Honoring the greatest Virginia-bred Thoroughbred, Saturday’s $500,000 Secretariat (G2) took place at Colonial Downs in Virginia for the first time, and Virginia-bred Gigante provided a storybook ending by rallying last-to-first in the one-mile turf affair.
The Steve Asmussen-trained colt surprised in a 22-1 upset.
His first three wins came on the front end, but Gigante switched tactics under new rider Javier Castellano, rating in last among six runners before launching a four-wide move on the far turn. Major Dude, who prompted pacesetter Mo Stash through opening splits in :23.67 and :48.03, seized the lead entering the stretch, but his advantage was short-lived.
Gigante charged to the fore and proved resilient in the latter stages, turning back a serious bid from Nagirroc to prevail by a neck. Nagirroc just missed after closing wide into contention, holding second as the 2.20-1 second choice.
The winner stopped the teletimer in 1:35.10 on the firm ground.
Silver Knott could not muster the needed late kick in the stretch, winding up another 1 3/4 lengths back in third, a nose better than Major Dude. Northern Invader, the 9-5 favorite, and Mo Stash completed the order.
By Not This Time, Gigante won twice at Colonial last summer, breaking his maiden on the main track the second time out and recording a convincing win in the Kitten’s Joy on turf over state-bred rivals. After dropping his final two juvenile starts against graded competition, he notched the first open stakes victory in his 2023 comeback, leading all the way in May’s Caesars H. at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
Fourth in the American Derby at Ellis Park two back, Gigante rebounded from a third against elder foes in the restricted Edward P. Evans S. at Colonial on July 15, increasing his earnings to $583,550 from a 9-4-0-1 record. He’s campaigned by Iapetus Racing and Diamond T Racing.
Gigante is the second stakes winner out of the Empire Maker mare Summertime Queen. Bred by Anne Mudge Backer and Smitten Farm, he sold for $150,000 as a yearling at the 2021 Keeneland September sale.