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Hunter O’Riley rallies to win first stakes in G2 Bowling Green

by Brian Bohl for NYRA Publicity

Hunter O’Riley won his first career stakes in impressive fashion, running down Sadler’s Joy in deep stretch and outkicking Bigger Picture at the wire for a win by a neck in the 59th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Sean Shay and Michael Ryan, Hunter O’Riley was patiently led by jockey Florent Geroux, rallying from last in the seven-horse field to gain blacktype for trainer Jimmy Toner.

Closing Bell set the early fractions, going the opening quarter-mile in 25.87 seconds. Hello Don Julio took command after a 49.78 half-mile.

After bushing the starting gate, Geroux used a ground-saving trip and later moved Hunter O’Riley in the five-path. After Sadler’s Joy made a move from the outside at the top of the stretch, Hunter O’Riley and Bigger Picture cleared away to the finish line with the former taking control in the final jumps, completing 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf in 2:12.94.

“I had a great trip. We work nicely together. He’s always been a fine nice horse,” Geroux said. “We weren’t going that fast but by the second quarter, everybody was looking at each other, and there was nothing going on. There was pushing; trying to get each other out of the way, and I was just sitting back there.”

Hunter O’Riley was cutting back in distance after a fifth-place effort in the Grade 3 Belmont Gold Cup last out on June 9. After finishing off the board in his previous three graded stakes starts, the 4-year-old son of Tiz Wonderful earned the trip to the winners’ circle.

“I had confidence going in,” Toner said. “He tries every time he runs, so it’s like we get a piece of it every time he runs. We figured we finish third or fourth today. [It’s] a good effort and we’ll look for something after that. He closed well, and he tries. You’re going get that break out race, and today was that breakout race so we’re really excited.”

The longest shot in the race at 16-1, Hunter O’Riley returned $34.60 on a $2 win bet, improving his career earnings to $361,460.

Bigger Picture, who won the Grade 1 United Nations at the Bowling Green distance last out on July 1, surged to the line for trainer Mike Maker, finishing a neck ahead of Sadler’s Joy for runner-up status.

“He ran great as always and we were second best today,” Maker said. “[It was a] thrilling race. I thought we’d get there but didn’t quite today.”

Added Bigger Picture jockey Joe Bravo: “The horse ran really well from the start and finished strong. He [came] up just short in the end but racing in a big race such as that I really commend the animal for how he ran.”

Sadler’s Joy, for trainer Tom Albertrani, finished in the money for the seventh consecutive start and fifth against graded stakes competition.

Ascend, Hello Don Julio and Frank Conversation completed the order of finish. Closing Bell was pulled up and did not finish. ­

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