Trainer Phil D’Amato says Hong Kong Harry is “not the prettiest horse,” but he certainly admired the gelding’s effort and that of jockey Flavien Prat in engineering a come-from-behind win in the US$251,500 G2 Seabiscuit Handicap (turf) on November 26 at Del Mar.
Facing four previous Grade/Group 1 winners among his seven rivals, Prat let Hong Kong Harry settle well off the pace as the field exited the chute to pass the finish line for the first time. He raced there down the backstretch and started picking things up entering the turn.
Meanwhile, Masteroffoxhounds, also from D’Amato’s barn, was out and winging at a rapid clip and showing little sign of flagging. Inside the furlong marker, Victor Espinoza revved up Beyond Brilliant to mount the first challenge just outside the early leader, only to find Hong Kong Harry with the best late stride on the outside of a three-horse finish.
Hong Kong Harry won by a neck, with Beyond Brilliant edging Masteroffoxhounds for second by a head. The 1 1/16 miles on firm turf went in a quick 1:39.79, a fifth of a second off the course record.
“Flavien rode him with a lot of confidence,” D’Amato said. “He could sense they were flying up there. He waited a little bit longer than usual, but he came with a great, late kick, and the time was ultra-fast.
“I’m proud of both my horses. They were about a neck apart, really.”
Beyond Brilliant joined the ranks of top-level winners in the 2021 Hollywood Derby (G1T). Santin, second in that race and winner of this summer’s G1 Arlington Million (turf) at Churchill Downs, finished fourth in the Seabiscuit. Fifth-place finisher Irideo won at the top level in South America, and Smooth Like Strait, a disappointing seventh, won last year’s G1 Shoemaker Mile (turf) at Santa Anita Park.
Hong Kong Harry, previously trained in England by Richard Fahey, won his first two starts for D’Amato during the spring meeting at Santa Anita – both conditioned allowance optional claimers at 1 1/8 miles on the green course. He then stepped up to win the one-mile G3 American Stakes (turf) in June, finished second to Master Piece in the G2 Eddie Read Stakes (turf) at Del Mar in July, and won the G2 Del Mar Mile (turf) on September 3.
“This horse has got a heart of gold,” the trainer said. “He’s just one of those horses – he’s not the prettiest horse but he’s got the best constitution, the best heart, and the best turn of foot, lately.”
Bred in Ireland by Amarath Business Management out of the Gold Away mare Vital Body, Hong Kong Harry was purchased for 85,000gns (US$122,768) by Boomer Bloodstock in 2021 at Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale from the Musley Bank Stables consignment. He currently races for owners Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa, and Tony Valazza.
If Hong Kong Harry is to advance to the top level of the game during a 6-year-old season, the Es Que Love gelding will have to pay his own way, D’Amato said.
“Maybe focus around the mile races. He’s not Breeders’ Cup nominated, so he’s going to have to show us next year by winning some of these mile preps that he can pay his way in there.
“But, if he keeps running like this, I think it’s a very good possibility.”
The 2023 Breeders’ Cup will be run at Santa Anita.
Written by Bob Kieckhefer, originally published in BloodHorse