Horse Racing

D’Amato Runners Take Trifecta in Seabiscuit Handicap

Trainer Phil D’Amato started three runners in the Nov. 25 Seabiscuit Handicap (G2T) on the Del Mar turf and came away with the Trifecta, as Easter , Hong Kong Harry , and Balnikhov  nabbed the first three spots. The trainer was winning his fifth Seabiscuit, for the third time in the last four years.

Easter is a relatively new addition to the D’Amato barn. Trained by Graham Motion in the East, the 5-year-old gelding shipped to Santa Anita and won the Oct. 28 Lure Stakes for Motion. Owner Madaket Stables decided to leave Easter in California, moving him to D’Amato’s care.

“I inherited a nice horse, and due credit to Graham Motion,” D’Amato said.

Hong Kong Harry, the 2022 Seabiscuit winner, was top-weighted under the handicap conditions, carrying 125 pounds, including jockey Juan Hernandez. He gave Easter five pounds and was sent away the 4-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes, with Easter the 8-5 second choice.

Longshot Sumter  set the pace, with all three of D’Amato’s runners traveling well behind a first quarter-mile in :23.10 and a half-mile in :46.61. Hong Kong Harry was closest in fourth by about three lengths, while Easter raced in sixth and Balnikhov ran last early.

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Easter didn’t appear to enjoy racing that far back, becoming rank for jockey Antonio Fresu, who was riding him for the first time in a race.

“My horse was pretty keen in the first part of the race, and so I was trying to relax him as much as I could along the way,” Fresu said. “I just tried to get him into a nice rhythm.”

Fresu succeeded, which allowed him to follow the path of Hong Kong Harry, ultimately getting the jump on the other D’Amato runner. Into the stretch, Hong Kong Harry split horses, coming between Sumter on the rail and Cabo Spirit  to his outside to take the lead. Easter ranged up outside of Hong Kong Harry and inside of Cabo Spirit to score by a half-length in 1:39.96. Balnikhov came flying outside of Easter and Hong Kong Harry to finish third, another half-length back.

D’Amato continues to dominate Southern California turf racing. He began his Seabiscuit success in 2015 with Midnight Storm   and subsequently won it with Hunt  in 2017, Count Again  in 2020, and Hong Kong Harry in 2022.

Madaket Stables has owned Easter since he came to the U.S. Easter began his racing career in his native France, where he started eight times, winning two races and finishing second in the 2021 Prix Omnium II at Saint-Cloud. Consigned by trainer Fabrice Chappet to the 2021 Arc Sale, Easter sold for 150,000 Euros to Mandore International Agency. 

Gelded before making his U.S. debut, Easter started eight times for Motion in the East, winning twice and finishing fourth in the 2022 Man o’ War Stakes (G1T).

Aleyrion Bloodstock bred Easter, a son of Exosphere Excellent Girl , by Exceed and Excel . Exosphere was bred by Darley and won four group stakes, including the 2015 Golden Rose Stakes (G1) as a 3-year-old. The stallion’s progeny includes stakes winners Thermosphere, Exoboom, Ocean, and Exo Lady. He stands for a 2023 fee of (AUS)$6,600 at Oaklands Stud in Umbiram, Queensland, Australia.

Video: Seabiscuit H. (G2T)


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