10/01/2016 5:46PM

Gormley left alone on lead in FrontRunner

Benoit & Associates
Gormley, under Victor Espinoza, upsets 1-5 favorite Klimt in the FrontRunner.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Gormley inherited the lead a few strides after the start of Saturday’s $300,690 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita, leaving Victor Espinoza surprised to be without a challenge early in the Grade 1 race for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

“I didn’t expect the race to set up like that,” Espinoza said. “You can make all the plans and they change when the gate opens.”

The tactic worked in favor of Gormley.

Gormley ($23.60) led throughout the FrontRunner, scoring an upset win over 1-5 favorite Klimt. The victory gave Gormley a fees-paid berth for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program.

Gormley ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.57, finishing three lengths clear of Klimt, the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 5. Straight Fire, who was second in the Del Mar Futurity, finished third, followed by Midnight Pleasure, Vibe, and Plum Dandy.

Secret House, who was 60-1 at post time, was declared a non-starter after jockey Santiago Gonzalez stepped off the colt a moment before the race began and put his right foot on a ledge within the stall. Secret House ran on the outside rail through the race and did not interfere with the other runners.

The stewards reviewed the start before announcing that Secret House was a non-starter.

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 “He stepped off,” steward Grant Baker said of Gonzalez’s action. “We felt it was best to refund the money.”

Gormley set a moderate pace of 23.72 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and 47.18 for the first half-mile. He led by a length on the backstretch and was in front by 3 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go.

Gormley, a colt by Malibu Moon, is unbeaten in two starts. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, Gormley won his debut in a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Sept. 4.

Shirreffs said in advance of Saturday’s race that Gormley had trained well through September and deserved a chance in the FrontRunner. Espinoza said the colt has massive upside and showed considerable progress between the maiden race and the FrontRunner.

“He’s a very talented young horse and will improve a lot in the future,” Espinoza said. “He’s a very smart horse.”