D’Amato eyes 3rd straight San Juan victory

June 12, 2022

  • Shirreffs hopes the beat goes on for Lady T
  • Flightline is ‘an equine version of Roy Hobbs’
  • A winning saturday for Cedillo & Alexander


Enjoying a 55-39 lead over runner-up Doug O’Neill, Phil D’Amato’s third Santa Anita training title is all but a formality with only four days remaining in the Winter/Spring meet that began the day after Christmas on Dec. 26.

The 45-year-old San Pedro native hopes to go out in a blaze of glory next Sunday by capturing Santa Anita’s traditional closing day stakes finale, the Grade III San Juan Capistrano for the third consecutive year, quite a feat in itself although it pales mightily in comparison to Charlie Whittingham’s incomparable record that will likely never be broken of 14 San Juan victories, including five straight years from 1983 through 1987.

The legendary “Bald Eagle” who died at 86 on April 21, 1999, won the San Juan consecutively beginning in 1983 with Erins Isle, (ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr.), 1984 with Load The Cannons (Pincay again), 1985 with Prince True (ridden by Chris McCarron), 1986 with Dahar (Alex Solis up) and 1987 with Rosedale (that man Pincay again).

D’Amato is in a position to have many more successful years with an ever-expanding clientele helping to fuel big meets such as the one he’s enjoyed this winter/spring.  To that end, he has five horses nominated to the 83rd San Juan, first run in 1935, but he’s likely to enter only 2020 San Juan victor Red King and Rijeka.

Red King, remarkably still a full horse at age eight, was fifth in last year’s San Juan, one of 40 starts the son of English Channel has made in his lengthy career, winning eight with six seconds and eight thirds, good for earnings of $560,555.

Rijeka, a six-year-old Irish-bred gelding, has a 6-5-3 record from 31 starts with earnings of $310,440.

Both horses worked “head and head” this morning on the training track, going five furlongs in the identical time of 1:01.20.

“Red King is a hard-knocker who showed some good life last time (finishing second in an overnight race May 22, his first start in more than two months),” D’Amato said. “He was a game second and he loves this San Juan Capistrano distance, so he’s got all those things in his favor going into this race.

“Rjjeka acts like he’s a very kind horse that can run all day, so it should be a good spot for him to get into a nice rhythm and show what he can do at an extended marathon distance.”

D’Amato is not a one-man operation, and readily lauds his supportive owners and diligent staff for the team’s success.

“I’ve been fortunate to be paired with some very good owners who constantly look for good horses to add to my stable, and even more important, to have an excellent staff preparing the horses to win these kinds of races,” he said.

Asked his thoughts on Whittingham’s staggering mark of 14 San Juan victories in a day when competition was much keener than today, D’Amato said:

“What he did back in his era was pretty amazing. I know the San Juan was a lot saltier when he was winning it.

“That’s why he’s a Hall of Fame legend.”


Lady T is coming off a 14 ½-length maiden victory to run in today’s Grade II Summertime Oaks for owner Jerry Moss, his wife, Tina, and their trainer John Shirreffs, but there’s also a captivating back-story with widespread mainstream appeal.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of A&M Records, the legendary label that Moss, now 87, and Herb Alpert co-founded on a handshake and an investment of $200 from both men.

Over 25 years, A&M grew into the world’s largest independent record label, signing such legendary stars as The Police, the Carpenters, Janet Jackson, Joe Cocker, Peter Frampton and Carole King.

Moss and Alpert sold A&M in 1987 to PolyGram Records for a reported $500 million. Both continued to manage the label until 1993, when they left because of frustrations with PolyGram’s constant pressure to force the label to fit into its corporate culture.

In 1998, Moss and Alpert sued Polygram for breach of integrity clause, eventually settling for an additional $200 million.

Moss, a former member of the California Horse Racing Board, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, won the 2009 Big Sport of Turfdom Award, was given a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, and in 2020 he and Tina donated $25 million to The Music Center in Los Angeles

Shirreffs, who turned 78 on June 1, is a former Marine who served in Vietnam, later landing in Hawaii aspiring to be a surfer, but will go down in racing history as trainer of the fairytale filly Zenyatta and conditioner of Giacomo, 50-1 winner of the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Moss owned a major share of both horses.

“Yes sir!” Shirreffs responded enthusiastically when asked if his relationship with Moss has been enjoyable. “Jerry Moss has made my career.”

Curiously, Shirreffs has focused diligently on the beat of horses’ hooves, rather than the beat of musical notes.

“I was never into music very much,” he said, “although Jerry had some great groups. You could just go on and on, but we did get to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he was inducted, and went backstage after a Sting concert, so it’s been quite a fun time.” Giacomo was named after the son of Sting.

As to Lady T, Shirreffs anticipates a performance similar to her maiden romp.

“She looks good for the race,” he said of the $235,000 bay daughter of Into Mischief, who will be ridden by Hall of Fame member Victor Espinoza for the sixth straight race.

For Moss and Shirreffs, victory would be music to their ears.

The 77th edition of the Summertime Oaks, run at Hollywood Park as the Hollywood Oaks from 1946-2013, and going as race nine of 10 with a 1 p. m. first post time: Desert Dawn, Umberto Rispoli, 5-2; Ganadora, Abel Cedillo, 4-1; Kirstenbosch, Tyler Baze, 10-1; Empire Gal, Ramon Vazquez, 12-1; Under the Stars, Juan Hernandez, 3-1; and Lady T, Victor Espinoza, 3-1.

       FINISH LINES: Congratulations to the connections of yesterday’s unbeaten Met Mile winner Flightline, an equine version of Roy Hobbs who is becoming a legend in his own time. Based at Santa Anita and trained by John Sadler, the $1 million son of Tapit won the Grade I Met Mile by six lengths despite a slow start and steadying. Congratulations are also in order for jockey Abel Cedillo winning four races at Santa Anita Saturday including the Grade III Affirmed Stakes on Hopper, the rider’s first stakes win since capturing the Grade III Palos Verdes Jan. 29. “The meet’s been good overall although it could have been better,” said Cedillo’s agent, Tom Knust, who also represents Victor Espinoza. “We went through some dry spells but we were riding for the right trainers yesterday and we’re looking for a big Del Mar meet.” . . . Kudos also to owner/breeder Nick Alexander on winning two races Saturday, giving him 15 at the meet. Both winners were sired by his prolific stallion Grazen, who at age 16 stands at Tommy Town Thoroughbreds LLC in Santa Ynez for $6,000. “I have to pinch myself,” Alexander said. “This is something I’ve never experienced. It seems every horse we put a saddle on runs first or second. Both my trainers, Phil D’Amato and Steve Miyadi, are kicking ass.” Congratulations are also in order for trainers Andy Mathis on winning the Albany Stakes at Golden Gate Fields yesterday for the fourth year in a row, this time with repeat winner Give Me the Lute and San Francisco native Jonathan Wong, 33, on his career 1,000th victory with impressive Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ homebred Opening Buzz who won by seven lengths … David Peterson, son of the late Doug Peterson, who trained Seattle Slew in his four-year-old season, won his third game for the National League East-leading New York Mets this past Friday, the 6-6 lefthander pitching 2 2/3 innings of relief in a 7-3 victory over the Angels . . . This Saturday’s $100,000 Fasig-Tipton sprints for two-year-olds are among six attractive and challenging races on closing weekend of Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring campaign. The Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares three and up at 1 1/16 miles also will be featured Saturday. Three stakes will highlight the closing-day program next Sunday. In addition to the aforementioned San Juan Capistrano, they are the $100,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes for fillies and mares three and up at 1 ¼ miles on the hillside turf course and the Grade III American Stakes for three-year-olds and up at a mile on turf . . . There were 196 recorded workouts this morning, 58 on the training track . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday. Live racing resumes 1 p.m. Friday, June 17.



Preview of The Summertime Oaks 


Hot Rod Charlie (Outside) and Win the Day (O’Neill) 6-11-22

Granola Girl (Outside) and Ce Ce (M. McCarthy) 6-11-22

Big Sweep (Outside) and City Rage (Glatt) 6-11-22

Lady Mystify (Eurton) 6-11-22

Private Mission ( S.McCarthy) 6-11-22

Grace Adler (Outside) and Murray (S.McCarthy) 6-10-22

Thirsty Always (Truman) 6-10-22

The Chosen Vron (Kruljac) 6-10-22

Chipper (Glatt) 6-10-22

Brix (Outside) and Back Ring Luck (Barocio) 6-10-22

Mastering (Outside) and Pinehurst  (S. McCarthy) 6-9-22

Bukayo (Outside) and Almost a Factor (Gaines) 6-9-22

Big City Lights (Outside) and Naismith (Mandella) 6-9-22

Tizhotndusty (Kruljac) 6-9-22

Velvet Slippers (Outside) and Taiba (S. McCarthy) 6-8-22

Santa Anita Barn Notes

Photo: Phil D’Amato (Benoit Photo)

@jonathanstettin Great article!

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