February 5, 2023

Gold Phoenix, Hong Kong Harry, Slow Down Andy prevail on Del Mar turf

Gold Phoenix with Flavien Prat riding wins the Del Mar Handicap over the gray Master Piece (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

In town to ride the sublime Flightline in the Pacific Classic (G1), Flavien Prat also turned a graded turf double as part of his four-win Saturday at Del Mar.

The Frenchman delivered perfectly-timed rides aboard two Phil D’Amato runners, Gold Phoenix in the “Win and You’re In” Del Mar H. (G2) as well as Hong Kong Harry in the $302,000 Del Mar Mile (G2). The only graded race on the card to elude him was the $302,000 Del Mar Derby (G2), wired by Slow Down Andy in his turf debut.

Del Mar H. (G2)

Little Red Feather Racing, Sterling Stables, and Marsha Naify’s Gold Phoenix had yet to race as far as 1 3/8 miles. The promising four-year-old grasped the opportunity in the $303,000 Del Mar ‘Cap, landing his first stakes victory and a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Unhurried early as Tizamagician set fractions of :25.69, :50.00, and 1:13.99 on the firm turf, Gold Phoenix followed 2.20-1 favorite Master Piece rounding the far turn. Prat therefore had his mount in striking range of the horse to beat.

A cavalry charge was developing. Tizamagician had surrendered the lead by taking a wide path leaving the backstretch. The stalking Masteroffoxhounds and Tango Tango Tango were quick to pass him, and Dicey Mo Chara speared through on the inside down the lane. Master Piece then pounced on them all in what appeared to be the decisive move in deep stretch.

But Gold Phoenix, the 3.80-1 second choice, was revving up on the favorite’s flank. The Irish-bred thrust his head in front on the line, clocking 2:14.51 and furnishing a $9.60 payout.

Master Piece was the close runner-up in this race for the second straight year. Dicey Mo Chara was just a further half-length away in third. Tizamagician continued to box on for fourth. Masteroffoxhounds and Gregdar, two more D’Amato trainees, checked in fifth and sixth. Tango Tango Tango, Heywoods Beach, Red King (the other member of the D’Amato quartet), Tesoro, and Order and Law rounded out the order of finish.

Gold Phoenix remains unexposed with a resume of 8-3-3-2, $311,212. Successful in his lone Irish start at Dundalk in early 2021, the son of Belardo resurfaced with his new American connections this year. Gold Phoenix placed second in a couple of turf sprint allowances at Santa Anita, but needed a mile to clear his entry-level condition on Apr. 2. He promptly took a class and distance hike for the Charles Whittingham (G2), finishing an even third. Back down to 1 1/8-mile allowances, Gold Phoenix was runner-up to classy stablemate Cathkin Peak June 18 and third to Gregdar here on July 24.

Bred by Mighty Universe Ltd., Gold Phoenix is out of the Mizzen Mast mare Magnifica. She is a Juddmonte-bred full sister to Hong Kong Group 1 winner Giant Treasure (formerly known as Sea Defence) and multiple Grade 2 vixen Jibboom, herself the dam of Group 3 scorer Flying Jib.

Del Mar Mile (G2)

A troubled second to Master Piece in the Eddie Read (G2) last out, Hong Kong Harry regained the winning habit as the 6-5 Del Mar Mile favorite. Prat settled the D’Amato trainee in sixth early, and waited patiently while judging the torrid pace unfolding ahead of him.

Air Force Red was egged on by Goliad through an opening quarter in :22.44, and the pair already opened up by daylight. When the keen Goliad took over at the half in :45.00, there was an 11-length gap on the rest of the field. Goliad drew away from Air Force Red while passing six furlongs in 1:08.29, but he came back to earth in the stretch. A resurgent Air Force Red picked up the baton, until tiring late himself.

Hong Kong Harry by that point was rolling into contention alongside Irideo, who pushed him wider out. The favorite shrugged off that inconvenience, struck top gear, and drove to a 2 1/4-length decision in 1:33.15.

Irideo outperformed his 9.60-1 odds in second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of D’Amato’s Cathkin Peak. Air Force Red was relegated to fourth, followed by Tarantino, None Above the Law, Goliad, Astronaut, and Figureti. Tripoli was scratched.

Owned by Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa, and Tony Valazza, Hong Kong Harry sports a 12-8-2-1 mark with $415,096 in earnings. The Irish-bred was a useful handicapper in Great Britain for Richard Fahey. He sold for $122,719 at the 2021 Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale and found a new career in Southern California. Hong Kong Harry won his first three stateside starts at Santa Anita this spring, highlighted by the American (G3), before getting pinballed in the Eddie Read.

The five-year-old was bred by Amaranth Business Management, but not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup. D’Amato mentioned that in his postrace interview as a factor in his calculations. The Oct. 1 City of Hope Mile (G2) could be next for Hong Kong Harry, a son of Es Que Love and the multiple stakes-placed Vital Body, by Gold Away.

Del Mar Derby (G2)

Slow Down Andy turned out to be a Derby horse after all – not the Kentucky Derby (G1) as initially hoped, but the Del Mar version on grass. Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, the Reddam Racing homebred controlled the steady pace and dug in gamely.

The 6.70-1 chance leveraged his position as inside speed from post 2, doling out splits of :24.13, :48.77, and 1:12.98. The 68-1 Spycatcher attended in second and maintained that position at every call. War at Sea likewise tracked and stayed on one-paced off the three-month break.

Slow Down Andy lifted down the lane to fend off a persistent Spycatcher by a half-length, with the same margin back to War at Sea. Balnikhov, the 9-5 favorite from the D’Amato barn, was disadvantaged by the race shape, and did well to rally from last for fourth. Next came Cabo Spirit; O’Neill’s better-fancied hope, the 7-2 Mackinnon; Prat’s mount, Dandy Warhol; St Anthony; and Barsabas.

By covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.27, Slow Down Andy enhanced his record to 8-4-3-0, $783,100. The son of champion Nyquist – the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner for the same connections – was on the trail with wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G3) and Sunland Park Derby (G3). Slow Down Andy was then sidelined by illness, returning with a pair of seconds in the Los Alamitos Derby and the Cal-restricted Real Good Deal S.

The surface switch put him back in the winner’s circle, a move that had also worked with his older brother Team Merchants. Likewise out of the Square Eddie mare Edwina E, Team Merchants scored his first stakes win in last fall’s Let It Ride S. on the Del Mar turf. He later reverted to the main track and captured a minor stakes on the Sunland Derby undercard, making for a sibling double.