Trainer Phil D’Amato swept both graded turf stakes on Big ‘Cap Day at Santa Anita, in contrasting styles. Count Again got up on the wire in the $503,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), while Leggs Galore wired the $202,500 Buena Vista (G2).
Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1)
Agave Racing Stable and Sam-Son Farm’s homebred Count Again capped a three-win day for D’Amato and for jockey Flavien Prat, who’d guided Bob Baffert’s As Time Goes By and Cezanne to major victories on the undercard.
Anchored near the back early, the 2.30-1 favorite bided his time as pacesetting Beyond Brilliant set fractions of :22.46, :45.45, and 1:09.38 on the firm course. Prat saved ground as long as he could, tipping Count Again out when the opportunity presented itself cornering for home. Also finding room were Subconscious, who knifed between foes, and Space Traveller, who angled out into the clear, and they were the first to accost Beyond Brilliant.
But Count Again suddenly revved up in deep stretch. Surging to join Space Traveller and Subconscious, the Awesome Again gelding headed them in time in 1:33.24. Space Traveller was himself a head up on Subconscious in the three-way photo.
Beyond Brilliant was a stubborn fourth. Another 3 3/4 lengths back in fifth came Law Professor, who tired after stalking early. Next came Flavius, Delaware, Bob and Jackie, early chaser Whisper Not, Tell Your Daddy, and Team Merchants. Vanzzy was withdrawn.
Count Again’s resume now reads 15-6-1-4, $763,665. The winner of the 2020 Singspiel (G3) for trainer Gail Cox at Woodbine, the bay prevailed in the Seabiscuit H. (G2) later that fall in his Southern California premiere. Count Again went winless in 2021, but placed third in the Kilroe and Eddie Read (G2). The seven-year-old kicked off 2022 with a tally in the Feb. 5 Thunder Road (G3), a course-and-distance stepping stone to the Kilroe.
“I definitely loved the fractions that (they) were running,” D’Amato said. “I was just hoping we would get loose to be able to come with a run. This horse likes to just come with a big, wide, late run and we were stuck in there, but this is why this guy (Prat) is the top jock, in my opinion in the country. He cut the turn, angled out and got the job done at the wire.
“(Count Again is) just one of those dream kind of horses. You know if you have dead aim at the top of the lane with him, he’s going to give you his late kick pretty much every time. He’s just a fresh happy horse now and Flavien fits him well.”
Bred by Sam-Son in Ontario, Count Again is now the second Grade 1 winner produced by Count to Three, after two-time Bing Crosby (G1) hero Ransom the Moon. Count to Three is a stakes-winning daughter of Red Ransom and 1990 Matriarch (G1) victress Countus In.
Buena Vista (G2)
A four-time stakes winner in restricted company, California-bred Leggs Galore showed open company rivals a clean pair of heels in the Buena Vista. The William Sims homebred pulled a bold frontrunning coup under Ricky Gonzalez, who trusted that her sprinter speed would hold up over the mile. It did, by a half-length from the slight 2.30-1 favorite, Going to Vegas.
“That was a pretty ambitious move,” D’Amato said. “I was holding my breath there. I was just waiting for the wire to be there.”
The 2.40-1 Leggs Galore was fulfilling her pedigree, being by Bayern and out of a full sister to multiple Grade 3 hero Conveyance. Both were adept at carrying their speed, albeit on dirt, and Leggs Galore transfers their pattern to turf.
Dashing clear through an opening quarter in :23.18, the gray opened up by eight lengths by the half in :46.70. The chasing pack began to chip away when she passed six furlongs in 1:10.29, but Leggs Galore retained plenty of momentum into the stretch.
Going to Vegas, third early, loomed as the only potential danger inside the final furlong. Yet she could not quite get to the winner in a final time of 1:34.29.
“I thought at the eighth-pole I was going to go by (her),” jockey Flavien Prat said of his view aboard Going to Vegas, “but as soon as the winner felt me, she re-engaged. I thought she ran a good race.”
Closing Remarks lived up to her name by doing her best work late in third, three-quarters of a length off second. Mucho Unusual was fourth at every call. Canoodling reported home fifth, followed by Avenue de France, Tony Ann, Keeper of Time, Fast Jet Court, and Madone. Javanica was scratched.
Leggs Galore sports a mark of 13-8-1-0, $560,208. The Buena Vista was reminiscent of her wire job in the May 9 Fran’s Valentine S. over the same course and distance, and she was runner-up next time in the Wilshire (G3). Her other stakes wins have come around one turn, in the Irish O’Brien S. and the past two runnings of the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint.
“We got it done,” D’Amato said of the graded laurel. “She took another step up. This was a solid open company field. She’s a double threat now with Cal-breds and open company. We’ll see where we go from here.”