Tight Spot

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Put the feed tub in front of West Hills Giant and watch him dive in with purpose. Put him on the outside in a race and watch him devour the ground. Put him down on the inside and try to get him through a hole and watch him hesitate. Such is life for trainer John Terranova dealing with the Frost Giant colt. The first two attributes are positive, the third an obvious negative. The negative almost caught up with West Hills Giant in Wednesday’s $100,000 Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Stakes.

Almost because West Hills Giant was awarded the stakes restricted to offspring of registered New York stallions after the disqualification of Orino for a squeeze play that occurred-you guessed it-down on the inside in deep stretch of the 1-mile turf stakes.

“It’s just a tough trip there,” Terranova said. “When I saw Edgar [Prado] not coming through quickly-I knew he was loaded around the turn-I was just hoping he’d have a big enough hole or he’d get out. The other jock rode the race smart I think he just got a little too close.

“West Hills Giant’s a big horse, a big long horse. Trying to get through there for him is tough. He’s not that nimble down inside when he’s in tight. But when he’s on the outside in his races he tips out with a wide, sweeping move, gets out, sweeps around. He likes that type of move. He’s surrounded all the way in here from what I can tell. I was hoping Edgar could get out at some point.”

Prado never did get out and tried to get West Hills Giant into a good-sized hole in the lane as Luis Saez got busy on Orino in midstretch.

The combination of West Hills Giant’s hesitation to get to the spot and Orino’s coming in slightly and set off a chain reaction. Prado said there was contact. West Hills Giant hit the inside rail, then again. Orino finished 1 1/4 lengths in front at the finish, setting off a hearty celebration from trainer Jim Bond’s sons Kevin and Ryan and others watching on the big screen in the clubhouse.

Almost as soon as they dashed out of the clubhouse to the racetrack to greet their mother, Tina, the owner of Orino, and their father, did the inquiry sign light up. The few minutes of review by the stewards upstairs must have felt like hours. When word came of a disqualification they reacted like anyone would, stormed off. Jim Bond, decked out in the same kind of bright blue suit coat that he wore when saddling Will’s Way to victories in the Travers and Whitney back in the 1990s shook his head, gave the Raffie’s Majesty a hearty pat on the neck, a temporary look of pride on his face.

Walking away from the scene, as West Hills Giant and members of the ownership group of Long Island Racing Stables, Sunrise Stables and Gina Bentivegna made their way to the winner’s circle, Bond exited with his wife. He declined comment, and headed straight to a monitor at the back of the building, watched the replay, shook his head a few times and went home.

Prado made his way through the clubhouse a few minutes later. He’s ridden West Hills Giant before, knows his little quirks and knows he likes it on the outside. Breaking from post 2 and covered up most of the way, there wasn’t much the Hall of Famer could do. He got good response from the multiple stakes winner when he squeezed on him around the turn and into the lane, but got his momentum stopped enough that the stewards felt it made the difference.

“It was enough to intimidate my horse,” Prado said. “I was gaining and if nothing happens, my horse could have run down the other horse. There was room, that’s why I shot through. I was gaining, gaining, slowly, slowly and the hole was getting smaller and smaller. When you make contact and get beat a half a length or a length it totally makes a lot of difference at the end.”

Saez, aboard for all Orino’s three previous starts, said there wasn’t room and disagreed with the decision.

“He tried to come into the rail, but he didn’t have room,” Saez said.” I don’t think the stewards were right.”

West Hills Giant was in the right place to get put up for the victory, coming out on the better end of a head-bob photo with Captain Gaughen to be second under the wire.

Terranova was thankful for that, and for West Hills Giant winning off 18 days rest and taking his second stakes in his last three starts. He won the Spectacular Bid division of the Stallion Series June 30 at Belmont, then came back on 20 days rest to finish a non-threatening third in the July 20 New York Derby in the slop at Finger Lakes. In 2013 alone West Hills Giant has run on the inner track at Aqueduct, Polytrack at Keeneland, dirt and turf at Belmont and in the slop at Finger Lakes.

Again, thankfully he bounces back quickly, all because of his ferocious appetitite.

“He’s a nice sweet moving horse, a throwback kind of horse. He just does it all, he likes to run and is a clean-legged horse,” Terranova said. “And he eats everything. Always has. Ever since he was a 2-year-old he ate more than any 2-year-old that I had last year. I had to keep feeding him. He just kept growing. One good thing about it is he’s never out of the tub, so he’s able to recover very quickly. He’s got a good solid constitution inside of him. I just wish there was some point, that he’d be able to keep going on the inside like he does on the outside.”

“He can be reluctant. He’ll hold back on you.I was afraid he might get squeezed down in there, because he was down there a little too long. Turf racing is all about the trip. We got lucky today, and we’ll take it.”