02/06/2016 2:28PM

Governor Malibu prevails in Gander Stakes

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Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Governor Malibu, with Manny Franco aboard, wins the Gander Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – A decision by his connections to add blinkers paid quick dividends for Governor Malibu on Saturday as he stalked a pedestrian pace, then persevered past Sudden Surprise inside the sixteenth pole to win the $100,000 Gander Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds by 2 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct.

Sudden Surprise, who set the early pace, finished second by 3 3/4 lengths over longshot Taoiseach. Vincento, the 8-5 favorite coming off a big win last Sunday, finished fourth, followed by Cards of Stone. Inside Straight scratched as he was off in his right hind, according to his connections.

Governor Malibu, a son of Malibu Moon, was making his first start since winning a one-mile maiden race by six lengths over Aqueduct’s main track Nov. 14. He had been based at trainer Christophe Clement’s Florida stable at Payson Park, but this race had been the target since early January.

Though he raced without blinkers last out, Clement opted to put them on for this race.

“Since his last race, he was getting a little bit lazy; we just wanted to put him a little bit more in the race, especially on the inner track,” said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to Clement.

The pace developed extremely slowly, with Sudden Surprise – a two-time sprint stakes winner – running an early quarter in 25.37 seconds and a half-mile in 50.29. Manny Franco had Governor Malibu within a half-length to the outside of Sudden Surprise.

“When I saw where he was, just next to the leader, I thought that was perfect because he was on the outside,” Lorieul said. “He had the momentum, and he just had to pick it up from there.”

In the stretch, Governor Malibu lugged in slightly under Franco’s right-handed whip, but once Franco straightened him out, Governor Malibu was able to edge away inside the sixteenth pole.

Governor Malibu, owned by Jump Sucker Stable and Oak Bluff Stable, covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:44.78 and returned $11.20 as the fourth choice.

Franco said the blinkers helped “put me there close” without him having to ask the horse to get there. In the stretch, Franco said he had to go to the whip because Governor Malibu is “a little lazy. You have to get busy with him, and then he takes off.”

Lorieul said Governor Malibu likely will return to Florida while Clement plots out his next start.