Balnikhov a Leading Contender in G3 San Francisco Mile

April 27, 2023

Balnikhov (outside) breezes in company April 23 at Santa Anita (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Golden Gate Fields Press Box

BERKELEY, Calif.— A field of nine has been assembled for the signature race of the Winter/Spring meet at Golden Gate Fields: the Grade 3 $250,000 San Francisco Mile. For 3-year-olds and up at one mile on projected firm turf, the ‘Mile is one of six stakes races on the Gold Rush Weekend Saturday, April 29 card at Golden Gate.

In search of his first San Francisco Mile win, trainer Phil D’Amato campaigns a legit contender in 4-year-old gelding Balnikhov, who was last seen finishing off the board in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March. As a 3-year-old in 2022, Balnikhov won the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar and the Grade 3 Bryan Station at Keeneland. He makes his second start of the year in the San Francisco Mile with Southern California-based pilot Umberto Rispoli set to ride.

A second Southern California conditioner, George Papaprodromou, ships two horses for the 2023 ‘Mile. 7-year-old gelding Bob and Jackie is an old pro who finished third in the Grade 3 American earlier this month. His most significant win to date came in 2021 in the 9-furlong Grade 2 San Gabriel. Stablemate Flavius makes his first start off a year vacation. A multiple minor stakes winner, the War Front ridgling was last seen finishing off the board in the 2022 Frank Kilroe Mile. Jose Valdivia Jr. hops aboard Bob and Jackie while locally based rider Evin Roman is set to navigate Flavius.

Dicey Mo Chara after his San Gabriel (G2) win in December (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

The Leonard Powell trained Dicey Mo Chara came up a length short in the Grade 2 Charlie Whittingham on Santa Anita Derby Day and cuts back a quarter mile for this eight-furlong event. His last victory came three starts ago in the Grade 2 San Gabriel in December. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke has the call aboard the 5-year-old European-bred gelding.

The speedy Lamplighter Jack was a decisive winner of a starter allowance race last month at Santa Anita and takes a significant step up in class to face graded stakes competitors. He has set the pace in most of his races and is expected to be close to the lead again. Abel Cedillo picks up the mount for trainer Librado Barocio.

A handful of locals are game to challenge the out-of-town invaders. The Ed Moger Jr. conditioned Tarantino is multiple Grade 3 placed on dual surfaces and most recently finished as the runner-up in a second-level allowance at Santa Anita in March. Rio King was a runaway winner of a first-level allowance at Golden Gate and takes a major class hike in the San Francisco Mile. Tesoro’s last winner’s circle visit came one year ago on Gold Rush Weekend Saturday in a salty second-level allowance. The same can be said for Il Bellator, though he won the California Derby against 3-year-olds on Gold Rush Weekend 2022. Tesoro makes his first start off a six-month layoff while Il Bellator makes his first afternoon appearance in over eight months.

12 races made the Gold Rush Weekend Saturday, April 29 overnight. First post is 1:15 PM. The Late Pick 4 sequence on Saturday will have a guaranteed pool of $200,000 while the Late Pick 5 pool is guaranteed at $150,000. For more information on all things Gold Rush Weekend and Golden Gate, please visit

Race 11: The Grade 3, $250,000 San Francisco Mile (For 3-year-olds and up at one mile on turf) 

#1 Tarantino (Jockey Armando Ayuso…Trainer Ed Moger Jr…123 pounds) 

#2 Balnikhov (Umberto Rispoli…Phil D’Amato…123) 

#3 Rio King (Santos Rivera…Sammy Calvario…123) 

#4 Bob and Jackie (Jose Valdivia Jr…George Papaprodromou…123) 

#5 Tesoro (Frank Alvarado…O.J. Jauregui…123) 

#6 Lamplighter Jack (Abel Cedillo…Librado Barocio…123) 

#7 Il Bellator (Alejandro Gomez…Jose Bautista…123) 

#8 Flavius (Evin Roman…George Papaprodromou…123) 

#9 Dicey Mo Chara (Drayden Van Dyke…Leonard Powell…123)

@jonathanstettin great pick!

Justin Golden @justin181174 View testimonials