Gormley Outlasts Pacesetters in SA Derby

8th at SA, $750kGI Santa Anita Derby (1 1/8m)Winner: Gormley, c, 3 by Malibu Moon

Gormley | Benoit Photo

Jerry and Ann Moss's Gormley (Malibu Moon) showed a new dimension Saturday and wore down extremely game pacesetter and 'TDN Rising Star' Battle of Midway (Smart Strike) by a half-length to reassert himself as one to watch for at Churchill Downs next month. Fellow Moss colorbearer and John Shirreffs trainee Royal Mo (Uncle Mo) checked in a solid third after chasing the pace out wide (+68 ft. according to Trakus), while co-favorites Reach the World (Tapit) and Iliad (Ghostzapper) settled for fourth and fifth, respectively.

Saturday, Santa Anita Park
SANTA ANITA DERBY-GI, $1,002,415, SA, 4-8, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:51.16, ft.
1–GORMLEY, 124, c, 3, by Malibu Moon
1st Dam: Race to Urga (SW, $182,816), by Bernstein
2nd Dam: Miss Mambo, by Kingmambo
3rd Dam: Troika, by Strawberry Road (Aus)
($150,000 RNA Ylg '15 KEESEP). O-Mr. & Mrs. Jerome S. Moss;
B-Castleton Lyons & Kilboy Estate (KY); T-John A. Shirreffs;
J-Victor Espinoza. $600,000. Lifetime Record: 6-4-0-0,
$920,000.Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple
Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Battle of Midway, 124, c, 3, Smart Strike–Rigoletta, by
Concerto. 'TDN Rising Star' ($410,000 Ylg '15 FTSAUG). O-Fox
Hill Farms, Inc.; B-Thor-Bred Stables, LLC (KY); T-Jerry
Hollendorfer. $200,000.3–Royal Mo, 124, c, 3, Uncle Mo–Royal Irish Lass, by Saint
Ballado. ($300,000 Ylg '15 KEESEP). O-Mr. & Mrs. Jerome S.
Moss; B-Brandywine Farm (Jim & Pam Robinson) (KY); T-John
A. Shirreffs. $120,000.Margins: HF, HF, HF. Odds: 6.20, 7.20, 11.70.
Also Ran: Reach the World, Iliad, Kimbear, Term of Art, Irish Freedom, Milton Freewater, Midnight Pleasure, So Conflated, American Anthem, Comma Sister.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

A clear-cut debut winner for his famously patient barn at Del Mar late in the summer meet last year, Gormley took a giant step forward from a speed figure perspective when inheriting an easy lead and never looking back in the local GI FrontRunner S. in October. He simply never looked comfortable after failing to find a good foothold in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile the following month, but bounced back with aplomb when gamely fending off well-regarded American Anthem (Bodemeister) in the GIII Sham S. over a sloppy mile Jan. 7. Gormley pressed the brilliantly talented 'Rising Star' Mastery (Candy Ride {Arg}) in the GII San Felipe S. last out Mar. 11, but was the first to blink and backed up to fourth behind that romping runner, who suffered a condylar fracture on the gallop-out.

Gormley took up a perfect drafting spot early along the rail as Battle of Midway, American Anthem and Royal Mo lined up across the track and ran off through hot splits of :22.66, :46.55 and 1:10.92. Guided off the rail to avoid the fading American Anthem turning for home, the bay took a stride or two to get his feet under him in upper stretch, but eventually leveled off late to kick past the valiant Battle of Midway and Royal Mo in the final sixteenth.

“I think the key was [Victor] Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move,” Shirreffs said. “This is very exciting. It's thrilling to have a Kentucky Derby horse and it's for the same owners as [2005 Derby winner] Giacomo. Royal Mo ran really big. If he had a better post position, you wonder how he would have done. I really wasn't paying attention to the fractions. I just saw my horse and he got behind horses including Royal Mo. Gormley is an evolving horse. He's very precocious and very excitable. I just need to turn that energy of his into positive use. It's a lot of growing pains with a talented horse. I think using the tongue tie certainly helped us today. We'll see how this shakes out. We'll see how he comes out of this race in the morning and if all is well, we'll point to the Kentucky Derby.”

Royal Mo, drawn widest Saturday, annexed the GIII Robert B. Lewis S. Feb. 4 before fading to ninth in Oaklawn's GII Rebel S. Mar. 18. This owner/trainer combination upset the 2007 Santa Anita Derby with Tiago (Pleasant Tap).

“It's been such a great time bringing both of these horses up and both came through beautifully today,” said Jerry Moss.

Both Gormley and Royal Mo had been ridden by Espinoza in each of their prior outings.

“Today the big difference was that he was ready,” said the 2002, 2014 and 2015 Kentucky Derby-winning pilot. “Something went wrong last time, he was good, but not quite where I wanted. I was a little bit disappointed, but it seems like today he was on his toes, on his game and I was really ready for it. All it takes is having a lot of confidence in him against the other horses and with John [Shirreffs] we were hoping he chose the right one.”

Both Shirreffs and Espinoza are finalists for the 2017 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.

Spendthrift Farm tweeted after the race that Gormley would take up stud duties at the Kentucky stallion station upon retirement.

Pedigree Notes:

Gormley was acquired by these connections shortly after he RNA'd for $150,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Castleton Lyons acquired Gormley's second dam Miss Mambo privately after she finished third in the 2004 G1 Pule d'Essai des Pouliches and second in the G2 Prix de Sandringham. She'd go on to win a listed event in Ireland and annex a Gulfstream allowance for the Ryan family. Race to Urga took the grassy 2012 Wait a While S. for Castleton Lyons and Christophe Clement. She produced a Smart Strike colt in 2015 and a Gio Ponti col in 2016 before being bred to Justin Phillip.

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