere $9,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling auction. After losing his debut, he has won four consecutive races, including three listed stakes at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash. He has twice won around two turns, including a six-length victory in the Gottstein Futurity on Sept. 27.

"He did it really easy, he never hit him,'' said Frank Lucarelli, the trainer of Gallant Son. "In his previous start,'' Lucarelli said, referring to the WTBA Lads Stakes on Aug. 30, Gallant Son "was in trouble until the three-sixteenths pole then he wheeled out. He was in behind a wall of horses waiting.

"He's maturing, he's got a good mind,'' Lucarelli added. "The owner and I felt maybe this is a time to take a chance. Quite frankly, coming from Emerald or smaller tracks you need something that impresses you to take you where you want to go.''

Last year, the Emerald Downs-based trainer Doris Harwood brought the filly Smarty Deb to the Breeders' Cup after she defeated males in the Gottstein Futurity. Smarty Deb finished fifth to Indian Blessing in the Juvenile Fillies. Harwood won the $250,000 Favorite Trick with Margo's Gift on the undercard of the Friday Breeders' Cup card last year.

Lucarelli said he believes Gallant Son's strong suit is his stamina. The horse won his second start eight days after he finished fourth in his debut. Lucarelli said he felt comfortable running a 2-year-old back so soon because the first race took nothing out of him.

Another example of Gallant Son's stamina was evident on Sunday when the horse worked six furlongs in 1:12.38 over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface. He finished his last quarter in 23.46 seconds and galloped out so strongly that jockey Leslie Mawing didn't get him completely pulled up until the top of the stretch. Mawing will make his Breeders' Cup debut when he rides Gallant Son in the Juvenile.

"He breezed really well, he's pretty strong," Lucarelli said. "Did it pretty easy; worked a good time, which I didn't care much about. He came out of it good. I was very happy; it was a good work coming into the race.''

This will be Lucarelli's first attempt in a Grade 1 race. The closest thing he has come to a graded stakes victory was in 2000 when Shake Loose ran third in the Golden Gate Derby. Lucarelli, 51, has been training for 30 years, 20 of them on the Northern California-Washington circuit.

"We don't spend a lot of money, we've never bought a horse there for more than $20,000,'' said Lucarelli, who trains Gallant Son for Chris and Diane Randall. "In the market we race, we try to find diamonds in the rough for $10,000, $15,000. This horse had a good vet report, walked correct. He went pretty cheap. We made a good buy whether he wins this or not.''

Elusive Bluff bypasses Juvenile Turf

Though he earned an automatic berth into the $1 million Juvenile Turf with his victory in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes, Elusive Bluff was confirmed as a starter for the $2 million Juvenile on Monday after he worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track.

Trainer Eric Guillot said the extra sixteenth of a mile in the Juvenile, the rock-hard nature of Santa Anita's turf course, and the prestige of the Juvenile were major factors in opting for the main-track race.

"Going a mile he's going to have run a lot harder the last eighth of a mile with a trip,'' Guillot said, regarding the distance of the Juvenile Turf. "If he gets a bad trip and runs third in the [Juvenile] he's a Grade 1 horse, he's worth more, he's more prestigious.

Elusive Bluff won his first two starts over Belmont Park's turf, including the Pilgrim over yielding ground. Santa Anita's course is the epitome of firm.

"The Belmont grass is three inches plus," Guillot said. "He's proven on that, he ain't proven on that concrete cross-town. He may not like it at all. He's proven at a mile and a sixteenth, he shaded six seconds on yielding turf. If he could finish like that it might set up for an upset, that's what I'm hoping for.''