Rejuvenated by a summer holiday, Hong Kong Harry was back to his best in Saturday’s $202,000 City of Hope Mile (G2) at Santa Anita. One race earlier, Lane Way broke through with his first graded victory in the $203,000 Eddie D (G2).
Those stakes were the only races to remain on the turf after rain hit the area. The undercard races scheduled for turf were transferred to the main track. The Eddie D, originally slated for the downhill turf, was adjusted to a 6 1/2-furlong sprint from the chute on the turf course proper, which was labeled good.
City of Hope Mile (G2)
Hong Kong Harry, the 11-10 favorite, determinedly reeled in front-running Astronomer in this course-and-distance prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). But the European import wasn’t Breeders’ Cup-nominated. Now his connections – owners Scott Anastasi, Jimmy Ukegawa, and Tony Valazza, and trainer Phil D’Amato – have to decide whether to pay to make him eligible.
“We are so excited that he is back, and he’s back in a big way,” Valazza said. “We have to think about it; for us it is a big feat to be in the Breeders’ Cup if he is not nominated.”
Hong Kong Harry’s admirable consistency on this circuit is a point in his favor. The winner of last season’s American (G3), Del Mar Mile (G2), and Seabiscuit (G2) had been beaten in his three prior starts this term, but still ran creditably. The scrappy chestnut was fourth after arguably aggressive tactics in the March 4 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1); second, later demoted to last following a positive postrace test, in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day; and third when last seen in the May 29 Shoemaker Mile (G1).
With new rider Juan Hernandez at the helm, and his former spark restored, Hong Kong Harry engineered the ideal passage through the race. He initially was on hold in fourth as Astronomer carved out splits of :23.51 and :47.67. The further they went down the backstretch, the nearer Hong Kong Harry advanced until he was skimming the rail only a length behind at the six-furlong split in 1:10.91.
All he needed was a way out, and daylight opened turning for home. Hong Kong Harry set his sights on Astronomer, who wasn’t stopping. To collar him by a neck, and clock the mile in 1:33.77, the winner had to produce a final furlong in a little over 11 seconds.
Twist, the 3.30-1 second choice, also motored into third. Grade 1 veteran Hit the Road turned in his best effort since a third in this race a year ago, closing for fourth. Cathkin Peak, Irideo, War at Sea, Il Bellator, and Flavius concluded the order of finish.
Hernandez offered a detailed assessment of Hong Kong Harry’s performance in the City of Hope.
“He had a really nice trip; this horse was sharp today,” the winning rider said. “Out of the gate he was pulling, pulling. This is the kind of horse that he always relaxes and comes with one run, but today I am guessing that he was feeling really good because he was really aggressive at the beginning. He was in a good mood and was just trying to run.
“I was trailing really well behind the pace and was saving ground. I was hoping for a rail opening but the horse in front of me, he never came off the rail, but the other horse (War At Sea) dropped back around the turn I had the opportunity to come out and start making my run.
“As soon as he switched leads, he picked it up really well and he hit the wire first. He’s a professional. He does everything himself. I just had to push him a little bit today, but he made it.”
Hong Kong Harry has bankrolled $775,096 from his 17-10-2-2 line. A progressive handicapper in Great Britain for Richard Fahey, he was exported after selling for $122,719 at the 2021 Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale.
Bred by Amarath Business Management in Ireland, Hong Kong Harry is the only Group/graded winner by the Danehill-line stallion Es Que Love. His dam, the multiple French stakes-placed Vital Body by Gold Away, is inbred 3×3 to Nureyev.
Eddie D (G2)
MyRacehorse’s Lane Way was knocking on the door in graded company, with seconds in last year’s Eddie D and Joe Hernandez (G2) on the downhill as well as the Green Flash (G3) at Del Mar. After earning his first stakes win in the Jan. 29 Clocker’s Corner S., the Richard Mandella trainee was shelved for seven months. The six-year-old gelding was a troubled, ring-rusty fifth when resuming in the Sept. 2 renewal of the Green Flash, but moved forward to record a new career high here.
“He is just a really nice horse,” Mandella said. “We gave him a good rest. Kind of planned to get him at his best at this time of year, and it worked. It doesn’t always, but it worked this time.
“I was just hoping for some good luck because he’s kind of plagued with bad luck in some of his races. Today went perfect.”
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite with Mike Smith, Lane Way worked out an inside stalking trip. The son of Into Mischief observed Noble Reflection rattle off fractions of :23.39 and :45.86, peeled out to challenge down the lane, and wore down the leader by a half-length.
Bran rallied to mug Noble Reflection for second in a photo, and I’m a Gambler was just another half-length back in fourth. Next came Mas Rapido; Sumter; Unconquerable Keen; miler Balnikhov, who might have fared better if able to try the downhill as originally intended; Packs a Wahlop; Radical Right; and Ah Jeez.
“It is just an honor to win the Eddie D Stakes,” Smith said of the race honoring a fellow Hall of Fame rider. “I look up to him and still so. I tried to ride him like he would, so I come in and nail them at the last part!
“Just going from the five (furlongs) to the six, 6 1/2, it is just much better for him. He was just coming off a layoff last time, he made a nice late run but he got a little tired in the end. He got so much out of that, and he should get so much out of this, it should put us right where we need to be come Breeders’ Cup time.”
Smith’s comments regarding Lane Way’s preferred trip are worth bearing in mind, since the Turf Sprint (G1) is a flat five furlongs at Santa Anita.
Lane Way’s scorecard stands at 19-5-6-5, $490,560. Bred by GWTW Horses in Kentucky, the bay was sold for $550,000 as an OBS March juvenile. He is out of the Grade 3-placed Aldebaran mare Corderosa, who is also responsible for the stakes-placed fillies Ragtime Rose and Orechiette. Lane Way’s third dam is Grade 1 winner Celtic Melody.