July 14, 2024

Nutella Fella rallies for 54-1 Hopeful shocker

Nutella Fella, by Claiborne sire Runhappy, sprang a $111 upset in the Hopeful (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Entering Monday trainer Gary Contessa had saddled just one winner all season, that being first-time starter Becky’s Joker ($44.40) in the Schuylerville (G3) on Saratoga‘s opening day card July 13. Contessa pulled off an even bigger surprise in the meet’s final stakes, the $300,000 Hopeful (G1), when Nutella Fella outran his nine rivals down the stretch to register one of the biggest upsets in race history at 54-1.

Making his first start for Contessa after taking his July 26 debut at Delaware Park for trainer Richard Sillaman, Nutella Fella lagged behind the field down the backside in the seven-furlong Hopeful. Improving position on the far turn while saving ground, Nutella Fella swung wide for the stretch run and galloped past 2-1 favorite Timberlake late to win by 1 1/2 lengths under Junior Alvarado.

Contessa readily gave a tip of the hat to the NYRA gate crew, who had worked with Nutella Fella for weeks in trying to overcome the gate problems he had exhibited at Delaware in the lead up to his 2 1/4-length maiden win.

“The New York gate grew made this happen as much as I did,” Contessa said. “He was an absolute maniac in the gate at Delaware Park and Hector [Soler, head starter] and the gate crew on the training track side worked with him every day and absolutely straightened him out, and I have a lot of thanks for that gate crew.

“We kind of figured he was going to break slow from the gate because he’s a moron in the gate, and I just was hoping there’d be plenty of speed, which there was.”

Just Steel, pressured by Yo Yo Candy and Mission Beach into setting fractions of :22.19 and :44.89, eventually backed out with the rest of the speed. Timberlake, who tracked that trio in fourth, made a brief lead in deep stretch but was no match for Nutella Fella.

“When I looked at the field I said, ‘this is a salty field, but if you look at his workouts, they’ve been phenomenal,'” Contessa said. “So, it’s kind of like Becky’s Joker. He had the workouts and the question was, is he good enough? Sure enough, he is.”

Owned by Bell Gable Stable, Nutella Fella paid $111 after completing the course in 1:24.41 over a track labeled fast. Finishing a neck behind Timberlake in third was Pirate. The order of finish was completed by Be You, Mission Beach, Gold Sweep, Just Steel, Baytown Chatterbox, Valentine Candy, and Yo Yo Candy.

Contessa said Nutella Fella would target the one-mile Champagne (G1) at Aqueduct on Oct. 7 in advance of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

“Champagne to Breeders’ Cup, unless he throws us a curve. He’s going to stay up here the next six weeks with me and we’ll be racing in the Champagne from here,” Contessa said.

Bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and sold for $12,000 at Keeneland September, Nutella Fella is by Runhappy and out of Krissy’s Candy, by Candy Ride. This female family also produced the Hall of Fame sprinter Housebuster.

Earlier Monday, Pioneering Spirit won for the fifth time in his last six starts when taking the $145,500 Bernard Baruch S. by 2 3/4 lengths over Bring Me a Check. Multiple graded winner Wit, the 1.95-1 favorite, trailed the field of five in his first start since January.

Owned by A. Bianco Holding Limited and trained by Linda Rice, Pioneering Spirit covered 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in 1:40.69 under Jose Lezcano and paid $8.20.

A four-year-old gelding by American Pharoah, Pioneering Spirit was recording his first stakes win after checking in a distant third nine days ago in the Sword Dancer (G1).