Hong Kong Harry posts a narrow score in the City of Hope Mile (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box
ARCADIA, Calif.— Idle since May 29, diminutive Irish-bred gelding Hong Kong Harry was sharp early and in control late as he attended the pace and rallied for a deceptively easy neck score in Sunday’s Grade II City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita. Contested over a course softened some by early rain, Hong Kong Harry, who is trained by Phil D’Amato, got this distance in 1:33.77 with Juan Hernandez aboard for the first time.
A joint fourth, about three lengths off Astronomer heading into the Club House turn, Hong Kong Harry was into the bridle in the run up the backside as he closed in the leader and War At Sea leaving the three-furlong pole. Approaching the quarter pole, Hernandez hugged the rail and when War At Sea tired at the top of the lane, Hong Kong Harry angled outside Astronomer and went on to win with his ears pricked in a thoroughly professional performance.
Third, beaten 1 ½ lengths as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on turf here May 29, Hong Kong Harry was the even-money favorite today among a field of nine and paid $4.20, $3.40 and $2.40.
A 6-year-old gelding who is now a two-time graded stakes winner over the Santa Anita turf, “Harry” has now won six of his 10 starts since coming to D’Amato’s barn in 2022, four of them coming in graded stakes.
Barely 15 hands tall, Hong Kong Harry is owned by Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa, and Tony Valazza. With an overall race record dating back to a first-out win at age four in Ireland of 1-10-2-2, he picked up $120,000 for today’s effort, boosting his earnings to $775,097.
Off at 8-1 with Antonio Fresu, Astronomer stayed gamely, finishing one length in front of French-bred Twist and returned $8.00 and $4.20.
Twist, covered up in the run to the first turn, had two horses beat early and rallied well over a course that appeared to be speed-favoring. With Hector Berrios up, Twist, who was the second choice at 3-1, paid $2.60 to show while finishing a half-length in front of Hit the Road.
Fractions on the race were 23.51, 47.67, 1:10.91 and 1:22.49.
GRADE II, $200,000 CITY OF HOPE MILE
JUAN HERNANDEZ, HONG KONG HARRY, WINNER:
“He had a really nice trip, this horse was sharp today. Out of the gate he was pulling, pulling. This is the kind of horse that he always relaxes and comes with one run, but today I am guessing that he was feeling really good because he was really aggressive at the beginning. He was in a good mood and was just trying to run. I was trailing really well behind the pace and was saving ground. I was hoping for a rail opening but the horse in front of me, he never came off the rail but the other horse (War At Sea) dropped back around the turn I had the opportunity to come out and start making my run. As soon as he switched leads, he picked it up really well and he hit the wire first. He’s a professional. He does everything himself. I just had to push him a little bit today, but he made it.”
PHIL D’AMATO, HONG KONG HARRY, WINNER:
“He had his ears pricked ready to go and Juan just did a masterful job. Angled out just like you like to see a turf horse do and motor home. I loved seeing that because he’s kind of more of a docile type horse in the stall, but when he had his heels kicking up the other day it gave me a good indication that he was ready to go. This is a total team effort, the groom Octavio, my assistants, Julie, Rudy and Odolfo, it is just a total team effort with this horse and also to win for the owners it is just awesome.
“He is just one of the barn favorites, he is just kind of one of those horses in the morning he does what he needs to do so you never know exactly how cranked he is but he knows when it is showtime.”
TONY VALAZZA, PART-OWNER, HONG KONG HARRY, WINNER:
“It’s an unbelievable thrill, we’ve been wanting to run him at del Mar and things didn’t work out. We are so excited that he is back and he’s back in a big way. We have to think about it, for us it is a big feat to be in the Breeders’ Cup if he is not nominated.”
NOTES: The winning owners are Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa, and Tony Valazza.