Imports a key pillar of Phil D’Amato’s winning strategy


Many imports into the clogged Southern California marine terminals of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been left unused in recent months, collateral damage in a supply-side bottleneck.

Imports into Phil D’Amato’s Southern California stable, on the other hand, were much more effectively commandeered.

“It’s a really good strategy for owners to help them make money and have fun in the process,” says D’Amato, caught mid-morning between the scrutiny of his interns making jog along a dusty Santa Anita trail in the scorching sun and a scout travels to Del Mar in preparation for the annual Southern Coastal Caravan.

D’Amato’s “strategy” refers to its equine pipeline from Europe which, unlike the Nord Stream twins from Russia, does not appear to be in imminent danger of shutdown – not if recent results are any guide.

D’Amato’s record 67 wins in the last winter-spring encounter at Santa Anita – 57 of them on the grass and 16 of them in the stakes – included former GII Euro winners Royal Heroine S. Globalize (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}), the GIII Senorita S. in Island of Love (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), and GIII American S. in Hong Kong Harry (Ireland) (Es Que Love {Ire}).

A look at some of D’Amato’s less starred winners over the past six months highlights another intriguing pattern – that a good number of those stolen from Ireland come with ballots largely empty except for a tick or two in some of the most pastoral in this country. premises.

“He’s trying to get those rough diamonds at the right time for the right price and Dundalk seems like the right place to do that,” D’Amato says.

Such recovery of rare minerals unearthed recent winners Rhea Moon (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Australia}) and My France (Ireland) (Caravaggio), both placed on the trail of Eastern Ireland before their relocation to the United States, as well as Golden Phoenix (Ire) (Belardo {Ire}) winner at Dundalk last year before finishing second in the GII Charles Whittingham S. in April.

Why the smaller Irish tracks? Savings, for one.

“It’s just an easier place to buy,” says D’Amato. “You can buy a horse on the rise, one that’s going the right way, compared to whether they’ve raced at the Curragh or Newmarket or Ascot, which they’re going to ask.”

That, and with fewer leads to review, “you have a better line on the form,” he added.

The way D’Amato describes it, he and his fellow transatlantic bargain-hunters – blood agents Niall Dalton, Michael Donohoe and Craig Rounsefell – have honed their operation into something of a well-oiled machine.

Think of the East India Tea Company, but without any of that, what shall we call it – colonial baggage.

“It’s kind of everyone working together to keep the wheel moving – we buy them, then develop them and get rewarded for it,” he says, unhesitatingly spilling the tea on trade secrets. “It’s all of us who watch these races every day and try to find the horses that we think have talent.

“Niall and Michael have a great relationship there with the trainers and know which horses they think would be appropriate to buy. The right kind of style to fit California,” he adds.

And what style is it?

“Really, most of these Europeans are small, so you kind of have to keep that in mind, that you’re not going to find these big 16-handed horses. You’re going to find these small athletes. But at the same time , usually these lighter horses, if they can come to the surface here, they’re easier on themselves,” he says, adding, “I can’t stress enough that I think the more you give the longer they usually acclimatize, the better you are rewarded when performing them.

At present, says D’Amato, with prices in Ireland and England, particularly in such palliative care, the overseas market is ripe for plunder, with many small businesses, in particular, increasingly relying more on selling off their young stock to keep the sleuths from clicking on their heels.

“For most of them, that’s what they do for a living. Most of them are traders with the way the structure of the stock market is there,” says D’Amato. “These are the people who are really there to buy yearlings at a cheaper price and develop them and potentially sell them for a good profit at two and three years old.

“And yes, we’re certainly not looking to buy the Aidan and Joseph O’Briens of the world there because, number one, they’re not sellers. And number two, their stock is – they’re just very expensive horses and very well behaved so it just isn’t what we are looking for.

The mention of the O’Briens prompts recent news of the prodigal son setting up a small satellite operation in Saratoga this summer.

What if young O’Brien – or a comparable European stable – decided to set up a hypothetical little camp in Southern California, maybe even Santa Anita next winter? Would D’Amato accept such a challenge on his home turf?

“Well, I mean, hey, as long as you can accommodate the competition and it helps the races fill up, I don’t have a problem with that. I mean, the same goes if I were to ship horses in Saratoga or trying to win a race elsewhere. We do everything we can to try to win races.

“Yes, Joseph O’Brien, I certainly watched him from afar. And you can tell he’s the kind of person who could definitely replace what his dad did, just how young he is and what he’s already achieved.

The parallels between the scion of the O’Brien clan and D’Amato’s emergence as a full-fledged coach, completely free from the shadow cast by his longtime mentor, Mike Mitchell, are all too obvious. so as not to be drawn.

Indeed, in just over eight years, D’Amato nearly doubled Mitchell’s number of graded stakes, already completely eclipsing his former boss’s Grade I total. And he did it with minimal display.

While many coaches proudly wear their grumpy irascibility like a colorful tunic at Mardi Gras, or woo the press with quote-ready aphorisms designed for the next day’s headlines, D’Amato’s approach is contradictory, pragmatic and professional, pleasant and charming.

Little old ladies looking for a helping hand on Baldwin Avenue in Santa Anita faint when they see D’Amato approach.

Given what he has already achieved in the genre of big races populated by names like Whittingham, McAnally, Frankel, Mandella and Drysdale, where does he see his record soaring when placed alongside these creators of ‘story?

“I guess in a way, with the bar set where it is, we just want to keep building on that and doing what we did in the previous meeting. So, I definitely take it as a challenge. But these are the situations in which I thrive. Yes, I like the challenge it represents.

He adds however: “When I start a match, I never look at the statistics and how I will start the match and how many wins I expect. I always look at this from the perspective of putting horses in the right places and also giving them their best chance to thrive.

Such an approach helps avoid being pigeonholed as a trainer – the ultimate rookie pet peeve looking to expand and develop a competitive barn.

For every young import in the D’Amato stable, green as the emerald grass they grew up on, there’s an old American breed as tough as a nut with as many miles in their wheels as an old Ford Model. T.

the red kings (Manche) of the world, they love and thrive on running,” D’Amato says of his Kentucky-raised, 8-year-old son who is still competitive in graded stakes even with more than 40 races. to his credit.

“I have great owners and an operation where we can take our time and get them running when they’re ready to run,” he explains. “We don’t have to force them to run in places just because such and such a place comes up in three weeks.”

Notably, D’Amato reached his upward trajectory at a time when bringing a horse to the races in California has rarely been more difficult, given the series of welfare measures implemented in recent years – measures, it takes say so, who have helped put California at the forefront of the nation in equine safety.

“I mean, it’s definitely been a learning experience for every coach,” D’Amato says. “But I think it prompts us to focus on giving these horses breaks when they need time off. All of my owners are in favor of this and I think it just helps the horse’s longevity at the end of the day.

“It’s always been one of my things, giving the horses two or three months off after they’ve had their race of the year,” he adds. “But I think it’s really, I wouldn’t say strengths, but makes all these trainers realize that this is probably a better way to do things in order to keep these horses longer, happier and healthier. .”

With Del Mar just around the corner, D’Amato shared race plans for some of his stable stars and emerging lights.

Re-count (Awesome Again): “We refresh it. He likes a lot of space between his races and he does well. But we’ll make it run in the [Sept. 3] GII Del Mar Mile and maybe wait for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

desert dawn (Cupid): “Desert Dawn will take older horses in the [Aug. 6] GI Clement Hirsch S. on Earth.

Legs galore (Bayern): “She is going to run in the [July 29] Daisycutter H. sprint.

Globalize (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}): “She will run in the [Aug. 13] Yellow ribbon H.

Go to Las Vegas (Goldencents): “Going to Vegas will probably wait until you run into the [Sept. 10] GII John C. Mabee S. then hopefully the GI Rodeo Drive S. in San Anita. This is our two-way plan.

Bellabel (Ireland) (Belardo {Ire}): “She’s going to run the opening weekend [July 23] GII San Clemente S. She is doing very well. She’s so big, for a European filly, big and lanky. [After her win in the Blue Norther S.] we put that race under her and just gave her some time, refreshed her. Now hopefully we can knock out some of these 3 year old stakes, try to win the [Aug. 20] GI Del Mar Oaks with her on the road. It’s kind of our master plan. But first we have to run in the San Clemente.

Peak Cathkin (Ire) (Alhebayeb {Ire}): “He is doing very well. He will run in the [July 31] GII Eddie Read S.”

D’Amato says of his Del Mar team, “This year knock on wood, I’m pretty deep in those [big] races. We kind of refreshed ourselves, ready to go.


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