Big Everest Successful on Return in $100K Danger’s Hour

April 15, 2023

Big Everest (#3 inside) holds off Anaconda in the Danger’s Hour (Chelsea Durand)

By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— After rounding out his 4-year-old season with a local stakes triumph in the Artie Schiller in November, Big Everest picked up where he left off, going gate-to-wire in the $100,000 Danger’s Hour for older horses over the Aqueduct Racetrack inner turf.

Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Steven Rocco and William Branch, Big Everest, one of three starters for the one-mile Danger’s Hour, broke alertly from post 2 under Manny Franco. He received added pressure from the Kendrick Carmouche-piloted Eleven Central passing the stands the first time around, but established a clear lead into the opening turn, marking easy fractions of 23.17 seconds for the quarter-mile and 47.51 for the half-mile over the firm going.

Around the far turn through three quarters in 1:10.93, Big Everest was still in command as a ground-saving Anaconda moved to his outside and launched a bid. Anaconda made up ground with each stride in the final furlong, but Big Everest held on to win by a nose with Eleven Central completing the order of finish 6 1/2 lengths back in third. 

The Danger’s Hour saw a reduced field after four scratches, including main-track only entrant Bourbon Calling; graded-stakes winner Celestial City, who was reported to have incurred a minor issue in training on Friday; Koolhaus, who cross-entered in Race 6 Sunday at the Big A; and So High, who got loose during training on Thursday morning at Belmont and has some minor bruising per trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul.

Trained by Christophe Clement – who captured last year’s Danger’s Hour with popular New York-bred City Man – Big Everest earned his sixth career victory and second at stakes level. A lightly-raced but prosperous 2022 season saw the 5-year-old son of The Gurkha win 4-of-5 starts, including three allowance/optional-claiming turf victories in addition to his Artie Schiller conquest in the fall.

Franco, who piloted Big Everest for the first time, spoke of his horse’s desire to run freely on the front end.

“In the beginning, I had to use my horse to get there [to the lead] because I don’t know what the horse on the outside wanted to do,” Franco said. “So, when I saw in the [first] turn he stayed outside, I just went with my horse because I think that’s the way he likes to run – he likes to be free out in front.

“He got a little tired today and that’s why the finish was so close,” Franco added. “At the eighth pole, I felt he was giving his all, and I’ve still got the guy on the outside close, so I went to left-handed [urging] and tried to put him together with the other horse – that way he can see it and he battled back and got it done.”

The win was the second stakes victory of the meet for Franco, who is currently a runaway leader in the jockey standings for the spring meet. He also piloted Law Professor to victory in the April 1 Excelsior.

Big Everest heads to winner’s circle after his comeback win (Susie Raisher)

“I’ve been doing great. I want to say thank you to all the owners and trainers who have been helping me in the winter and all year,” Franco said. “My agent [John Panagot] has been doing a great job. He’s a sharp guy, so I want to say thanks to him, too.”

Christophe Lorieul, assistant trainer to Clement, said it was a tactical race.  

“It was only a three-horse field, so I told Manny, ‘you don’t have to be on the lead, but if you end up on the lead, that’s great.’” Lorieul said. “That was the plan, but then Carmouche came outside of us [into the first turn] and pushed us a little bit and then left us alone, so then we went.

“Around the [final] turn I was pretty confident,” Lorieul continued. “When he opened up a couple lengths like that, he was still going well and got a little bit tired the last sixteenth, which is OK. He will move forward from this race and hopefully will go stronger next time.”

Big Everest began serious preparation for Saturday’s engagement just five weeks ago over the Belmont training track, logging weekly breezes leading up to the race.

“He’s good enough,” Lorieul said. “I was just worried that he wasn’t quite there. He showed today he got a little bit tired the last sixteenth, but we were lucky enough to keep a nose in front.

Big Everest banked $55,000 in victory while improving his lifetime earnings to $384,840 and record to 11-6-1-1. He returned $3.10 for a $2 win wager.

Bred in Great Britain by Newsells Park Stud, Big Everest is out of the graded stakes placed Whywhywhy mare Long Face.

Live racing returns Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card featuring the $100,000 Plenty of Grace [Race 3, 2:24 p.m.] for fillies and mares going one mile on the inner turf. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.   

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