A month ago, jockey Florent Geroux had himself a career day, winning three of the four big races on the Million Preview Day card, including the Grade III Stars and Stripes aboard The Pizza Man.
Well, the Pizza Man and Geroux were back at it Saturday at Arlington in the $400,000 American St. Leger, the marathon 1 11/16ths mile turf race which officially kicked off a highly-entertaining International Festival of Racing.
Sent off as the third betting favorite in the field, Geroux settled the Pizza Man sweetly behind an ever-eager pacesetter, Big Kick, and simply bided his time, even when he was up to five lengths off the pace.
"I was sitting in a stalking position; I wasn't worried," Geroux said. "I was waiting for him to tell me when to go."
That order came on the far turn, and when Geroux pushed the button, the Roger Bruggemann trainee zoomed past the tiring Big Kick and had just enough in the tank to hold off a sustained late charge from Dandino.
"Turning in, I thought we would win," said Dandino's jockey Frankie Dettori, "but the Pizza Man never stopped."
Longshot Havana Beat (15-1) rallied from the back of the pack to finish third.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the race was the performance of another local horse, Suntracer. The Chris Block trainee, who finished second in this race a year ago, finished ninth in the 10-horse field.
"I watched the replay of the last time he ran and he looked loaded," said jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Suntracer for the first time Saturday. "Today he didn't have anything, didn't fight at all.
"He broke perfectly, but the more he ran the more he didn't want to give it to me."