What appeared to be an easy prep race on paper for Collected didn’t play out that way on track as Giant Expectations unexpectedly sped forward and led wire-to-wire in the $300,000 San Antonio (G2), the first of four graded stakes on Santa Anita’s opening-day program. The magnitude of the upset may not compare to Arrogate’s San Diego (G2) defeat last summer but the manner in which the front-running Collected came up flat, racing last of five as the 1-5 favorite until the stretch, was eerily similar to his former stablemate.
Despite never setting the pace in a previous start, Giant Expectations was able to dictate glacial early fractions (:24.69, :49.19 and 1:12.94) when Collected didn’t show speed and Prime Attraction bobbled leaving the starting gate. Gary Stevens adroitly seized the initiative aboard the Peter Eurton-trained winner and Giant Expectations cruised through the stretch to a 3 ¼-length decision.
“It looked like we were going to see a sub-23 first quarter, and we covered the first quarter in 24 and change and the half at almost 50, and the race was pretty much over,” Stevens said. “He’s got a great turn of foot the last quarter mile, and it was a lot of fun.”
Giant Expectations, who was exiting a non-threatening sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.07 as the 13-1 longest shot in the field.
Peter Eurton was asked if he was surprised by the change in tactics.
“When I saw 49 and change I wasn’t surprised at that point, because he is a very fast horse. You can see that by the way he works, but he needs to get out of the gate, which he did today. He was a little tight but he (Gary Stevens) kind of sent him away from there and the next thing you…it was game over. He’s just an amazing horse who needs his kind of race.”
Owned by Exline-Border Racing LLC, Gatto Racing LLC and Garrett Zubek, Giant Expectations has now earned $449,200 from a 13-4-3-1 scorecard.
Collected, who had every opportunity to get past Accelerate in the final sixteenth of a mile after showing some interest earlier in the stretch drive, had to settle for third, a neck back of the 8-1 runner-up. It was another half-length back to stablemate Hoppertunity, who had captured the last two editions of the San Antonio when it was held in February, and Prime Attraction brought up the rear.
Mike Smith, who was taking over riding duties from Martin Garcia, blamed himself for Collected’s dull performance.
“It was a bad ride. It was my fault. I slipped leaving the gate. We should have been on the lead. Then they were going too slow and we couldn’t get there in the end.”
Collected opened 2017 with four consecutive wire-to-wire stakes victories including the Pacific Classic (G1) and posted an excellent runner-up effort to Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The 4-year-old was using the San Antonio as a tune-up for a scheduled rematch in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) on January 27.
Smith could’ve experimented with taking Collected back off the pace by racing in second or third down the backstretch. Instead, he had the chestnut, an earner of more than $2.2 million, situated a couple of lengths behind the next-to-last runner most of the way.
Bob Baffert acted surprised by the baffling early positioning.
“We should have been on the lead,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said.
Bred in New York by Sunrise Stable, Giant Expectations hails from Is It True mare Sarahisittrue and was purchased for $135,000 at the 2015 OBS March 2-year-old sale. After dropping his first six career starts in California, he graduated when returning from an 11-month layoff at Belmont Park in late May, defeating state-bred foes, and then captured a restricted entry-level allowance at Big Sandy two weeks later.
Eurton shipped the 4-year-old son of Frost Giant back to California and Giant Expectations finished a close second in an open entry-level allowance at Del Mar early in the meet. The chestnut then came back to win his stakes debut, the August 26 Pat O’Brien (G2), registering a 105 BRIS Speed for the 1 ½-length decision.
Giant Expectations rebounded Tuesday from a pair of unplaced performances, checking in fifth in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) prior to the Dirt Mile.
Eurton said he didn’t know what race would be next: “I’m just going to enjoy this.”