VA-BRED BOND HOLDER WINS GRADE 1 STAKES AT SANTA ANITA

BOND HOLDER (Benoit Photo)

BOND HOLDER (Benoit Photo)

(ESPN/AP/Other outlets) Virginia-bred Bond Holder went from maiden to Grade 1 winner when he closed from well off the pace to capture the $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds Sept. 28 at Santa Anita Park.

Bred by Lazy Lane Farms and runner-up in a one-mile maiden special weight test in his previous start at Del Mar Aug. 31, Bond Holder’s two-turn experience turned out to be key as he soared past weakening favorites Dance With Fate and Can the Man in the final furlong to post a 10-1 upset by 2 ¼ lengths in the field of 10.

Bond Holder scored in his initial try on dirt for the I’ll Have Another connections of owner J. Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez, completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in a tepid 1:45.02 on a fast track. It was the second Grade 1 win of the day for O’Neill; he won the Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park earlier with Private Zone.

“This race set up great for my horse because he likes to come from behind,” Gutierrez said. “He seemed to like the distance today and I think that played a major part in his win. I don’t think the dirt made much of a difference because he runs everywhere; it was the distance that was the biggest factor.”

The victory puts the son of Mineshaft into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The FrontRunner, contested until last year as the Norfolk Stakes, is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” series race.

Bond Holder, a $125,000 Ocala select two-year-old buy by Dennis O’Neill in March, broke through in his fifth lifetime start. Bond Holder was originally purchased for $90,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale through Warrendale Sales, agent.

“We had great expectations for this horse even though he was a maiden,” said O’Neill assistant Leandro Mora, filling in for his absent boss. “He ran a huge race at Del Mar and we knew we had a legitimate horse. Mario has ridden the horse every time, but we told him just to let the horse alone and let him do his thing the last quarter of a mile. That’s the way this horse likes to run — the last quarter of a mile.”

Bred in Virginia by Lazy Lane Farm, The bay colt is the initial stakes victor out of Conquistador Cielo mare Cielo Girl, a multiple stakes winner.

Dance With Fate finished two lengths in front of Tamarando, who hit the side of the gate and rallied past several to get the show spot for Julien Leparoux by three-quarters of a length over Can the Man. Flat Gone, Test Ride, Better Bet, Ontology, Even Echo, and Roundupthelute completed the order.

In addition to his runner-up effort at Del Mar last time, Bond Holder also produced a pair of thirds in sprints at the seaside track this summer. He debuted finishing fifth in the six-furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Betfair Hollywood Park July 13. His initial victory, worth $150,000, extended his career earnings to $186,000Under equal weights of 122 pounds, Bond Holder paid $23.80, $8.60, and $3.80 as the sixth choice in the field, keying a $93 exacta. Dance With Fate, the slight 2-1 pick over Can the Man, returned $3.80 and $2.80. Tamarando paid $3.20.

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