Horse Racing

D’Amato Foursome Take Top Four Spots in Eddie Read

Four Phil D’Amato trainees employed different strategies in the July 30 Eddie Read Stakes (G2T) at Del Mar. One set the pace, another sat midpack, and two came from far back. But at the finish it was the D’Amato barn in the first four spots, the rest nowhere, as Gold Phoenix  won, followed by Balnikhov , Masteroffoxhounds , and Count Again .

It was also a one-two finish for horses owned by Little Red Feather Racing, a partner with others in both Gold Phoenix and Balnikhov. Add in Hector Berrios as Gold Phoenix’s rider, and this is a team that has already clicked at Del Mar this season. Conclude , trained by D’Amato, ridden by Berrios, and owned in part by Little Red Feather, captured the opening-day Oceanside Stakes July 21.

Of the D’Amato four, Count Again went favored at 9-5, even though he was making his first start since winning the 2022 Shoemaker Mile (G1T) at Santa Anita 14 months ago. Gold Phoenix, a co-second choice at 9-2, had a much more recent grade 1 victory, in the March 4 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1T). However, he subsequently ran fourth and seventh in the Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2T) and this year’s Shoemaker Mile.

Masteroffoxhounds demonstrated the quickest early foot of the D’Amato quartet in the Read. He beat Northern California shipper I’mgonnabesomebody  to the lead and set fractions of :24.54 for the first quarter mile and :49.20 for the half mile. Berrios let Gold Phoenix sit in fifth, while Balnikhov and Count Again trailed the field of nine.

Going into the second turn, Masteroffoxhounds continued to lead, with Mackinnon  having moved into second. Cabo Spirit  ranged up on the outside to engage the leaders. But Berrios, having saved ground to this point, tipped out Gold Phoenix for the stretch run while Balnikhov and Count Again were also passing horses.

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The stretch belonged to the D’Amato group, as Gold Phoenix reached the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of Balnikhov in 1:48.62. Masteroffoxhounds held on for third, a half-length behind Balnikhov and a length in front of Count Again. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to fifth-place Cabo Spirit.

“All my horses ran well and I’m proud of them,” D’Amato said. “Count Again was coming off a long layoff. He came with a late kick. At the top of the lane, I thought Masteroffoxhounds was going to win. Then Gold Phoenix came through, then Balnikhov. It’s a great feeling, but just a credit to a great team, great owners, and these horses. This is what I live for and this is what I got in the game for.”

Billy Koch of Little Red Feather had said before the race that he hoped for a good pace so that his horses could put in a “big-time kick.” While the early fractions weren’t blistering, Gold Phoenix and Balnikhov had plenty of kick.

D’Amato won his fourth Eddie Read, following Midnight Storm   in 2016, Hunt  in 2017, and Bowies Hero  in 2019. 

Gold Phoenix is one of the many good Irish-breds that D’Amato and his bloodstock agents have found in Europe. Mighty Universe bred the 5-year-old son of Belardo Magnifica , by Mizzen Mast . After being a 24,000-Euro buyback at the 2019 Goffs Sportsman’s yearling sale, Gold Phoenix made only one start in his native country, winning a maiden race at Dundalk in February of his 3-year-old season.

Eleven months later, D’Amato unveiled him at Santa Anita as a 4-year-old, racing for Little Red Feather, Sterling Stables, and Marsha Naify, the same ownership group that continues to race him today. Gold Phoenix successfully ran through his conditions, finished third in the 2022 Whittingham, his first graded attempt, and at last summer’s Del Mar meeting captured the Del Mar Handicap (G2T). The Eddie Read is his third graded win, and Gold Phoenix now has earnings of $837,757.

Video: Eddie Read S. (G2T)


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