HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Gunnevera made a successful return to action Sunday when easily defeating four overmatched rivals in preparation for his re-entry into the top echelon of the 3-year-old class.
Jockey Edgard Zayas simply kept Gunnevera out of trouble as the chestnut colt looped the field in proceeding to a five-length victory in the $107,500 Tangelo Stakes on a hot afternoon at Gulfstream Park. Gunnevera returned $2.40 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.30 over a fast track.
Next up is the Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Aug. 26 at Saratoga, as Gunnevera will rejoin the elite in what continues to shape up as an epic showdown in a wide-open 3-year-old division.
"I'm very happy," trainer Antonio Sano said afterward. "This is what we wanted. The horse is back 100 percent. We will ship to Saratoga about a week before the race -- maybe the 18th, maybe the 21st."
In the Tangelo, Gunnevera broke smoothly from his outside post and settled into a rhythmic stride while last of five. Zayas briefly maneuvered to the rail entering the backstretch before going back outside for a clear run into the far turn. Without being asked, Gunnevera glided to the lead from the outside and was never threatened thereafter, with Zayas merely hand-riding him down the short stretch (1 1/16-mile races on the Gulfstream main track end at what is otherwise the sixteenth pole). Front Loaded finished second, two lengths before Manolete.
"He did it pretty easy, as we expected," said Zayas, who will get to keep the mount for the Travers, according to Sano. "I was trying to stay out of trouble so I put him back on the outside and made one run. Once he got to the stretch he fired up."
Since the Preakness, owner Salomon del Valle of Venezuela bought out his two partners in the now defunct Peacock Racing Stables and now holds 100-percent interest in Gunnevera, who ran Sunday in the name of Sano Racing Stables because of licensing issues. The colt will run in del Valle's name in the Travers, said Sano.
Gunnevera, a Kentucky-bred son of Dialed In, earned $62,000 to lift his bankroll to $1,277,200. Based at nearby Gulfstream Park West, the colt now has won four stakes, and 5 of 12 overall starts, with prior wins coming in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 3 Delta Jackpot at 2 and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth here in March. He was third in the Florida Derby, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, and fifth in the Preakness prior to his Sunday comeback.
A minus show pool of $49,868 resulted from heavy wagering on Gunnevera, according to track officials. The total show pool was $269,199, with almost all of it on Gunnevera.