Gunnevera — who won the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier this year — made his return to the races today a very successful one. The multiple Graded Stakes winner captured the $100,000 Tangelo Stakes at his old stomping grounds by an easy and impressive 5 lengths.
He is now going to make his next start in what is shaping up as a spectacular renewal of the G1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 26.
“My horse is back 100 percent,” trainer Antonio Sano told the press box crew at Gulfstream Park. “The race was very easy for him today. He’s gained weight. He’s very happy. And now we’ll go to the Travers.”
Gunnevera stamped himself as one of the early favorites for this year’s Kentucky Derby when he began the 3YO campaign with a strong second place finish behind the speed oriented Irish War Cry in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream. Gunnevera, a son of Dialed In, came right back to win the G2 Fountain of Youth with a spectacular sweeping move that launched him from last to first, pulling away to a 53/4-length victory.
In the Florida Derby, Gunnevera was greatly compromised when he drew the far outside post position in a race that also featured eventual Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. He made a very professional and very respectful run to finish third in that race.
But after a disappointing run in the mud at Churchill Downs in the Derby and a dull fifth place finish in the Preakness Stakes, when he had every chance to make a late move, he was given a vacation.
On Sunday, the vacation was over. Gunnevera was favored at 1-10 against four rivals in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds. Ridden for the first time by Edgard Zayas, Gunnevera was fanned wide on the first turn before closely tracking the field from fifth along the backstretch as long shot Arrecife set slow fractions of 25.94 seconds and 50.96 for the first half-mile. Zayas kept the Kentucky-bred colt clear on the outside and asked his mount for some run heading into the far turn. Gunnevera responded with a three-wide move to pass the tiring pacesetter and Prince Tito leaving the turn into the homestretch without much encouragement. The odd-on favorite drew off to a comfortable victory, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.30.
“He did it pretty easy as we expected. On the first turn Prince Tito was trying to take him a little outside. So I saved some ground. He was much the best. I was trying to stay out of trouble so I put him back on the outside and made one run,” Zayas said. “He did it pretty easy. Once he got to the stretch he fired up.”
Following Gunnevera’s sharp effort Sunday, Sano stated that Zayas would retain the mount for the Travers.