by J. Keeler Johnson
Jockey Flavien Prat can seemingly do no wrong when he rides the turf course at Del Mar. During the first five days of the seaside track’s prestigious summer meet, Prat won four stakes races over the turf course, most notably guiding Bowies Hero to a decisive triumph in the $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes (G2) on Sunday.
Winner of the 2018 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, Bowies Hero hadn’t reached the winner’s circle in more than a year, but with Prat in the saddle for the first time, the five-year-old son of Artie Schiller rebounded with a strong performance.
Certainly Bowies Hero benefited from Prat’s expertise. Sent off as the 3.40-1 third choice in a small but quality field of six, Bowies Hero secured a perfect early position racing behind runners in fifth-place, a cozy trip as longshot Ritzy A. P. led the defending Eddie Read champion Catapult through fractions of :24.38, :48.16 and 1:11.71.
Turning for home, Prat steered Bowies Hero to the outside, and the response was an explosive rally down the center of the course. By sprinting the final furlong in a quick :11.32, Bowies Hero left his rivals 2 1/4 lengths behind while stopping the clock for 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.63.
“I was in a good spot all the way around. No problems for me,” said Prat. “When we straightened away in the stretch and we got clear, he fired a good one. He was best today.”
Marckie’s Water, cutting back in distance off a victory in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2), produced a furious rally in the final furlong to edge Ritzy A. P. in a photo for second place. Sharp Samurai, Catapult and Ohio trailed home in a tight finish that saw just one length separate second-place from sixth-place.
The Eddie Read marked Bowies Hero’s third stakes victory at Del Mar, following triumphs in the 2016 Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes and the 2017 Oceanside Stakes. Owned by the partnership of Agave Racing Stable, ERJ Racing, Madaket Stables and Rockin Robin Racing Stable, Bowies Hero has earned $874,790 over the course of four seasons and 19 starts.
With Bowies Hero back in top form, winning trainer Phil D’Amato indicated that the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita could be a long-term goal for the three-time graded winner.
“I think he’s just rounding back into his form cycle right now, third race off a layoff and Flavien gave him a picture perfect ride,” said D’Amato. “I think I raced him one time too many last year, gave him a long break and he was back on point today. Up next is the (August 18) Del Mar Mile (G2) and hopefully that will get us into the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”