10/09/2009 11:00PM

Gitano Hernando shocks 'em in Goodwood

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Benoit & Associates
Gitano Hernando (right) outfinishes favored Colonel John to upset Saturday's Grade 1 Goodwood at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The 3-year-old colt who had never won a stakes and made his last start at one of England's smallest racecourses pulled an upset in Saturday's $305,000 Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita.

Gitano Hernando ($38), making his first start in a Grade 1, rallied from fifth in the final quarter-mile to outfinish 5-2 favorite Colonel John. Richard's Kid, the winner of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last month, rallied late to finish third.

Mine That Bird, the Kentucky Derby winner, could only finish sixth after running last until the quarter pole. The loss did not discourage Mine That Bird's trainer, Chip Woolley, from planning a start in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic here on Nov. 7, even though jockey Calvin Borel said that Mine That Bird had trouble handling Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic track.

"He had a perfect trip, but he got to struggling a bit," Borel said. "I do know one thing: He's a lot better horse on the dirt. When you ask him here, he goes to struggling instead of just running. I don't know. We'll have to work on that a little bit and see what happens. But I think he'll be all right."

Woolley wondered if the added distance of the BC Classic, run over 1 1/4 miles, would benefit Mine That Bird.

"Another eighth of a mile could have changed the face of the race," Woolley said. "[Calvin] thought the wire came too soon. He was the only horse still running. He just got outrun."

Woolley expects Mine that Bird to benefit from another four weeks of training at Santa Anita before the Breeders' Cup.

"It sure wouldn't hurt," he said. "We'll get three more works on the track. We'll regroup and run him in the mile and a quarter."

Gitano Hernando is expected to start in the BC Classic, according to Aron Wellman, the racing manager for co-owner Team Valor International. The Goodwood was part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In program, guaranteeing the winner a berth in the Classic, subject to the payment of entry fees.

Gitano Hernando was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup program as a foal, but could be nominated for $100,000, Wellman said.

"Our goal is the Classic," Wellman said.

Co-owned by Gary Barber and trained in Newmarket, England, by Marco Botti, Gitano Hernando ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.39 in the Goodwood. Ridden by Kieran Fallon, Gitano Hernando was never far from the front, stalking pacesetter Tres Borrachos while racing in fourth or fifth place through early fractions of 23.75 and 48.75 seconds. Fallon had Gitano Hernando behind the pacesetters turning for home and found racing room outside of Chocolate Candy at a pivotal point.

"I got a little tight on turn, but he wants to win," Fallon said. "[Chocolate Candy] was looking for room. I was looking to get out. That's what won him the race."

Parading, second for the first seven furlongs, took the lead in the stretch, but could not sustain his lead. Gitano Hernando, third with a furlong remaining, emerged between Parading and Colonel John to lead in the final furlong.

"I just got outsprinted for about 50 yards," said Garrett Gomez, who rode Colonel John.

Colonel John, the 5-2 favorite, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Richard's Kid, who was three-quarters of a length in front of Parading in the field of 10. Chocolate Candy was fifth, followed by Mine That Bird, Monzante, Informed, Tres Borrachos and Tiago.

Fallon, who returned to riding last month after a suspension of nearly two years for a substance abuse violation in France, was equally stunned and impressed by Gitano Hernando's victory.

"He's tough as nails," he said. "I was hoping he wouldn't have a hard race. I didn't think he could beat the likes of Colonel John."

Gitano Hernando, an English-bred by Hernando, has won 4 of 7 starts and $219,669. Going into Saturday's race, he had career earnings of $54,669. Earlier this year, he was second in the Grade 3 Dee Stakes at Chester, England, which at the time was considered a prep for the Belmont Stakes by Barber and the Team Valor group.

Gitano Hernando emerged from that race "a little jarred up," Wellman said, forcing a summertime layoff. He won an allowance race at Wolverhampton, England, on Sept. 17, which led to the trip to California.

Saturday, it turned out there was a big race waiting for Gitano Hernando in the United States after all, and another in his future.