ARCADIA, Calif.— Comfortable throughout, Phil D’Amato’s Masteroffoxhounds took five rivals on a merry chase in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship, prevailing by a neck under Umberto Rispoli while getting a mile and one quarter on turf in 1:59.79.
Named for racing’s Hall of Fame superstar gelding who upon his retirement at age nine in 1984 was Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading money earner with more than $6.5 million, the John Henry trophy was presented by his Hall of Fame conditioner, 90-year-old Ron McAnally.
Breaking from post position four, Masteroffoxhounds immediately settled into a comfortable gallop under Rispoli while in hand through splits of 24.51, 48.88, 1:13.74 and 1:37 flat. Masteroffoxhounds opened up 2 ½ lengths on longshot Breakpoint a quarter mile out and held off the late charge of Dicey Mo Chara and Gold Phoenix on the money to give D’Amato his third John Henry win.
“Masteroffoxhounds has been knocking on the door to a victory. We have been trying to find the right distance for him and I think we have found it today. Gold Phoenix ran well. He got knocked around early in the race, but I think this race sets him up fine for the Breeders Cup,” said D’Amato.
Winless in his last nine starts, eight of them graded stakes, Masteroffoxhounds was off as the 2-1 second choice and paid $6.20, $3.60 and $2.10.
Owned by Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, Masteroffoxhounds notched his second graded stakes victory and his fourth overall from 19 starts. A 5-year-old horse by War Front out of Galileo mare Outstanding, Masteroffoxhounds picked $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $496,042.
Hartunian said after the race: “I just thought that it kind of set up good for us. We had to go to the lead and hopefully the fractions were slow enough to where we can just close hard, and that is exactly what he did. He did a great job, Rispoli. I almost, killed him after the first race, and then he comes back and made up for it so, I’m thrilled.”
Third early, English-bred Dicey Mo Chara, off at 6-1 with Ryan Curatolo, finished a head in front of 6-5 favorite Gold Phoenix and paid $5.60 and $2.40.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Gold Phoenix put in a good late bid but never threatened his front-running stable mate to return $2.10 to show.
Santa Anita Park Press Release/Edited
Photo: Masteroffoxhounds wins the G2 John Henry Turf Championship (Benoit Photo)