07/29/2017 6:13PM

Hunter O'Riley rallies from last to upset Bowling Green

Barbara D. Livingston
Hunter O'Riley returned $34.60 as the longest price in the field of Saturday's Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Jimmy Toner said he came into Saturday’s $250,000 Bowling Green at Saratoga thinking that if his Hunter O’Riley could finish third or fourth in a field that boasted two recent Grade 1 winners, it would be a good effort. But the hard-trying, stretch-running Hunter O’Riley exceeded those expectations, rallying from last to a neck decision over Big Picture as the longest price in the field for the Grade 2 turf fixture.

With Florent Geroux aboard, Hunter O’Riley, who finished fifth in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup in his previous start, settled at the rear of the field as Closing Bell and then Hello Don Julio cut out the early pace. Hunter O’Riley remained well back turning for home as the lead continued to change hands several times, with Sadler’s Joy ultimately emerging with a clear advantage at midstretch. But Hunter O’Riley came charging down the center of the course, in tandem with Bigger Picture, ultimately proving narrowly best in the closing strides.

Bigger Picture, winner of the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park in his previous start, also came on strongly between horses through the final furlong, but was not quite able to match strides with the winner at the end. Sadler’s Joy weakened late, finishing another neck back in third. Ascent, upset winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan seven weeks earlier at Belmont Park, failed to kick on at the end after racing prominently throughout and finished a disappointing fourth as the 9-5 favorite.

Hunter O’Riley, a 4-year-old son of Tiz Wonderful, is owned by the partnership of Sean Shay and Michael Ryan. Off the board in his only two previous graded stakes starts, he returned $34.60 after completing 1 3/8 miles over a firm course in 2:12.94.                              

“I had confidence going in because he tries so hard, he runs every time,” said Toner. “He was so far back early, doing his thing but it was pretty contentious up front. Turning for home, I thought maybe he’d get a piece of it and all of a sudden I said ‘wow, he might get there,' and sure enough, he did.”