July 18, 2024

O’Connor earns first U.S. stakes win in Fayette

O'Connor at the Hagyard Fayette (G2) at Keeneland
O'Connor (outside) gets up to win the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland (Photo by Coady Photography)

O’Connor looked like a potential star when making a promising U.S. debut at Gulfstream a little more than a year ago. However, the Chilean import went winless in his next six starts, earning only minor awards in races like the Ghostzapper (G3), West Virginia Governor’s (G3), and Charles Town Classic (G2).

The six-year-old’s luck finally turned on Saturday, closing day of Keeneland’s fall meet, when he prevailed in a three-way battle for the win over Il Miracolo and Speed Bias to take the $310,538 Fayette (G2) by a head under Tyler Gaffalione.

“He took everything that was thrown at him,” said Gaffalione, who earned Keeneland’s fall meet riding title.

The winning margin for O’Connor was a head over Il Miracolo, with whom he raced in tandem into contention around the far turn and in upper stretch. Speed Bias, who stalked the pace before taking a narrow lead around the far turn, was a head farther back in third. The order of finish was rounded out by Twilight Blue, Dash Attack, Law Professor, 2-1 favorite Trademark, and Happy American.

Owned by Michael Iavarone, Julia Iavarone, and Fernando Vine, O’Connor returned $12.92 after completing 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.61. He is trained by Saffie Joseph Jr.

Although the Fayette was O’Connor’s first graded win in the U.S., he had been a top-level performer in his native Chile, where he was voted Horse of the Year for 2021-22. His signature win there was the Gran Premio Latinoamericano over 1 1/4 miles in April 2022.

Bred by Haras Carioca, O’Connor was sired by Boboman and produced by Torrente de Agua, a daughter of Touch Gold. This female family also produced the Grade 1-winning mare Hystericalady.

The $297,307 Bryan Station (G3) for three-year-olds on the turf was decided in fashion similar to that of the Fayette, with the top three separated by a head and nose. Emerging on top was 20-1 chance Runaway Storm under Colby Hernandez, who edged odds-on favorite Talk of the Nation. Santorini, who led much of the way finished third after setting the pace most of the way.

Coming off a third-place finish in the Virginia Derby (G3) in his stakes debut, Runaway Storm won for the third time in five starts, completing one mile on a course rated good in 1:35.93. He returned $42.50.

A Kentucky-bred son of Midnight Storm, Runaway Storm races for breeder Robert Hunt and is trained by Ethan West.

The first stakes of the day, the $169,775 Bowman Mill S. for two-year-olds, was won by the Iowa-bred Glengarry by a half-length over Normandy Hero. Valentine Candy finished third, while 2-1 favorite Patriot Spirit finished fourth in the field of seven.

Now 3-for-3, Glengarry sped six furlongs in 1:11.52 under Luis Saez. The second choice in the wagering, Glengarry returned $7.46.

Owned by Aaron Kennedy, Toby Joseph, and trainer Doug Anderson, Glengarry registered his first two wins at Prairie Meadows. The son of Maximus Mischief won an open maiden by 5 3/4 lengths in late August and followed up last month with a 12 3/4-length romp in the Iowa Cradle for state-breds.