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D'Amato hoping for a steady diet of stakes

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Benoit & Associates
Trainer Phil D'Amato is pointing Bellamentary to Friday's Osunitas Stakes.

Phil D’Amato does not expect to win the training title at the Del Mar summer meeting that begins Wednesday. Last year, D’Amato finished first with 23 wins, two more than Peter Miller, who he thinks will be too tough this year.

“I’m not looking in that direction,” D’Amato said on Sunday. “I do not have the kind of horses in all the categories like Pete does in the claiming ranks from $10,000 to $20,000.

“I think he’ll run a ton of horses. I’d put him as the favorite to win the training title.”

D’Amato, 41, is striving for a different milestone – leading all trainers in stakes wins. Last year, D’Amato won five stakes at the summer meet, one fewer than Bob Baffert, who led all trainers.

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D’Amato is hoping to win more stakes than at last year’s meet, beginning with Bowies Hero in Wednesday’s $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf.

“I think I’ve got a quality cast of stakes horses to run,” D’Amato said. “I don’t know if I can beat it, but I’ll try. I’ll be in a lot of stakes to give me a chance to do it.”

The composition of D’Amato’s stable has changed in the last year, with an emphasis on stakes- and allowance-class horses. He will have 40 horses at Del Mar and approximately 30 based offtrack at both Los Alamitos and the San Luis Rey Downs training center.

“I think it’s a different crew of horses,” he said. “I’m more heavily stacked in the stakes and allowance caliber. I’m light in the claiming division, and I have a bunch of 2-year-olds. I’ve got a lot of high-dollar ones and Cal-breds, colts and fillies.

“I think some of my better 2-year-olds will debut late in the meet. I’ll bring them along steadily and let them develop.”

D’Amato assisted Mike Mitchell until he took over the stable in 2014. D’Amato won a career-best 11 graded stakes in 2016 and has five wins in graded stakes this year.

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This weekend, D’Amato has Bellamentary for Friday’s Osunitas Stakes and Hunt and Vyjack under consideration for Saturday’s Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes on turf. On Sunday, D’Amato plans to run Helen Hillary or Kenda in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

Later in the season, Enola Gray, Pee Wee Reese, and S Y Sky, all owned by Nick Alexander, look well positioned in stakes for California-breds. Midnight Storm, the winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita on June 3, is scheduled to start in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 20.

“We’ve freshened a lot of horses,” D’Amato said. “I think we’ll have plenty of cracks at graded stakes races. I’m looking forward to having a few more starters potentially in the Breeders’ Cup.”

The Breeders’ Cup races will be run at Del Mar on Nov. 3-4. Last November, D’Amato won his first Breeders’ Cup race when Obviously took the Turf Sprint. Obviously has since been retired. The Del Mar summer meeting will be a proving ground for the horses D’Amato hopes will take his place at the Breeders’ Cup.

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