Trainer Gary Contessa, who opened the 2023 Saratoga Race Course meet with a 21-1 upset in the Schuylerville (G3), closed the 40-day summer season when Nutella Fella posted a stunning 54-1 upset in the $300,00 Hopeful (G1) on Monday.
Under Mike Venezia Award winning jockey Junior Alvarado, Nutella Fella broke awkwardly and spotted the field at least three lengths after the gates opened in the 7-furong race for 2-year-olds.
Ambling along as Just Steel and Mission Beach led the field of 10 through crisp fractions of 22.19 and 48.89 for a half mile, Alvarado waited until the far turn before tipping his colt to the far outside and letting him loose to buzz past the leaders and go on to a 1 ½-length victory over 2-1 favorite Timberlake.
“I told Gary, ‘all the way from the back, we’ll make a good run from there,’ ‘’ Alvarado said. “I was lucky I was last. He was fantastic today.”
Yes he was. The 2-year-old Runhappy colt faced a formidable field in a pair of Todd Pletcher trainees Pirate and Be You, a pair of Steve Asmussen colts Gold Sweep and Valentine Candy and Timberlake. Muth, the 5-2 morning-line favorite trained by Bob Baffert, was scratched.
Nutella Fella, a son of Runhappy, returned $111 on a $2 win bet, with the 3-5 exacta returning $296.50. Winning time was 1:24.41.
“We kind of figured he was going to break slow from the gate because he’s a moron in the gate, and I just was hoping there’d be plenty of speed, which there was,’’ Contessa said. “When they said 22 (seconds) flat (for the first quarter mile), I was thinking, ‘this is great.’
“Then Junior went from the inside to the outside and I thought he rode him masterfully. He saved ground when he could and then ultimately went outside and got the money.”
The Hopeful is among the top 2-year-old races in the country, and with Nutella Fella’s win it puts him in the mix as a colt to contend with in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. Contessa said the Champagne (G1) on Oct. 7 is the likely next start for Nutella Fella, who is 2-for-2 after winning his debut at Delaware Park, where he also has a hard time dealing with the gate and start.
“The New York gate crew made this happen as much as I did,’’ Contessa said. “He was an absolute maniac in the gate at Delaware Park and Hector (Soler, head starter at NYRA) and the gate crew on the training track side worked with him every day and absolutely straightened him out, and I have a lot of thanks for that gate crew.”
Pirate was third, followed by Be You, Mission Beach, Gold Sweep, Just Steel, Baytown Chatterbox, Valentine Candy, and Yo Yo Candy.
“I thought I was in pretty good shape,’’ Timberlake’s jockey Florent Geroux said. “The three horse (Nutella Fella) just kicked on the outside by everybody at the end, so I don’t really know.”
Nutella Fella was purchased for a mere $12,000 as a yearling by owner Nick and Delores Beaver’s Belle Gable Stable. With a 2-for-2 record, Nutella Fella has earnings of $187,800.
Baffert said Muth will be pointed to the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 7.
Notes: In the Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies, Becky’s Joker, with Javier Castellano aboard, returned $44.40 on a $2 win bet.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.