The five-year-old Giant Expectations is set to run in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on January 27. His trainer Peter Eurton announced his participation but did not disclose any details of the deal arranged with The Stronach Group who approached him to secure his slot.
The Stronach Group are the organizers of the World’s richest horse race and the owners of Gulfstream Park. The berth to be occupied by Giant Expectations is one of a trio that they purchased to ensure that all 12 starting gates would be filled.
Owned by Gatto Racing, Exline-Border Racing and Garrett Zubok, Giant Expectations was last seen winning the grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park on December 26 in visually impressive style. Ridden by Gary Stevens, this son of Giant Frost was the 14/1 long shot of the field of five but beat the John Sadler-trained Accelerate over three lengths, leaving Bob Baffert’s hot favorite Collected out in the cold, a neck further back in third.
It was Giant Expectations’ first success around two turns after five previous attempts. Eurton was adamant that the turns were never the problem for the colt but that he needed to get his trip to produce his best. The small San Antonio field was a big positive as Giant Expectations was able to travel in his comfort zone, untroubled by kickback. Eurton admitted that his colt’s chances had been compromised in the past when he had been slow out of the gates and, as he usually runs without any headgear, kickback would have been especially unwelcome.
The San Antonio win seems to put Giant Expectations in with a live chance in the Pegasus but he is not fancied to follow up with the major US-facing sportsbooks offering odds around the 25/1 mark. At Santa Anita Eurton’s colt broke well from gate two enabling Stevens to take the lead and set his own steady fractions at the head of the pack.
This powerful, striking chestnut colt galloped along with his ears pricked appearing to enjoy himself. The jockeys of the more fancied horses were probably not concerned because they thought he was a no-hoper who would not be able to sustain his advantage all the way to the wire. That assumption proved to be a massive mistake.
Stevens admitted after the race that he had not expected to be allowed to benefit from an uncontested lead, he was probably waiting for Collected to loom close on his ride’s quarters. Stevens knew that his colt would be able to produce ‘his brilliant turn of foot’ in the final quarter mile after cruising so easily untroubled by his rivals and described the ride as ‘fun’.
Whilst Stevens was smiling broadly Mike Smith, the rider of Collected, must have been extremely annoyed with himself for allowing Giant Expectations to get so far ahead. Smith held Collected up at the rear of the small pack and for reasons only he can explain managed to give away ground by going wide. Smith only started asking his colt to quicken up after the winner had accelerated into an unassailable position.
Collected is a speed horse who is ridden prominently by Martin Garcia, his usual jockey. Garcia rode Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar back in August and managed to beat Smith on Baffert’s top-earning stable star Arrogate, the 7/10 favorite. On that occasion Garcia took the lead on Collected and kicked for home a quarter mile out. It took Smith half a furlong to spot the move and Arrogate was unable to cover it, he was beaten half a length into second.
Smith has achieved a lot in his career but, if he was not following specific instructions from Baffert, he should have known better than to mess around with the tactics that are known to produce results for Collected. Perhaps he wanted to give the colt an easy race prior to the Pegasus but made the fatal mistake of underestimating the opposition.
It was not the first time that Smith has overdone the hold-up tactics. While Calvin Borel used the same riding strategy to get unfancied horses such as the 50/1 long shot Mine That Bird first over the wire in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, Smith has used it a number of times to get red hot favorites beat. Smith not only held Collected up but, unlike Borel aka Bo-rail, why on earth did he decide to shun the rail?
Smith even managed to spoil the legendary mare Zenyatta’s unbeaten race record in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic by giving her too much to do late on at Churchill Downs. He was in tears afterwards. I think we can forgive him for some of Arrogate’s defeats as that star colt was possibly ruined by the phenomenal effort required to win the inaugural Pegasus last year.
Could Giant Expectations live up to his name in the Pegasus?
Bettors do not think so because, as mentioned earlier in this 2018 Pegasus World Cup preview, Giant Expectations is a long shot in the big-race betting. Steve Asmussen’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Gun Runner, is the odds-on favorite, a position that has been reinforced by very positive reports regarding his recent work.
Gun Runner is another speed horse, he won the Classic after leading from the moment the gates opened. A number of his rivals in the Pegasus usually race prominently too so there is zero chance of Giant Expectations enjoying an uncontested lead off a steady pace at Gulfstream Park.
Collected was the runner-up in the Classic, overcoming the disadvantage of being drawn widest of all, and holds his spot as the second favorite in the Pegasus. Disappointed bettors must realize that Smith got the tactics horribly wrong at Santa Anita and have not lost faith in Baffert’s colt.