Aboard the 2014 Indiana Derby (G2) and Ohio Derby winner for the first time, the summer meet's leading jockey was more than a little impressed with the manner in which East Hall defeated five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up over a sloppy main track.
"That's the best horse I've ever sat on," said Gaffalione, who has been highly sought after for stakes engagements despite not being able to take advantage of the five-pound apprentice allowance he enjoys in non-stakes. "He's an old class horse who does everything right. Early on, he just gallops along. When I asked him to run, he really exploded. Not many horses can do that."
East Hall, the 9-2 third betting choice who had been winless in seven starts this year, settled off the pace set by Phish Fan along the backstretch and into the far turn while being stalked by Ledokol, the 3-1 second choice, and 9-10 favorite Souper Lucky. Gaffalione asked the 4-year-old son of Graeme Hall for his run on the turn, and he kicked in with a run between horses. A tiring Phish Fan showed the way into the stretch with Lynx in pursuit, flanked to his outside by East Hall and a weakening Ledokol and Souper Lucky. At the top of the stretch, East Hall took command and drew off to a clear victory. Lynx, ridden by Jonathan Gonzales, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Rich Daddy and jockey Emisael Jaramillo. Souper Lucky faded to fifth.
East Hall ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.23 over the sloppy going to earn the $46,035 winner's purse, boosting his career earnings to $867,665 for owners Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice.
"He had a class edge over these horses. He's won $800,000," trainer Bill Kaplan said. "He's been running against some tougher company or on grass. Those were all races where he couldn't show who he was. He just ran by them today. I'm very happy to see him in the winner's circle."
Kaplan said he had no definite plan for the gelding's next start.
"We'll play it by ear," Kaplan said. "We could end up in Kentucky."