Michael House’s Prince Abama had yet to race beyond 1 1/8 miles, but trainer Phil D’Amato believed the Irish import would handle the climb to 1 1/2 miles in Friday’s $251,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar. His judgment proved correct as the 2.80-1 chance broke through with his first stakes victory, although the dawdling pace actually put more of a premium on finishing speed.
The lack of tempo—“somnambulant,” as track announcer Larry Collmus described it – was one of the conundrums of an open-looking renewal. Jockey Flavien Prat, well aware of the pace map, cued Prince Abama to go forward. Then Go On lived up to his name to muscle past through the opening quarter in :24.88, in the process hampering D’Amato’s other runner, Cash Equity. Go On slowed it down as they passed the stands for the first time, causing the field to bunch at the half in :51.79.
Prat had enough by the time they processed into the clubhouse turn. Sending Prince Abama from his close attending perch into the lead, he seized command through six furlongs in 1:17.63. That immediately opened up a seam for Cash Equity to extricate himself, and he followed his stablemate through into the clear. But Cash Equity wouldn’t have the same acceleration to stick with the winner.
Prince Abama began to wind it up by the mile in 1:42.49 and shook free entering the homestretch. Avenue rallied on the outside, and three-year-old The Grey Wizard got through on the inside, but Prince Abama had poached enough of an advantage. The Tamayuz gelding had three-quarters of a length to spare over The Grey Wizard, who was a head up on Avenue.
“Flavien made the right move at the right time,” D’Amato summed up. “He sensed that the pace was ultra-slow when that three-horse was on the lead. He decided at the five-eighths pole he wanted to be on the lead, and that was the winning move. He (Prince Abama) has just matured and got better.”
“He was tactical enough that I could put him right in the race,” Prat said of the pre-race strategy worked out with D’Amato. “It turned out true. He ran well and finished up like we hoped. In these long races you need a horse that can handle the distance. Our horse could today.”
Runner-up The Grey Wizard acquitted himself well from a poor tactical position, last after a slow start, and could have used more pace support. Dicey Mo Chara, the 2.20-1 favorite, did not adapt as well and wound up fourth, 3 1/2 lengths behind Avenue. Cash Equity faded to fifth, followed by Dean Martini and the tailed-off Go On.
By finishing 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.42, Prince Abama enhanced his scorecard to 10-3-4-1, $327,555. The chestnut carried his admirable consistency over from the allowance ranks into stakes, placing third in the Oct. 1 City of Hope Mile (G2) and second in the Oct. 29 Lure S. The Hollywood Turf Cup gives the four-year-old a whole new menu of possibilities.
Bred by Mr. T. Jones in the Emerald Isle, Prince Abama is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Abama Lady. This is the family of Canadian champion La Lorgnette, dam of multiple Group 1 star and classic-placed Hawk Wing.