Last seen landing the November 26 Seabiscuit H. (G2) at Del Mar, Michael House’s Hunt fired straight off the bench to deny 3-2 favorite Heart to Heart in Monday’s $401,035 Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. The 9-1 shot thereby bagged a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in the first “Win and You’re In” of 2018 in North America.
Heart to Heart, third in last year’s Shoemaker, arrived in career best form off his first two Grade 1 tallies. But the need-the-lead type can be vulnerable if another beats him to the punch, and Om did so at Santa Anita.
After failing to turn up the heat on Heart to Heart last out in the April 13 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland, Om scurried forward in the Shoemaker and opened up through splits of :23.22 and :46.66 on the firm course. Heart to Heart bided his time in second, then accosted the leader at the six-furlong mark in 1:10.20, and began to get the better of Om entering the stretch.
But Hunt was launching smart rally from midpack for Flavien Prat. Saving ground much of the way and making good progress on the far turn, the Phil D’Amato trainee tipped out to challenge Heart to Heart in midstretch. Although the favorite tried to resist, Hunt was too strong as he thrust his neck in front.
Next Shares, last in the early stages, closed fast to make it a three-way finish, just failing to catch runner-up Heart to Heart by a neck. Om salvaged third from Bowies Hero, and Colonist, Blackjackcat, and Arms Runner completed the order under the wire. Pavel, fourth in Saturday’s Gold Cup (G1), was withdrawn.
By completing the mile in 1:34.07, Hunt paid $21.60 to win and improved his personal scorecard to 27-9-5-3, $908,787. The six-year-old gray was notching his first Grade 1 after victories in the 2017 Eddie Read (G2), Seabiscuit, and Del Mar H. (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Connections opted to give him a chance in the 1 1/2-mile prize, considering his fondness for the Del Mar turf, but it was a bridge too far and he wound up last of 13. The Mile at Churchill Downs would be a better fit as a Breeders’ Cup target.
Bred by Michael O’Callaghan in Ireland, Hunt is by Dark Angel and out of the Vettori mare Mansiya, from the further family of South African co-champion Bad Girl Runs. The Goresbridge breeze-up graduate was sold for €78,000 to Qatar Racing adviser David Redvers and began his career in Ireland with top jockey-turned-trainer Johnny Murtagh.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Trainer Phil D’Amato on Hunt: “The time off did this horse a world of good. We really kind of geared his campaign to focus towards Del Mar where he won three graded stakes last year, so these races were kind of preps leading up to the Del Mar meet.
“He’d been training so well, and I give a lot of credit to Flavien Prat. He’s been breezing this horse the last couple of times and really tightened the screws on him. He was pretty confident this horse was going to run a good race off of those workouts, and it showed today.
“We won the Eddie Read last year so we’ll try to defend our title (July 22). I think the spacing is really good, and from there, we’ll see, but I’ve got a ‘Win and You’re In’ Mile berth and we’ll definitely gear our campaign towards that.”
Winning rider Flavien Prat: “He has been training really well, pretty much like he was at Del Mar last summer right before he won two graded stakes. I was expecting a good race but you never really know off a layoff. He was fresh and he got the job done.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of distance at all with him. He won at 6 1/2, he’s won at a mile and three-eighths so I think it’s a matter of his mood and feeling the right way on race day.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux on runner-up Heart to Heart: “We had a good trip. I knew the 1 (Om) was going to go out real fast. I tried not to pay attention to him and to ride my race. When the winner came to us, my horse tried very hard. He fired…We can’t complain.”
In Santa Anita’s supporting feature on the Memorial Day card, the $201,380 Monrovia (G2) down the hill, 9-5 favorite Belvoir Bay extended her winning streak to three – once she burst through a tight spot.
Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza clearly had a handful of horse as the pocket rocket drafted just behind Algorhythmic through fractions of :21.76 and :44.15. Belvoir Bay had to thread the needle between the pacesetter and the attending Mongolian Shopper, but she got through and stamped her authority in a couple of strides.
The Peter Miller-trained favorite negotiated about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.80 while finishing 1 1/2 lengths clear of the belatedly rallying Ancient Secret. In her wake came a blanket finish, with third-placer Compelled a neck up on Coniah in fourth. Mongolian Shopper and Algorhythmic weakened to sixth and seventh, respectively, of nine.
Another survivor of the catastrophic Lilac Fire that engulfed San Luis Rey, Belvoir Bay is unbeaten in three starts since, all over this course and distance. The Equiano mare captured the March 25 Mizdirection versus fellow distaffers and disposed of males in the April 29 San Simeon (G3). She’s four-for-five on the downhill, including a victory in the 2016 Unzip Me.
Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s British import has earned $558,305 from her 20-9-3-2 record, reflecting additional stakes wins in last fall’s Sen. Ken Maddy (G3), the 2016 Torrey Pines (G3) on the Del Mar main, and the 2015 Blue Norther in a rout. Her most notable results as a juvenile for trainer Richard Hannon were a nursery victory at Glorious Goodwood and a close fourth to Hawksmoor in the 2015 Prestige (G3).
Bred by Mrs. R.D. Peacock in Great Britain, Belvoir Bay was purchased for 20,000 guineas by Peter and Ross Doyle Bloodstock as a Tattersalls October yearling. She was produced by the winning Rock of Gibraltar mare Path of Peace, herself a half-sister to Group 2 victress Please Sing. Belvoir Bay’s second dam, Persian Song, is a full sister to Bold Arrangement, still the best European finisher in the Kentucky Derby (G1) when runner-up to Ferdinand in 1986.
Belvoir Bay hails from the same female line as Royal Ascot-bound, Australian-based sprinter Redkirk Warrior, who scored his second consecutive Newmarket H. (G1) at Flemington in his latest.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Trainer Peter Miller on Belvoir Bay: “She’s something else. She instills a lot of confidence in you as a trainer but you still need to get the trip. I was a little concerned whether she was going to get through or not but Victor somehow got through. He kind of weaseled his way between the 5 and the 10 and he got a little bit of room…it’s a good thing she’s small. Her 980 pounds came in handy.”
Hall of Fame rider Victor Espinoza: “I knew she could win but I didn’t think she would win this easy. I was tracking the leaders and was right in behind those horses and I couldn’t move out or in so I just had to wait for a little gap between them. If I have a lot of horse it’s easy to go through a hole that small and that’s all I needed. When they opened up across the dirt that was it for her.”
Winning co-owner Gary Barber: “She’s amazing. She’s been in the money almost every time we’ve run her. It’s nice to have a horse that just fires every single time. I love this hillside course. There’s nothing else like it in America. It’s unique, that’s what I love about it…The mountains as a backdrop…it’s just beautiful.”