Under jockey John Velazquez, the chestnut colt was content to save ground behind pacesetter Inca King through the early going, and after moving into contention on the inside on the turn, finally found running room at the top of the stretch and wore down Stalingrad in the final yards for the neck victory, his first since setting a course record in last year’s Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs at 37-1.
After finishing second in the Grade 1 Secretariat last August and second again in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap to Nobiz like Shobiz in October, Red Giant had “an ankle issue” that flared up on him and Pletcher took his time bringing him back.
“We gave him plenty of time for a summer campaign,” said Pletcher, in winning his first Fourstardave. “I had entered him in an allowance race that didn’t fill. We nominated him to this race as a back-up plan.”
Sent off as the 4-1 third choice in the field of nine, Red Giant completed the 1 1/16th miles in 1:41.93 over a course listed as yielding after on-and-off showers. It was his fifth victory in 11 starts, and earned him $90,000 to boost his bankroll to $942,410.
“I just bided my time with him and tried to follow the next horse [Stalingrad] that was moving in front of me,” said Velazquez. “After that, I was hoping to get some sort of daylight. I put my horse over there, he shot through there, and it was all over.”
Shadwell Farms’ Danak, the favorite, took a bad step at the head of the stretch and was pulled up nearing the wire.
“He’ll be okay,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughin of Danak, a Group 3 winner in Ireland who was making his second stateside start and first since finishing sixth in last year’s Grade 1 Arlington Million. “He grabbed a shoe off and was bleeding from his left front and left-hind. Rajiv (Maragh) pulled him up, luckily. He’ll be fine.”
Thorn Song was a length behind Stalingrad in third, and was followed under the wire by Distorted Reality, Inca King, War Monger, Elusive Fort and Prince Rahy.
Pletcher said he had not picked out a spot for Red Giant’s next start, but mentioned the Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard baruch at Saratoga on Travers Day, August 23, as a possibility.
“We’ll have to see if the Bernard Baruch gives him enough time,” said the trainer. “It may come up a little quick for him.”
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher of Red Giant (No. 1): “There is no question that he is a quality horse. We weren’t concerned about him not being good enough in a spot like this. Our concern was that he hadn’t run in awhile. He had an ankle issue that flared up on him last year. We gave him plenty of time for a summer campaign. I had entered him in an allowance race that didn’t fill. We nominated him to this race as a back-up plan. I thought he sat a perfect trip by saving ground on both turns. He was kind of anxious looking for a spot at the top of the stretch. When he finally found a seam to run through, he put in a big run. We’ll have to see if the Bernard Baruch [Grade 2, $200,000, 3 and up, nine furlongs, turf, Travers Day, Saturday, August 23) gives him enough time. It may come up a little too quick for him.”
Winning jockey John Velazquez: “I had a good trip. He broke sharp and I sat against him. I just bided my time with him, and tried to follow the next horse (Stalingrad) that was moving in front of me. After that, I was hoping to get some sort of daylight. I put my horse over there, he shot through there and it was all over.”
Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of beaten favorite Danak (No. 5): “He’ll be okay. He grabbed a shoe off and was bleeding from his left-front and left-hind. Rajiv (Maragh, jockey) pulled him up, luckily. He’ll be fine.”
Rajiv Maragh, jockey of Danak: “My horse took some bad steps, a real bad stumble at the top of stretch. So, I protected him. I wrapped him up.”
NOTES: This is trainer Todd Pletcher’s first Fourstardave victory. . . It is the sixth Fourstardave victory for jockey John Velazquez, who won this race (then called the Daryl’s Joy) in 1992 with Now Listen, and with Da Hoss (1996, first year it was called the Fourstardave), Dr. Kashnikow (2001), Nothing to Lose (2004) and Leroidesanimeaux (2005). . . Also on Sunday, Pletcher won Monmouth Park’s Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes with J’Ray (Joe Bravo, up)