April 22, 2021

29-1 Harvey Wallbanger packs late punch in Holy Bull

Harvey Wallbanger captures the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. on February 2, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Overlooked at 29-1, the Ken McPeek-trained Harvey Wallbanger popped a last-to-first rail rally to overtake 4-5 favorite Maximus Mischief in Saturday’s $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The stakes debuter is now on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail after banking 10 points due to the winner.

So is an even bigger longshot, the 128-1 runner-up Everfast, who also surged late to relegate Maximus Mischief to third. The hitherto unbeaten favorite was giving five pounds to Harvey Wallbanger and six to Everfast as the 122-pound highweight.

Harvey Wallbanger was coming off a Churchill Downs maiden score in his fourth try, but his prior placings to a couple of high-profile rivals suggested he fit at this level. Second to future Champagne (G1) star Complexity despite trouble in his Saratoga premiere, the son of Congrats was just outdueled at Keeneland by Plus Que Parfait, the subsequent runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). Harvey Wallbanger finally shed his seconditis two starts later on November 17, and earned a shot in a Derby prep.

Maximus Mischief, making his first start since his Remsen (G2) victory, tried new tactics with new rider Jose Ortiz. On the front end in all three of his races as a juvenile, he conceded the early lead to the aggressive Epic Dreamer through splits of :23.18, :46.76, and 1:10.89. Maximus Mischief was under a drive to accost Epic Dreamer turning for home, and had a fight on his hands until gradually putting his foe away.

Harvey Wallbanger, on the other hand, had bided his time at the back. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. artfully stuck to the rail as he commenced his rally on the far turn, and he gained momentum fast while saving every yard of ground. Everfast navigated a wider path while catching fire a tad too late.

By the time Maximus Mischief won his match with Epic Dreamer, he had no response to the closers bearing down on either side of him. Harvey Wallbanger got up by a length in 1:43.69 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast track. Aside from sparking the $61.20 win payout, he topped the exacta ($1) worth $1,101.70.

Everfast thrust his neck in front of Maximus Mischief to take home 4 Derby points as the runner-up, his first appearance on the leaderboard after unplaced results in his prior scoring attempts. Maximus Mischief’s 2 points for third, added to his 10 from the Remsen, give him a total of 12. Epic Dreamer received 1 point for holding fourth.

Mihos, the 2-1 second choice, never kicked from off the pace and crossed the wire fifth. Next came Garter and Tie; Federal Case, who did not recover from a bobbling break; Come on Gerry; and Gladiator King. Going for Gold was scratched.

With this successful transition to stakes company, Harvey Wallbanger sports a mark of 5-2-3-0, $299,520. The bay colt races for the partnership of Harold Lerner LLC, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables, Scott K. Akman, and Paul Braverman.

Harvey Wallbanger was bought by McPeek, as Lerner’s agent, for $50,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. Bred by Tony Holmes and Dr. and Mrs. Walter Zent in Kentucky, he is out of the Distorted Humor mare Adorabell, herself a half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes winners Wild Deputy and Deb’s Honor.

Harvey Wallbanger’s fourth dam, Special Account, is a full sister to champion and influential matron Numbered Account. Hence both his sire, Congrats, and dam trace to the blue hen *La Troienne.

Quotes from Gulfstream Park

Trainer Ken McPeek on Harvey Wallbanger: “It’s a horse race. You can’t duck one, can you? He showed he had some good, solid ability. I was thinking he’d rise up to whatever level you put him in.

“All we did last fall was really kind of teach him what to do. The end of the season he was a little tired after his fourth race and we backed off, came down here, and took our time. I had some options to run in an a-other-than and I told (co-owner) Harold (Lerner), ‘Let’s find out how good he is, because he can’t be training any better.’ Today, told (jockey) Brian (Hernandez Jr.), ‘If they go, let them go. Don’t worry about it. Just tuck in, save some ground, and make your run.’

“He’s a good, solid horse. We tried to teach him how to run, certainly finish, come up the inside or outside or whatever it takes, and he’s learned his lessons, and Brian did a wonderful job getting him there.”

On future plans: “Let’s just enjoy the evening here and then figure it out. Fountain of Youth ([G2] on March 2), I’ve already got Signalman kind of circled for that, but that doesn’t mean that they both couldn’t run. I’d like to keep them apart if I can but one step at a time.”

Winning rider Brian Hernandez Jr.: “It was great. We had a horse that likes to come from behind and we thought they’d go quick in front. I was able to just kind of sit there. I knew to trust in my horse, because he was second in a couple of good maiden races and he always runs to his competition so I thought he’d give a good showing today. We’d have been happy if he’d have been second or third, but for him to jump up and win showed that he’s a good horse and he’s turned into a good three-year-old.

“When we turned for home and I got within range of them, I thought I had enough horse to where I’d get past them. I mean, he spurted through there quickly and he did it like a good horse.”

Jockey Jose Ortiz on Maximus Mischief, third as the favorite: “He broke good, clean. He sat second behind the speed, but I felt like they were coming on my outside, so I made my decision to go. When I asked him, he wasn’t going the way I wanted him to. I just had to start riding. I had a hard time catching the horse on the lead.”