Earls Rock Rolls Down GIII Thunder Road

February 4, 2023

Earls Rock with Flavien Prat tenaciously gets the win in the GIII Thunder Road. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Prat gets off stakes schneid as he’s up to win Grade III

Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.—Mired in a career-worst slump and winless on the day, Flavien Prat found a way to win Saturday’s 10th and final race at Santa Anita, as he surged late aboard the Phil D’Amato-trained Earls Rock (IRE) to win the Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes by a nose while getting a flat mile on turf in 1:34.05.

Away alertly from his rail post in a field of 11 older horses, Earls Rock hugged the rail while mid-pack to the far turn as Prat bided his time with plenty of horse underneath him. Turning for home, he scraped paint and set after Frankie Dettori aboard Dark Shift and Juan Hernandez, aboard Air Force Red as these two were battling head and head past the sixteenth pole.

Just as Air Force Red drifted out a bit, Prat split horses and in a dramatic three-horse photo, he held off the late charge of Umberto Rispoli and Du Jour on the money.

“I’ve been waiting for this win,” said Prat, an overall nine-time leading rider at Santa Anita who had but six wins through 16 racing days coming into Saturday with zero stakes victories. “I feel very happy for Phil and Mr. Fanticola (owner), they’ve been great supporters of mine, and I was able to run a good race today.

“(Earls Rock) is always a bit keen. Last time, there was no pace, so I struggled a bit to relax him. Today we had a fair pace and he relaxed well. I was travelling super and when I asked him, he showed me a good turn of foot.”

Idle since taking a 1 1/16 miles turf allowance at Del Mar Dec. 4, Irish-bred Earls Rock, who notched his first graded stakes win, is now unbeaten in four pairings with Prat. Off at 7-2, he paid $9.80, $5.20 and $3.20.

“They were all confident, I was like, ‘We have to watch this photo, that two (Du Jour) was coming on strong.’ Luckily we got the bob and it’s great to train for Tony Fanticola who gave me my first start, my Breeders’ Cup win with Obviously and Flavien riding that horse and now to win a stake with this horse. Jessica (Pyfer) rides and breezes him for us in the morning, so it was just a great family win here,” D’Amato said.

“[Earls Rock]’s gallop out (in his last work) was so strong, Jesse’s eyes lit up when she pulled him up in the drill and took him to the track. She just said that was spectacular and time wise it was great. This was a step up for him and he proved that he can compete with stakes company.

“That was a Prat ride there, splitting horses and getting up on the wire that’s what Flavien Prat does,” the trainer remarked. 

A 5-year-old gelding owned by Anthony Fanticola, Earls Rock, who was second in his lone Irish start at age two, is now four for six with D’Amato and is 7-4-1-1 overall. With the winner’s share of $60,000, he increased his earnings to $207,799.

Next to last early, Du Jour flew late to just miss while finishing a neck better than Air Force Red. Off at 15-1, Du Jour paid $13.40 and $7.40.

Forwardly placed throughout, Air Force Red kept the pressure on eventual fifth place finisher Dark Shift and finished third by half length in front of Argentine-bred Irideo. Off at 9-5, Air Force Red paid $3.00 to show.

Fractions on the race were 22.79, 46.71, 1:10.45 and 1:22.17.

Racing resumes with first post time for a nine-race card on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
 

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