June 6, 2023

Ghost Hunter bags first graded score in Arlington ‘Cap

Ghost Hunter scored a 12-1 upset in the local prep for the Arlington Million (Four Footed Fotos)

Triple K Stables’ Ghost Hunter rode the rail to a 12-1 upset of the $100,000 Arlington H. (G3), the local prep for the August 12 Arlington Million (G1) that anchored Saturday’s “Ride to the Million” card. Reaching a new career high at the age of seven, the Jamie Ness veteran outkicked 45-1 Oak Brook, with defending champion and even-money favorite Kasaqui third under top weight.

Ghost Hunter was perched in a ground-saving third as Crewman, the 79-1 longest shot on the board, posted fractions of :23.71, :48.61, and 1:14.43 on the firm turf. Oak Brook, also well placed in second, was on the premises to challenge and put his head in front briefly in midstretch. Ghost Hunter clung to the inside, with jockey Edwin Gonzalez riding for luck, and it worked as he burst through to the lead.

Kasaqui, who stumbled noticeably at the start, was unhurried early but gathered steam late and began to bear down on the outside. Also rallying into contention between horses was Manitoulin, the 5-2 second choice.

Manitoulin (chestnut in center) took the worst of the last second scrimmaging in fourth (Four Footed Fotos)

Drifting out late, Ghost Hunter made contact with Oak Brook, who in turn brushed Manitoulin, and Kasaqui’s head was cocked in the final strides as Manitoulin was squeezed between him and Oak Brook. The incident occurred as they neared the wire, so it’s debatable how much it affected the margins or the placings.

Ghost Hunter was three-quarters of a length on top in a final time of 1:55.86 for 1 3/16 miles, and he rewarded his loyalists with a $26 win payout.

Oak Brook held second by a head from Kasaqui, who was spotting the winner six pounds, and the runner-up seven, as the 124-pound highweight. The favorite may have been feeling the weight as he couldn’t get by in those last yards, in addition to the bumping dominoes.

Manitoulin appeared to have taken the worst of it in fourth, judging by his position amid the fracas and by Florent Geroux’s reaction in the saddle. He was only a half-length off Kasaqui, and worth a look in a rematch.

Taghleeb, last much of the way, made late headway for fifth in a solid effort at this trip for a marathoner. This might prove a fine tune-up for the American St Leger (G3) on Million Day, should trainer Mike Maker opt to stretch him out again.

Ghost Hunter was bred by Adena Springs in Kentucky and originally sold for $75,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July before bringing $30,000 as an OBS June two-year-old.

Spending most of his career in the optional claiming ranks, occasionally offered for a tag, the Ghostzapper gelding improved around this time last summer. He commenced a six-race winning spree in a $40,000 claimer, progressed through the ranks (including a turf course record-setter at Laurel), and broke through at the stakes level in the Presque Isle Mile.

Fourth in the Autumn (G2) at Woodbine to conclude the season, Ghost Hunter returned in good heart with a near-miss third in the April 22 Henry Clark at Laurel to next-out Manhattan (G1) upsetter Ascend. Ghost Hunter next endured a torrid passage in the Hanshin Cup (G3) on Arlington’s Polytrack, where he was denied by a neck. He reverted to turf last time out at Delaware Park and bested Grade 1 veteran Ring Weekend in an about nine-furlong course-record 1:47.96. His scorecard now stands at 46-18-9-8, $633,523.

Ghost Hunter was produced by the stakes-winning Kafwain mare Hartfelt, from the extended family of multiple Grade 1 vixen By Land By Sea.

Quotes from Arlington

Winning rider Edwin Gonzalez on Ghost Hunter: “I think my decision to go inside was the right one. I was trying to decide – if I went outside it would use too much – and then the door opened and I took it.”

Winning trainer Jamie Ness: “He’s very versatile. His best surface is probably Polytrack, and he’s a horse who tends to find trouble, but today we found the rail and got through and got the ‘W.’”

Jockey Santo Sanjur on runner-up Oak Brook: “My horse broke pretty good, so I stayed second behind (Crewman). In the last part my horse floored it. He’s a comfortable horse, you can do whatever you want and he’ll give you everything he’s got.”

James Graham, who rode Kasaqui to a third-place finish: “Today wasn’t his best race but he finished fine. I probably waited a little longer than I wanted to, but I would rather save and wait a little bit more because they were running so slow I knew they were going to sprint the rest of the way.”