If there was an award for this year’s most improved horse in South Florida, 3-year-old sprinter City of Weston would be a leading contender.
He showed why Saturday, when he rallied from fourth place coming around the turn and beat the 7-5 favorite Brave Dave by three-quarters of a length in the $55,000 Big Drama Stakes at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Singanothersong, who chased Brave Dave for the lead through the first half mile, came in third, five lengths behind Brave Dave.
City of Weston, the second betting choice at 5-2, was ridden by Jesus Rios and won in 1:12.42.
Brave Dave, ridden by Elvis Trujillo, led after the first half mile in 44.69 seconds and had built a one-length lead over Singanothersong.
“I was not concerned,” said Antonio Sano, City of Weston’s trainer. “I knew that my horse would start gaining and would finish strong.”
The win was the third in six starts this year for City of Weston, a son of Holy Bull. He won the Sophomore Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on April 6 and a nonstakes race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 24.
He also had two second-place finishes and one third-place finish against strong fields at Gulfstream.
City of Weston began the year by finishing second, at 50-1, in the Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream on Jan. 1.
That success followed a 2012 season when he needed 10 races to get his first win.
“He started growing late last year and is stronger,” Sano said. “We also made a change in his blinkers and that has helped.”
Late last year, he changed City of Weston’s blinkers from partial coverage to full coverage of side vision.
“He was drifting too much,” Sano said of his horse that is now running straight and strong at the end of races.
Luis Ortiz owns City of Weston and races the horse for his Cloud Nine Lumoni Stable. Ortiz lives in Weston, which explains the origin of the horse’s name.
Ortiz and Sano are natives of Venezuela, where Sano was one of the leading trainers before he moved to the United States several years ago.
He led Calder trainers in wins at the 2011 Calder and Tropical meets.
Brave Dave was favored based on his three stakes wins in 2012 — two at Calder and one at Monmouth Park in Oceanport N.J.
The Big Drama was Brave Dave’s first race since Jan. 1 when he finished sixth in the Spectacular Bid.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr, then gave Brave Dave a two-month break at a farm in Ocala, before resuming training at Calder last month.
“He tired at the end,” Plesa said. “He was coming off a layoff, so he had a license to get tired. I am pleased with his effort.”
Itsmyluckyday, who is trained by Plesa and has common ownership with Brave Dave, arrived by van at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., where he will run in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
Itsmyluckyday’s owners are Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa, Eddie’s wife.
David Melin, one of Trilogy’s partners, and Laurie Plesa own Big Dave.