Trained by Rick Dutrow, Jr., the 4-year-old Race Day grey secured his second Grade 1 win at nine furlongs following a powerful 1 1/4-length score in last year’s Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park while in the care of conditioner Saffie Joseph, Jr.
White Abarrio joined Dutrow, Jr.’s barn this spring and made his first start for the veteran conditioner with a troubled third in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 10 at Belmont Park, overcoming a stumbled start to finish 3 1/4-lengths back of the victorious returning rival Cody’s Wish, while registering a career-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure.
“Very, very happy for everybody involved. The owners trusted me to train the horse and now we get to go further with him,” Dutrow, Jr. said. “We can even think about the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After we’ve been looking at him and trying to figure him out, he runs huge between two and three months. Today was two months, last time he ran was about three months. He ran big last time, even though he didn’t get the money, we were extremely happy. Now we get to think about going even further in the mile and a quarter [Classic] or the [Dirt] Mile. We’re sitting in a good spot. We’re very happy.”
The complexion of the race changed when Cody’s Wish, the 2-5 mutuel favorite, bobbled at the break and trailed the field of six. The Bill Mott-trained Cody’s Wish, with Junior Alvarado up, had notched nine wins from his last 10 starts, including four straight Grade 1 scores topped by a last-out victory in the Grade 1 Met Mile.
Giant Game took control of the race and led through splits of 24.41 seconds and 48.27 over the fast main track with White Abarrio stalking a close second in front of longshot Last Samurai, who raced to the outside of the Jose Ortiz-piloted Zandon.
Alvarado asked Cody’s Wish to make an early move as Giant Game led the field into the far turn through three-quarters in 1:11.81. Jose Ortiz tipped Zandon off the rail late in the turn as White Abarrio, full of run, took over from a retreating Giant Game.
White Abarrio put five lengths on the field at the stretch call as Cody’s Wish improved his position with a wide move and Zandon was asked for his best run. But there was no reeling in a game White Abarrio, who powered through the wire a 6 1/4-length winner in a final time of 1:48.45. Zandon completed the exacta by 3 3/4-lengths over Cody’s Wish with Charge It, Giant Game and Last Samurai completing the order of finish.
Ortiz, Jr., the Spa’s leading rider, said he felt confident White Abarrio would fire a big shot following his Met Mile effort.
“I thought with that race and Rick giving him the break straight to this race, I knew he was ready,” said Ortiz, Jr., aboard White Abarrio for the first time since a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap in December at Aqueduct Racetrack. “I was working him before this and he was so positive on the horse. I knew he was going to break good and I could sit second or third from there. That’s what I did. The horse was ready and he took me all the way to the quarter-pole nice and easy; and when I asked him, he was there for me.”
Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, White Abarrio, whose record stands at 14-6-1-3, banked $550,000 in victory and improved his earnings to $1,826,350. He returned $22.40 for a $2 win bet.