Published Sunday, November 26th, 2023   ( 7 months ago )

Stable Notes
November 26, 2023

By Jim Charvat

Phil D'Amato | Benoit Photo

Phil D'Amato © Benoit Photo 


It’s not unprecedented but it is unusual when a trainer enters three horses in a race and they finish one, two, three on the board. Philip D’Amato has done it twice this year at Del Mar.

The latest was Saturday in the G2 Seabiscuit when Easter ran down Hong Kong Harry and another stablemate, Balnikhov, came from the back of the pack to finish third behind ‘Harry.’

“It’s nice to see all three of my horses run well and the best horse won today,” D’Amato said after the race. “Maybe it’s ‘Harry’ next time and maybe it’s Balnikhov after that.”

Back in July, D’Amato pulled off the feat in the G2 Eddie Read with Gold Phoenix, Balnikhov and Masteroffoxhounds. He took it one step further that day when the fourth horse he had entered in the race, Count Again, finished fourth, completing an all D’Amato superfecta. It’s just another reason why D’Amato has built a reputation of being dominant on the grass.

Which brings us back to Easter, a 5-year-old French-bred son of Exosphere. He has got to be considered one of D’Amato’s best training jobs to date. Easter is sort of like the Allen Iverson of horse racing. He hates, sometimes refuses, to practice or, in racing terms, ‘work’ in the morning.

On the Sunday, November 12th, D’Amato brought a string of horses out to work on the turf. One by one they took a spin around the Jimmy Durante Turf Course, until it came to be Easter’s turn. He walked up on the grass, looked around and refused to go. His stablemate Hong Kong Harry waited a few minutes for him but Easter wouldn’t budge.

So D’Amato took Easter back to the barn, waited a couple days and brought him back, this time on the main track, and he put in a 5-furlong work. Even Iverson practiced every once in a while. The following Tuesday D’Amato brought Easter back on the dirt. He was supposed to work another 5-furlongs but pulled up after three. Nothing wrong with him, he was just done.

“Some horses are like that,” D’Amato says. “They’re difficult to train so you just train them on their program and keep them happy. When they don’t like to train, you do something else with them. They have minds of their own sometimes and you just have to work around that.”

One would assume that, with all the antics in the morning, going out and winning a Grade II race would be questionable. But instead, Easter put in a fabulous performance, coming from behind to catch his stablemate with an impressive turn of foot.

“I saw Easter was kind of stuck behind there,” D’Amato says of the race, “and thought maybe he was going to get second. Antonio (Fresu) said he was able to find daylight and then he exploded. He said within a couple of strides he made up all the ground like nothing.”

Del Mar’s leading trainer of the Bing Crosby Season gives a lot of credit to his exercise rider, Tony Gutierrez, and his pony boy for Easter’s showing.

“We just found out what he (Easter) likes to do most,” D’Amato explains. “Sometimes it was ‘I want to jog two miles today.’ Sometimes it was ‘I’m ready to breeze today.’ It’s one of those things you just play it by ear, day-by-day.

“On days when he does want to train,” D’Amato continues, “you let him do enough so on the days he wants to mess around it’s no big deal. We know he’s an ultra-talented horse.”

D’Amato isn’t sure yet where he will go next with Easter, who came out of the Seabiscuit in good order. He did mention the G2 San Gabriel at Santa Anita as a possible next outing for his trouble child but he is certainly a horse to watch in 2024, both in the mornings and in the afternoons.

“I think we have a horse on the improve here,” D’Amato concludes. “Graham Motion did a great job with him, getting him going in the right direction. He won that stake at Santa Anita (the Lure Stakes) and that momentum carried on to this race (the Seabiscuit).”


Judging by the nominations for the remaining Turf Festival stakes races at Del Mar, there will be an increase in out-of-town visitors at Del Mar next weekend. Trainers Chad Brown, Graham Motion, Bill Mott, Rodolphe Brisset, Charlie Appleby and Mark Casse all have nominated horses for the closing weekend’s races.

Casse has a string of nine horses already on the grounds. His assistant, Shane Tripp, is overseeing the group while they’re here.

“We came out for the Breeders’ Cup,” he says, “and then Mark decided to come down here and stay. We’ve run a couple and hit the board a couple of times. Next weekend we’ll be busy.”

Casse has nominated Webslinger to the G1 Hollywood Derby and Go With Gusto to the G3 Jimmy Durante on Saturday. Then they’ll send out Dead Pan in the G3 Cecil B. DeMille on Sunday.

Casse is based at Woodbine in Toronto, Canada but Tripp thinks they may keep a couple of their horses in Southern California for the winter.

“I think we might,” Tripp says. “There are a couple of spots at Santa Anita on opening weekend that they’re looking at but I haven’t heard any definite plans yet.”

New York-based trainer Chad Brown has entered two horses in the Derby. Program Trading won the G1 Saratoga Derby in August and came back and ran second to Integration in the G3 Virginia Derby in September. Brown’s other horse in the Hollywood Derby is Redistricting, who ran seventh in the G1 Belmont Derby in July before coming back to win an entry-level allowance race at the Belmont at Aqueduct meet last month.

That’s not the last you’ll see of Brown at Del Mar next weekend. The four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer has four horses nominated for the G1 Matriarch set for Sunday. They are Beaute Cachee, Fluffy Socks, Surge Capacity and Whitebeam. Fluffy Socks would be making her third trip out to Del Mar. She ran third in the 2021 Del Mar Oaks. That was after winning the Jimmy Durante Stakes in 2020. Surge Capacity just won the G3 Valley View at Keeneland and Whitebeam beat In Italian in the G1 Diana at Saratoga this summer.

Other horses that could ship in would be Memorialize, winner of the Tepin Stakes at Aqueduct last out, and Yatta both from the Graham Motion barn and both nominated for the Jimmy Durante. Motion has also nominated Sanderson for the Cecil B. DeMille. Brisett may bring Santorini to the Derby as may Appleby with Silver Knott. Mott has nominated Wakanaka to the Matriarch.

Nineteen fillies have been nominated for the Jimmy Durante including Grand Slam Smile, winner of the Golden State Juvenile on the Friday Breeders’ Cup undercard. Entries for the one mile on the turf test will be drawn on Wednesday.

The Hollywood Derby has 15 colts nominated. The local contingent is led by Dandy Man Shines, who won the $75,000 Let It Ride Stakes on opening day; Maltese Falcon, winner of the G3 La Jolla this past summer at Del Mar, and Seal Team, winner of the G2 Twilight Derby on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Santa Anita. Entries for the 1 1/8 mile turf race also will be drawn on Wednesday.

Fourteen fillies and mares have been nominated for the Matriarch. Closing Remarks, winner of the G2 Yellow Ribbon and the G2 John Mabee during the summer meet at Del Mar, is being pointed to the race as well as Dolce Zel, winner of the $75,000 Kathryn Crosby earlier in the fall meet.

Finally 12 colts are being considered for the Cecil B. DeMille including Lord Bullingdon, winner of the Qatar Golden Mile at Santa Anita on the Friday Breeders’ Cup undercard.

Entries for both the Matriarch and the DeMille will be drawn Thursday.

A fifth stakes race is also slated for next weekend. The $100,000 Stormy Liberal turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up will be run Saturday. Fourteen of some of the fastest horses on the grounds have been nominated including Tony Ann, winner of the G2 Franklin at Keeneland; defending champion Turn on the Jets; Lane Way, winner of the G2 Eddie D last out at Santa Anita and Johnny Podres, runner up to Kings River Knight in the California Flag last out.


To the average horseplayer, the stakes races being run at Del Mar this week and next always come neatly packaged in their program or Racing Form, ready to be handicapped and played. But there’s a lot of work that goes into creating these high quality races and that’s where Ed Reese comes in.

Reese is Del Mar’s Stakes Coordinator. With help from his colleagues in the racing office, Reese is in charge of making sure the multi-million dollar stakes schedule goes off without a hitch.

“This is an easy gig,” Reese says. “David (Jerkens, racing secretary) gets the east coast guys and that takes a lot of pressure off of me and everybody wants to run during the summer making it so much easier.”

The process of filling a stakes race starts with the nominations that begin coming in weeks, sometimes months before the race.

“First you have to nominate your horse,” Reese says, “either through myself or David or by an email. I put them into the computer system. We also collect money for the nominations. 100, 200, 300 dollars depending on the conditions of the race. That money goes into the purses.”

If a trainer does not nominate a horse by the deadline, then they can still get their horse into the race with a supplement, something trainer Bob Baffert did with Nysos in the Bob Hope Stakes earlier in the Bing Crosby meet.

“On entry day we get phone calls from trainers entering their horses,” Reese notes. “We write down the entries on a yellow card and give it to Zack Soto, the assistant racing secretary. He marks it on the count sheet to know how many horses we have in that race and then it goes into another box that goes to Dawn Schmid, (the Clerk of the Course). She puts the entries into the computer to make the ‘white sheets’, which we draw off of. That gives us the horses name, owner, trainer, breeding, if it’s on Lasix, whether or not the horse is on the vets list.”

The draw is just like you see it at the Derby or the Pacific Classic. The customary ‘pill box’ is used to match the post positions with the horse. Typical entries for the day take about an hour in the summer, about a half hour in the fall.

“I’ve been in the racing office 43 years,” Reese says. “The computer has brought about a lot of changes. There used to be just the yellow cards. We used to have cut strips with the past performances and check the eligibility off on index cards. Now it’s all done on my computer.”

Reese first came to Del Mar in the summer of 2017 and graduated to Stakes Coordinator two years later.

“Chris Merz decided to go to Laurel Park,” Reese remembers. “He called David and told him he wasn’t coming down here and I guess I was next. I was the entry clerk at the time, putting the entries into the computer. But I had been an assistant racing secretary at Los Alamitos for 20-some years before that.”

Reese followed his father into the horse racing business.

“My dad was a groom,” Reese says. “He worked with (trainers) Clyde Turk and Ralph West. He worked with a horse named Linita, who won a few stakes out here. He also took care of Quicken Tree.

While Jerkens does most of the heavy lifting, Ed does have a hand in luring out-of-town trainers to Del Mar.

“Rodolphe Brisset is coming out for the (G1 Hollywood) Derby from Kentucky,” Reese says. “He called me and said ‘I don’t know what to do. They’re canceling turf races back here. I gotta come out there.’”

“I got Armando Sanchez out for the Breeders’ Cup a couple of years ago when we had it here,” Reese continues. “He came out here and he loved it. Now each year he brings a string.”

COOLING OUT: C Z Rocket won an allowance race at Del Mar Saturday for trainer Peter Miller. The 9-year-old gelding has run eight times at Del Mar over his eight-year racing career and won twice. No word as to whether the connections plan to run ‘C Z’ in 2024 but he can’t run at Del Mar. The track has an age limit. No horse 10 or older can run at the seaside oval…Planetario came out of his victory in Friday’s G2 Hollywood Turf Cup in good order. Trainer Richard Mandella has yet to decide where they will go next with him…Larry Collmus will not call the races today due to a case of bronchitis. Fill-in announcer John Lies will take up the mic for the afternoon…The turf course was open for training Sunday. Notable works: Closing Remarks (4f, :49.80); Go With Gusto (4f, :50.80); Silver Knott (4f, :49.80); Tony Ann (4f, :50.40); Turn on the Jets (4f, :49.60); Webslinger (4f, :50.80); Yatta (4f, :51.40), and Elm Drive (5f, 1:02.60). 


Del Mar Statistics

 Jockey Standings
(Current through November 25, 2023 Inclusive) 

Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Juan Hernandez 53 15 12 6 28% 62% $755,380
Flavien Prat 34 10 5 5 29% 59% $465,228
Antonio Fresu 55 7 12 15 13% 62% $617,700
Kyle Frey 46 6 8 5 13% 41% $264,476
Umberto Rispoli 46 6 8 5 13% 41% $385,700
Edwin Maldonado 37 5 6 5 14% 43% $283,560
Ramon Vazquez 31 4 4 4 13% 39% $267,400
J.G. Torrealba 21 4 3 3 19% 48% $189,680
Hector Berrios 21 4 2 5 19% 52% $315,772
Tiago Pereira 25 4 2 5 16% 44% $198,392


Trainer Standings
(Current through November 25, 2023 Inclusive) 

Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Philip D'Amato 33 8 7 3 24% 55% $546,880
Peter Miller 36 7 6 1 19% 39% $327,340
Bob Baffert 22 7 2 2 32% 50% $369,488
Doug F. O'Neill 35 5 5 9 14% 54% $286,388
Steve R. Knapp 18 4 4 1 22% 50% $143,040
Robert B. Hess, Jr. 16 4 1 2 25% 44% $157,860
Mark Glatt 17 3 6 6 18% 88% $173,200
John W. Sadler 17 3 3 4 18% 59% $170,480
Tim Yakteen 9 3 2 0 33% 56% $142,700
Jorge Periban 6 3 1 0 50% 67% $79,720


Winning Favorites Report
(Current through November 25, 2023 Inclusive) 

  Winning favorites -- 33 out of 78 -- 42.31%
Winning favorites on dirt -- 17 out of 37 -- 45.95%
Winning favorites on turf -- 16 out of 41 -- 39.02%
Winning odds-on favorites -- 13 out of 19 -- 68.42%
In-the-Money favorites -- 61 out of 78 -- 78.21%
In-the-Money odds-on favorites -- 16 out of 19 -- 84.21%