DEL MAR, Calif.— The Phil D’Amato barn has been hitting on all cylinders this summer at Del Mar and he plans to bring the same cast of horses that dominated the G2 San Clemente last month to the G1 Del Mar Oaks Saturday.
Benowitz Family Trust, et al’s Bellabel, Michael House’s Sixteen Arches and R Unicorn Stable’s Island of Love crossed the finish line one, two, three in the San Clemente and D’Amato says Bellabel appears to have improved since that race.
“Just the ease at which she does everything,” D’Amato says. “She just does things so effortlessly, especially in the last two grass works. Just displays her turn of foot on cue rather than having to niggle on her and ask her. She’s just much more push button.”
Sixteen Arches was runner-up to Bellabel in the San Clemente.
“She’s another filly that’s on the improve,” D’Amato says. “She finally got a nice clean trip the other day, came running late and I expect a similar race from her.”
D’Amato says it wouldn’t surprise him if Island of Love steals the Oaks on Saturday.
“She’s just ultra consistant,” D’Amato says. “She’s a filly that can strike at any time.”
For good measure, D’Amato is running a fourth filly, Rockingham Ranch or Talla Racing’s Rhea Moon who, like her three stablemates, is also an Irish-bred. She’s coming off of a third-place finish in an entry level allowance at Del Mar on opening weekend.
Having four horses in the same race will keep any trainer on his toes and D’Amato remembers the advice given to him by a Hall of Fame trainer several years ago.
“When I first started training, I asked Richard Mandella about this,” D’Amato said. “How do you handle multiple horses in one particular race? And he told me ‘You tell your owners, if you’re not training the horse, someone else is and it’s going to be in the race, too. So you just treat them all as individuals and bring them to the race to the best of your ability and may the best horse win.’”
While it appears D’Amato has his bases covered in the Del Mar Oaks, there are challengers that could keep him out of the winner’s circle beginning with the shipper and favorite, Gainesway Thoroughbreds’ Spendarella. She has won three of her four career starts and comes off of an impressive runner up finish in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Trainer H. Graham Motion has brought her across the country for this one.
There’s also Schroeder Farms or David Bernsen’s Cairo Memories, who won back-to-back Grade 3 races at Santa Anita before shipping back east and running fifth in the G1 Belmont Oaks at Belmont Park.
“It’s a deep and competitive field,” trainer Bob Hess, Jr. says, “but we have a good post and she loves the distance, loves the surface here so I’m expecting a top effort.”
Tina and Jerome Moss’ Lady T ran fourth behind the D’Amato trio in the San Clemente but before that she broke her maiden by 14 lengths followed by a runner up finish in the G2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Trainer John Shirreffs thinks with a good trip, she could pull off the upset.
“We like the post position that we got (post #13),” Shirreffs says. “Hopefully she can get a nice stalking position.”
Shirreffs says he throws out the effort in the San Clemente.
“She never got to relax,” Shirreffs says. “She was pressured the whole way. Usually she runs her best if she just lays a little off of it and gets comfortable.”
A full field of 14 is expected for the 1 1/8 mile turf race. It goes as race eight on the 10-race program.
Here’s the field from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds. Rhea Moon (Ramon Vasquez, 30-1); Bellabel (Umberto Rispoli, 5-1); Island of Love (Juan Hernandez, 12-1); Lucky Girl (Ryan Curatolo, 30-1); Cairo Memories (Mike Smith, 3-1); Tezzaray (Hector Berrios, 20-1); Sixteen Arches (Abel Cedillo, 12-1); Gracelund Gray (Joe Bravo, 15-1); Txope (Florent Geroux, 5-1); Gold Dragon Queen (Armando Ayuso, 50-1); Spendarella (Tyler Gaffalione, 8/5); Ballet Dancing (Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1); Lady T (Victor Espinoza, 20-1), and Lady Clementine (Mario Gutierrez, 30-1).
Notes: Country Grammer continues to do well for trainer Bob Baffert who says, “all systems are go for the Pacific Classic.” Baffert believes his Dubai World Cup winner and runner-up last out in the G2 San Diego will enjoy the 1 ¼ mile of the TVG Pacific Classic on September 3…The third annual CARMAthon is underway and continues through Saturday. The California Retirement Management Account is taking donations this weekend to help with its grant program, which assists more than 20 Thoroughbred aftercare charities. Donations can be made on the CARMA website…Notable works for Friday: Dirt – Forbidden Kingdom (3f, :37.40); Big City Lights (4f, :48.40); Carmelita’s Man (4f, :50.40); Finneus (4f, :50.00); Grace Adler (4f, :47.20); Bran (5f, :59.80); Fashionably Fast (5f, 1:00.40); Laurel River (5f, 1:00.60), and Heywoods Beach (6f, 1:12.80). A total of 170 horses put in official works Friday.
DMTC Press Release
Photo: Bellabel wins the G2 San Clemente (Benoit Photo)