Balnikhov up in the Nick of Time To Win G3 Bryan Station

October 29, 2022

Balnikhov charges past Wit to capture the G3 Bryan Station (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

By Amber Joyce

LEXINGTON, Ky.— Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables LLC and Old Bones Racing Stable, LLC’s California invader Balnikhov displayed a powerful turn of foot, getting up just in time to win the G3, $300,000 Bryan Station Saturday at Keeneland.

With leading jockey Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, Balnikhov adopted his usual off-the-pace running style from post position two, sitting eleventh of twelve as the three-year-olds entered the first turn. G1 Belmont Derby winner Classic Causeway set the pace, clocking splits of 23.05 and 46.72, stakes-winning Fuerteventura nagging him each step of the way. An onslaught of horses pursued the leader heading into the stretch, including 2-1 favorite Wit. Behind them and still second-to-last, Balkinhov shifted three wide and began weaving through horses, while Wit took command.

It appeared to be another trip to the winner’s circle for Wit, but Balkinhov had other plans, thundering by him to win by a neck, moments to spare. The Phil d’Amato trainee ran the one-mile distance in a final time of 1:35.48 over the firm turf. Three-quarters went in 1:11.87 and seven-eighths was clocked in 1:23.65.

Wit settled for second over 18-1 shot Axthelm, who fought on to score third by a half-length. Following them were Portfolio Company, Play Action Pass, Classic Causeway, Fort Washington, Double Clutch, Wow Whata Summer, Ready to Purrform, Fuerteventura, and Stolen Base. Churchtown, Dakota Gold, Red Danger, and Underdressed did not draw into the race.

For his game performance, Balnikhov at 6-1 paid $15.28, $5.56, and $3.98. Wit paid $3.92 and $3.24, while Axthelm returned $8.58. The exacta rewarded winning bettors $32.48.

“(Jockey) Tyler (Gaffalione) did an amazing job. That was a crazy ride,” said Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing in a post-race interview. “I haven’t even watched the replay, but I know he was buried down on the rail. It got a little nerve-wracking, but then I saw once he got clear – he has that big turn of foot.”

“Congratulations to (co-owner) Madaket (Stables) and Sol (Kumin of Madaket), Andrew Molasky (of co-owner Old Bones Racing Stable) – I know he’s watching too. And (trainer) Phil (D’Amato), what an incredible job. Special thanks to (trainer) Chris Davis, who helped us out while we were here. Incredible ride by Tyler. To all the Little Red Feather (Racing) partners out there, congratulations,” Koch went on to say.

“Listen, any day at Keeneland is amazing. The weather’s been beautiful and the people here are so nice and so gracious. So any win at Keeneland is special, but to win a race like this is really special.”

Tyler Gaffalione also shared his sentiments after the race: “I want to thank the connections for this opportunity. That was a lot of fun to ride. Also (California-based jockey) Umberto Rispoli (who rode Balnikhov at Del Mar in his previous two races) – he helped me out a lot, telling me how to ride the horse. It worked out well. Man, he’s got some turn of foot. All I had to do was find space. I was wanting to get out but they were fanning out. A spot opened up inside and I followed Joel (Rosario on Ready to Purrform) and I was able to find some room.”

Jose Ortiz, who was aboard runner-up Wit, had nothing bad to say about his mount, stating: “Horse had a great run. We hit the quarter pole and I was just waiting, and I was able to wait as long as I wanted to. When I asked him to go, he just ran really nicely. The last couple jumps the horse (Balnikhov) came running and beat us. I think my horse ran a very good race and I had no problem with my trip. It was perfect.”

Balnikhov after his Bryan Station victory (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

Balnikhov, who began his career in France and won three races there, entered the Bryan Station off of an excusable fourth-place effort in the G2 Del Mar Derby in September. Prior to that, he was victorious in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes, scoring by a length and a half. A fourth-place effort in the Cinema at Santa Anita and runner-up in both the G2 American Turf at Churchill Downs and Santa Anita’s Singletary make up the rest of his stateside runs. In total, Balnikhov has run fourteen times, winning five of those races, second in three, and third in two. He has earned $$398,343.

An Irish-bred son of group 2-winning stallion Adaay (IRE), Balnikhov is out of the First Defence mare Leeward. He was bred by T. de La Heronnierre & Gestut Zur Kuste AG.

Balnikhov was purchased for $31,899 by Oceanic Bloodstock at the 2020 Arquana Deauville September Yearling Sale.

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Contributing Authors

Amber Joyce of Past The Wire

Amber Joyce

Amber Joyce grew up with a practically innate love for racehorses, her mom being a former exercise rider and trainer of off-the-track thoroughbreds. For the...

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