Based strictly off the form his past performances revealed, it was fair to put Data Link's chances in the category of long shot as he stepped into Grade I company for the first time in Friday's Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland.
When the 4-year-old son of War Front hit the wire first in the one-mile turf test, even the betting public that let him go at odds of 12-to-1 had no idea what a monumental rally they had witnessed.
Stuart Janney's homebred colt pulled off a stunner in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile, ranging up on the outside of Turallure in the final yards to just edge the gray standout by a neck at the wire.
An already compact field of seven was reduced to six when Big Blue Kitten scratched and, on paper, the test was only supposed to be a two-horse battle between Grade I winner Turallure and defending race winner Get Stormy. Little did they know overcoming those two might not even qualify as Data Link's biggest upset.
Data Link was actually being pointed to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes last spring following an allowance win at Gulfstream Park, but he ended up developing hairline fractures in both cannon bones that required surgery and sidelined him until October.
"His next start was going to be in the Blue Grass and we really thought we'd have a very big shot in the Blue Grass last year," Janney said. "And he came up with hairline fractures in both cannon bones working one morning. But we were quite hopeful when he was operated on he would come out of it without a problem and that it wouldn't impair his racing."
Consider that prognosis spot- on.
Data Link had only made one start against graded company prior to Friday, a third-place finish behind fellow Maker's 46 entrant Doubles Partner in the Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream on March 3.
Even though it went down as a defeat, the fact the bay colt was able to make up ground over a speed-favoring turf course told trainer Shug McGaughey he and Janney were right that the Maker's 46 was the logical next step in his development.
"We've always had a lot of confidence in him and I've had this race on my mind for a while," McGaughey said. "He finished third (at Gulfstream) but he ran a good race because it's quick turns, a quick track and it's difficult to catch up down there. I asked (jockey) Alex Solis after that race if he'd be all right at Keene-land and he said 'Oh yeah'.
"We felt all along once we got him on the grass, he'd be a good horse and he proved that today."
When the gates opened Friday, Get Stormy outfooted Hollinger and Pressday to assume his customary position at the front, opening up a clear length advantage through fractions of :23.05 and :47.02.
Swinging off the final turn, Get Stormy began to get overtaken by a three-horse swarm coming at him with Turallure looking to be a winner a handful of strides out when he rolled up from fourth to grab a short lead inside the final furlong.
"He was there and then that horse got him on the outside," said Charlie Lopresti, trainer of Turallure, who was making his first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Mile last November. "That's a great race for a first race back. He'll be a monster next time."
Solis had Data Link rolling on the far outside by that point and surged up to hit the wire in 1:34.31 over a course rated firm.
"I thought someone would entertain (Get Stormy) and at the half mile pole, Alex got him position to where we'd have a chance," McGaughey said. "I could see him coming, but then we still had another sixteenth of a mile to go."
Turallure, the 7-to-5 favorite, held for second by half a length over Doubles Partner with Get Stormy, the 9-to-5 second choice, fading to fourth.
"He could feel them pressing him, they never let him get too far away," said Tom Bush, trainer of Get Stormy. "It took its toll. He just got a little tired for sure."
A next start for Data Link has yet to be determined, according to McGaughey, but the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs May 5 and the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on May 19 are under consideration.
"We've liked this horse for a long time and when you don't win a Grade III, you have to have a lot of confidence to step up to a Grade I," Janney said.