Trainer Phil D’Amato had four solid contenders in Sunday’s $252,000 Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar, and Gold Phoenix led home a clean sweep of the superfecta for the barn. Under a textbook ride by the hot Hector Berrios, the 9-2 chance got the jump on the rallying Balnikhov. Longtime leader Masteroffoxhounds was relegated to third, and 9-5 favorite Count Again was a belated fourth in his comeback.
Gold Phoenix won the March 4 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) in his reappearance, but after his seventh in the May 29 Shoemaker Mile (G1), D’Amato decided that the Irish-bred preferred more ground. After all, the chestnut gelding had earned his first stakes win here in the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar H. (G2) last summer, followed by a near-miss third in the John Henry Turf Championship (G2). He’d placed in his previous two attempts at 1 1/8 miles, a year ago, but the Eddie Read proved his effectiveness at this trip.
As expected, Masteroffoxhounds set up shop on the front end, and he enjoyed cozy splits of :24.54, :49.20, and 1:13.07 on the firm turf. I’mgonnabesomebody initially tried to keep tabs, and then Mackinnon got involved, only for both to end up backpedaling. Cabo Spirit moved up and briefly loomed approaching the far turn, yet he too failed to maintain a bid.
All the while, Gold Phoenix was saving ground in midpack, and Berrios didn’t tip out until turning for home. Taking off after Masteroffoxhounds down the lane, he rolled past and took command. Balnikhov, who had been on hold a little further back, emerged onto the scene, but couldn’t make up enough ground.
Gold Phoenix held Balnikhov safe by three-quarters of a length in 1:48.62, in a Little Red Feather Racing exacta. Billy Koch’s operation campaigns Gold Phoenix in partnership with Sterling Stables and Marsha Naify, and Balnikhov’s co-owners are Madaket Stables and Old Bones Racing Stable.
Count Again, who had not raced since taking the 2022 Shoemaker Mile, would have benefited from a stronger tempo. Anchored in last early, he made solid headway to round out the superfecta. This was the kind of effort that he can build upon, especially back at the hurly-burly of a mile.
Cabo Spirit might have used up his energy earlier than ideal, but he was still a shade disappointing in fifth. Next came I’mgonnabesomebody, Handy Dandy, a lackluster Dicey Mo Chara, and Mackinnon.
Gold Phoenix’s scorecard stands at 14-5-3-3, $837,712. Whisked off after his seven-furlong debut win at Dundalk in February 2021, he’s displayed more stamina in U.S. conditions than his pedigree implies.
By the miler Belardo, Gold Phoenix is out of the Mizzen Mast mare Magnifica, a full sister to Hong Kong Group 1-winning miler Giant Treasure (originally named Sea Defence) and multiple Grade 2 queen Jibboom. Considering that Gold Phoenix has few miles on the clock as a five-year-old, chances are that he’s still figuring out his optimal trip.