D’Amato brings it on the turf with Irish-breds

December 22, 2022

Prince Abama was the victor in the Hollywood Turf Cup Nov. 26 at Del Mar. (Benoit Photos)

Prince Abama in the Grade II, $200,000 San Gabriel; Balnikhov in the Grade II, $200,000 Santa Anita Mathis Mile 

ARCADIA, Calif—Trainer Phil D’Amato, who has become a dominant force on turf while relying heavily on Irish-bred imports, will send out likely post time favorite Prince Abama, a 4-year-old Irish-bred gelding in Monday’s Grade II San Gabriel stakes at Santa Anita. One of six graded stakes on an 11-race opening day card, the San Gabriel has attracted a field of seven 3-year-olds and up.

Twice second from as many tries at one mile on turf, Prince Abama comes off a three quarter length win going a mile and one half on grass in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar Nov. 25, a race in which he sat a close second and won as best at odds of 5-2 with Flavien Prat up.

With Prat reengaged, Prince Abama, who is owned by Michael House, should be plenty tough to beat on Monday.

D’Amato will also saddle classy turf veteran Masteroffoxhounds, a neck winner going a mile and one quarter in the Grade II John Henry Turf Championship here two starts back on Oct. 1, just missed taking the Grade II Seabiscuit Stakes in gate to wire fashion at Del Mar on Nov. 26, finishing third by a neck at a mile and one sixteenth on grass under Mike Smith, who rides back in the San Gabriel.

Off the board in two tries at one mile on grass, Masteroffoxhounds, a 5-year-old full horse by War Front, is owned by Rockingham Ranch and is 20-4-3-4 overall.

A gate to wire winner of last year’s San Gabriel, the George Papaprodromou-trained Bob and Jackie has been idle since well beaten over the course in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 5. Owned by Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran, Bob and Jackie, a 6-year-old full horse by Twirling Candy, will be handled by regular rider Jose Valdivia, Jr.

The Grade Ii San Gabriel Stakes With Jockeys & Weights In Post Position Order

Race 3 of 11 Approximate post time 12 noon PT

  1. Rip City—Edwin Maldonado—121
  2. Masteroffoxhounds—Mike Smith—125
  3. Dicey Mo Chara—Juan Hernandez—121
  4. Go On—Mario Gutierrez—121
  5. Bob and Jackie—Jose Valdivia, Jr.—121
  6. Prince Abama—Flavien Prat—125
  7. Flashiest—Joel Rosario—121
Balnikhov taking the Oceanside at Del Mar July 22. (Benoit Photos)

Balnikhov in the Grade Ii, $200,000 Santa Anita Mathis Mile 

Pace will undoubtedly be a key factor in Monday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Anita Mathis Mile, as a field of seven sophomores duel on the turf in one of six graded stakes on Santa Anita’s Classic Meet opening day

A dedicated deep closer, D’Amato’s Irish-bred Balnikhov rallied from far off the pace to take the Grade III Bryan Station Stakes by a neck going one mile on turf at Keeneland Oct. 29. Ridden for the first time by Tyler Gaffalione, Balnikhov wheeled six-wide turning for home and weaved his way through traffic late to score impressively in a field of 12 sophomores over a firm turf.

Second going a mile on turf here in his U.S. debut in the ungraded Singletary Stakes six starts back on April 2, Balnikhov, who is three for four at one mile on grass, would obviously relish the prospect of a fast pace.

Owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC and Old Bone Racing, LLC, Balnikhov, who came to Southern California as a gelding after winning three of his first eight starts in France, is 14-5-3-2 overall with earnings of $398,343.

Unbeaten in two starts at a mile on turf, Richard Mandella’s Sumter, most recently third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths going five furlongs on turf in the ungraded Stormy Liberal Stakes Dec. 3 at Del Mar, has ample natural speed and solid credentials.

A close third three starts back going 1 1/16 miles on turf in Del Mar’s Grade III La Jolla Handicap Aug. 7, Sumter is a two one mile turf stakes winner at Santa Anita, having won both the April 2 Singletary and Feb. 19 Pasadena Stakes here

A 3-year-old colt by top turf sire War Front, Sumter was bred in Kentucky by Bass Stables, LLC and is owned by Perry and Ramona Bass. Sumter, who is 9-3-2-2 overall, will be reunited with Mike Smith, who rode him to his Singletary victory and third place finish in the La Jolla Handicap.

The Grade II Santa Anita Mathis Mile (Turf) With Jockeys & Weights In Post Order

Race 1 of 11 Post time is 11 a.m. PT

  1. Balnikhov—Tyler Gaffalione—122
  2. One More Bid—Ramon Vazquez—120
  3. I’m A Gambler—Flavien Prat—120
  4. Time to Party—Joe Bravo—120
  5. Agatino—Umberto Rispoli—120
  6. Handy Dandy—Joel Rosario—122
  7. Sumter—Mike Smith–122

Special early first post time on opening day, Monday, is at 11 a.m. with admission gates opening at 9 a.m. All attendees will receive Santa Anita’s traditional wall calendar free with paid admission.

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