12/26/2009 1:00AM

Gesu gets it done at 22-1


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Overcoming trouble on the turn, Gesu rallied along the inside through the final furlong and came away with a hard-earned half-length upset victory in the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes on Saturday before 4,737 fans at Tampa Bay Downs.

Gesu was running comfortably in sixth, just a few lengths off the pace moving into the turn of the Inaugural, when jockey Paco Lopez was forced to take up sharply in tight quarters between rivals as the field approached the quarter pole. They dropped back to next to last in the field of 10 juveniles.

But Gesu and Lopez weren't through as they quickly moved up from between rivals into the stretch, then swung to the rail as 12-1 Hellen's Choice was moving to a clear lead inside the final furlong. Hellen's Choice held on tenaciously but Gesu got up from the inside in the final strides.

Gesu returned $46.60 while winning for the third time. He covered the six furlongs over a fast strip in 1:11.58.

Joe Calascibeltta trained Gesu, who ran his earning to $112,100.

In the co-featured $75,000 Sandpiper Stakes, Criolla Bonita came from last in the field of seven under Abel Lezcano to post a neck victory in that six-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies.

Criolla Bonita and Lezcano were content to watch as several runners contested the pace through a quarter in 23.49 seconds and half-mile in 46.87. Turning for home, Lezcano moved Criolla Bonita to the railand they came away with the lead moving into the final furlong.

Meanwhile Joanie's Catch, who had been caught up in some traffic turning into the stretch under Paco Lopez, angled out four wide and set sail after the leader. But Joanie's Catch came up a bit short as Criolla Bonita posted her third straight win and second straight stakes tally. Yournotthebossofme finished third, another 1 1/4 lengths back.

Trained by Hector Mackinze, Criolla Bonita returned $5.20 as the favorite in the Sandpiper, and the $45,000 winner's share ran her career earnings to $116,820.

Time for the six furlongs was 1:12.00