Gunnevera set for Woodward Stakes after winning return
Gunnevera scored by six and a half lengths in an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park on Friday, showing he has retained his ability after recovering from a hoof injury suffered in the Dubai World Cup.
His connections plan to point the multiple Grade 1-placed son of Dialed In to the Woodward Stakes on September 1 at Saratoga.
Gunnevera, a three-time Graded stakes winner, had not raced since finishing eighth in the Dubai World Cup. The Kentucky-bred four-year-old was freshened up in Florida for two months to give the hoof time to heal before he returned to trainer Antonio Sano's stable at Gulfstream Park West.
"I'm so happy with my horse coming back after having the time off," Sano said. "The rider, Edgard Zayas, said the horse is 100 per cent."
Gunnevera, who was sent to post at odds of 1-9 in Friday's five-horse field, trailed the group early before making an impressive wide run to take the lead leaving the turn into the home straight and drawing away for a dominant victory from Leitone, the Chilean Derby winner.
Gunnevera finished in 1min 42.03sec and closed impressively off mediocre fractions. "At the three-eighths pole, I kind of tapped him on the back, because he was kind of lazy," Zayas said. "I just wanted to make sure he was there, and I tapped him on the back a couple times – one or two times – and after that it was a hand ride. He was moving beautiful."
Sano said Gunnevera would do most of his training in Florida before he ships to Saratoga, where he won the 2016 Saratoga Special Stakes and finished second in the 2017 Travers Stakes.
"The horse will work here for the next two weeks and then, maybe August 24 or 25, he will go to Saratoga," Sano said.
Gunnevera, who capped his three-year-old season with a fifth-placed finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar, finished third in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in January before travelling to Dubai.
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