Fuerteventura makes Jersey Derby third consecutive victory

Marcus Hersch, DRF
The 3-year-old gelding Fuerteventura has gone from $30,000 maiden-claimer to stakes winner in two starts.

Fuerteventura finished a well-beaten seventh facing maiden-special-weight competition in his career debut, prompting connections to drop him into a $30,000 maiden-claiming race. He won that easily, won again under non-winners-of-two starter-allowance conditions, and on Sunday at Monmouth swooped past odds-on favorite Quality G and held off closing Celestial City to win the $98,000 Jersey Derby by a head.

“I’m okay admitting I’m wrong, and I’ve been wrong about this horse,” said Jonathan Thomas, who trains Fuerteventura for Robery LaPenta and the gelding’s breeder, Brereton Jones. “He’s improved every start. He got a lot of confidence from those races.”

Thomas had scratched High Front from the Jersey Derby to instead race Sunday at Belmont, and Ohtwoohthreefive also was withdrawn, leaving a field of just five in this two-turn turf mile.

There Are No Words led, tracked by Quality G, through a half-mile in a moderate 48.66 seconds. Isaac Castillo had Fuerteventura a few lengths behind the leaders and was happy with his position, regardless of the pace. “I wasn’t worried about them going slow early on because I knew my horse would finish,” Castillo said.

Thomas saw the leaders racing too aggressively as his horse relaxed. Castillo asked for run around the far turn, and as Quality G put away There Are No Words in upper stretch, Fuerteventura pounced, taking the lead in the final furlong and holding clear Celestial City to win by a head. Time for the mile on a firm course was 1:34.93. The winner paid $13.40 as Quality G held third.

“I was a little surprised by this because I thought [a mile] would be a bit short for him,” Thomas said. “Maybe he is better at a mile. I could be wrong and that’s fine when this happens. He’s a very intelligent horse. He settles, relaxes and listens to his riders.”

Fuerteventura is by Summer Front out of Casanova Striker, by Smart Strike.