December 6, 2022

Balnikhov bags Oceanside with big late kick

Balnikhov and jockey Umberto Rispoli win the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar © BENOIT PHOTO

Balnikhov came rolling late in Friday’s $100,000 Oceanside S., rallying up the inside to win Del Mar’s opening-day feature going away by 1 1/2 lengths. The Phil D’Amato-trained gelding earned his first stakes triumph in the restricted event for three-year-olds, completing the mile in 1:34.85 on firm turf.

Umberto Rispoli picked up the mount on Balnikhov, who started his racing career in France, and the dark bay broke through in his fourth U.S. start. The Irish-bred son of Adaay will now head back to graded competition.

“You know we got pace in the race, sat a good trip and was able to use his turn of foot late and got the job done,” D’Amato said. “Umberto fits this horse well. Just get him to settle, save ground and then come with his run.  I think that’s the key to this horse. Probably wait until the (Sept. 3) Del Mar Derby (G2), but we could possibly go in the Aug. 7 La Jolla (G3). We’ll just have to play it by ear and see how he comes out of the race.”

Runner-up in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs and Singletary S. at Santa Anita, Balnikhov was exiting a troubled fourth in the June 4 Cinema S., and the up-and-coming sophomore has now bankrolled $238,829 from a 12-4-3-2 record. He’s campaigned by Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables, and Old Bones Racing Syndicate.

Off as 3.20-1 second choice, Balnikhov was bumped and steadied at the break, dropping back to 12th of 13 runners during the opening half-mile. Barsabas, a 55-1 outsider, emerged from an early pace battle to show the way on a clear lead along the backstretch.

Balnikhov launched his bid on the far turn and was deftly angled toward the rail by Ripoli to avoid traffic in the stretch, closing stoutly to prove much the best.

“That was an amazing trip,” Rispoli said. “I was all the way on the outside on the backstretch, so I said ‘I think I’m losing too much ground here’ and I went down inside. From there it happened. I love this race (Oceanside). In the three years I’ve ridden it, I’ve won it twice and been second. I’ve got a new baby in the family. I’m a blessed man.”

Anmer Hall, who was forwardly-placed from the start at 29-1, took a brief lead in upper stretch but was no match for the winner, holding second by three-quarters of a length. Barsabas, who was responsible for opening splits in :22.62, :46.30, and 1:10.91, held third by a half-length over even-money Mackinnon, who offered a brief rally into contention before flattening out late.

Brit’s Wit, Dandy Warhol, Castel Leoch, St Anthony, Boise, Nero Tulip, As Amatter of Fact, Heaven Street, and Royal ‘n Rando rounded out the order.

Bred by T. de La Heronnierre and Gestut Zur Kuste AG, Balnikhov is out of the First Defence mare Leeward.