Frankie Dettori is beginning his year-long, global farewell tour at Santa Anita, and the legendary rider wasted no time in delighting fans at the Great Race Place. On Monday’s opening-day card, Dettori piloted 3-5 favorite Country Grammer to a resounding victory in the $200,500 San Antonio (G2).
Although Country Grammer was the undisputed class of the field, he had yet to win at 1 1/16 miles, and even finds 1 1/8 miles a tad sharper than ideal. Dettori was well aware of that, having guided the stout five-year-old to his signature win in the about 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup (G1). So in their San Antonio reunion, he made sure to urge Country Grammer from the start.
When the favorite was stacked out four wide in the clubhouse turn, the tactic might have been second-guessed. But the key was that Country Grammer was now stoked up in striking range, and poised to unleash already turning for home.
Stablemate Hopkins took up the pacemaking role through fractions of :22.76 and :46.16, pressed by Stilleto Boy who headed him at the six-furlong split in 1:10.35. By that stage, Country Grammer was winding up, and Stilleto Boy was about to be overwhelmed. With a few giant strides, Country Grammer imposed his will, drew off by 4 1/2 lengths, and clocked 1:43.45.
Stilleto Boy was 3 1/2 lengths clear of Heywoods Beach, who stayed on from last to finish third. Breakfast Ride reported home fourth, followed by Hudson Ridge and Hopkins.
Campaigned by Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm, and Zedan Racing Stables, Country Grammer has compiled a record of 14-5-5-1 with a bankroll to the tune of $11,277,320. Much of that comes from his Dubai heroics and his near-miss in the Feb. 26 Saudi Cup (G1). His domestic highlights include the 2020 Peter Pan (G3), for original trainer Chad Brown, and the 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) after switching circuits. He was ending a bout of seconditis here, with runner-up efforts in the San Diego H. (G2), Pacific Classic (G1) (behind Flightline), and Awesome Again (G1).
Country Grammer figures to pad those totals with another Middle East swing coming up. Looking further ahead, if he lines up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) back here in November, he could give Dettori the chance at an epic final flying dismount. Dettori is slated to retire following the Breeders’ Cup. He rode Raven’s Pass to a Classic coup on Santa Anita’s old synthetic surface in 2008, and 15 years later, another Classic would make for a theatrical sign-off.
Bred by Scott Pierce and Debbie Pierce in Kentucky, Country Grammer initially sold for $60,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The son of Tonalist commanded $450,000 as an OBS April juvenile and started his career racing for the late Paul Pompa Jr. At Pompa’s estate dispersal at Keeneland in January 2021, WinStar picked him up for a bargain $110,000.
Country Grammer was produced by the Forestry mare Arabian Song, who was subsequently responsible for Grade 2-placed stakes victress Joyful Cadence. This is a black-type rich family cultivated by Juddmonte, including millionaires Obligatory and Bonny South, and further back, Tates Creek and Sightseek.