Everything went according to the "get ready for the Travers" plan for Gunnevera in Sunday's $100,000 Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The star South Florida-stabled colt took the lead entering the final turn and pulled away to win by five lengths over Front Loaded in the 1 1/16 mile dirt race for 3-year-olds.
With Edgard Zayas riding him for the first time in a race, Gunnevera won in 1:44.30 on the track listed as fast.
Trainer Antonio Sano was using the Tangelo as a prep for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (Grade 1) at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 26.
In the winner's circle after the Tangelo, Sano said that Zayas will ride Gunnevera in the 1 1/4 mile Travers.
Zayas has been riding Gunnevera on recent Saturday mornings at Calder (Gulfstream Park West), where Sano's horses are stabled.
"He knows the horse," Sano said.
Sano complimented Zayas for his Tangelo ride on Gunnevera, who has a come-from-behind style.
After a slow half mile of 50.96, Gunnevera was fourth by two lengths behind Arrecife.
But Sano said that Zayas "let him (Gunevera) run his race," rather than rushing him.
The result was a victory with Zayas hand riding Gunnevera down the stretch. Arrecife finished last in the five-horse field.
Gunnevera was the 1-5 favorite and Front Loaded was the 7-2 second betting choice.
The victory in the Tangelo was the fifth in 12 career starts for Gunnevera, a Kentucky-bred son of Dialed In.
This year, he won the Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstrean and later finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) and fifth in the Preakness (Grade 1).
In the Travers he will face many of the horses he ran against on this year's Triple Crown trail.
6 Gunnevera 2.40 2.10 2.10
1 Front Loaded 2.40 2.10
4 Manolete 3.40
$2 Exacta 6-1, $4.60; $2 Trifecta 6-1-4, $18.80
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HorseRacing FLA staff