Trainer Phil D’Amato became the first trainer since John Gosden almost four decades ago to win back-to-back editions of the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2T). With jockey Flavien Prat masterfully judging the pace of the 1 1/2-mile race at Del Mar Nov. 25, Prince Abama captured his first lifetime stakes victory in a scenario increasingly familiar in Southern California: D’Amato winning turf stakes with an Irish-bred.
No one hurried to the front when the gate opened, though the lone 3-year-old in the field, The Grey Wizard , got a particularly slow start. Go On looked to have the only speed, and he took the lead, with Prince Abama in second. But “speed” wasn’t going to play much of a role.
Prat realized that the fractions were slow; Go On’s early fractions were:24.88 for the first quarter-mile and:51.79 for a half-mile.
“We were slowing down quite a bit and I was between two horses,” Prat said. “I was getting a bit uncomfortable, so I let him run a little bit.”
Prince Abama responded to Prat’s request to take command on the clubhouse turn. Prat wasn’t in a hurry once they got to the lead, with Prince Abama responsible for a six-furlong fraction of 1:17.63.
The pace may have compromised the chances of 2-1 favorite Dicey Mo Chara , who raced in last early. As the field rounded the final turn, Prince Abama started to quicken and Dicey Mo Chara began passing horses on the outside. But the leaders had plenty in reserve, and Dicey Mo Chara couldn’t make much headway, ultimately ending up fourth.
Cash Equity , also trained by D’Amato, had to check early. He moved into second on the backside, while Avenue and The Grey Wizard also launched bids. Prince Abama and Prat had the race well under control, though, and while Avenue and The Grey Wizard battled for second, Prince Abama never looked in danger, winning by three-quarters of a length in 2:29.42. The Grey Wizard nipped Avenue by a head for second.
The connections of Prince Abama in the trophy presentation for the Hollywood Turf Cup
Prince Abama began his career in Ireland with a fourth place effort, and he has raced in Southern California under D’Amato’s care since the middle of last year. The 4-year-old gelding broke his maiden in his third start for D’Amato, who most recently put him in a couple of mile turf stakes at the fall Santa Anita meeting. Prince Abama finished third in the City of Hope Mile Stakes (G2T) Oct. 1 and second in the restricted Lure Stakes Oct. 29.
“I thought he definitely wanted to go longer,” D’Amato said after the Turf Cup. “Now a mile and a half—that’s a big question mark. That slow pace helped him, and I think he has that middle-distance turn of foot. That helped him get the edge on the come-from-behinders.”
D’Amato, Del Mar’s current leading trainer, handles Prince Abama for owner Michael House. The conditioner won last year’s Turf Cup with Agave Racing Stable and Sam-Son Farm’s Say the Word . The last time a trainer took consecutive runnings of the race was in 1984-86, when John Gosden won with Alphabatim, Zoffany, and then Alphabatim again. At that time, the race was conducted at Hollywood Park.
Prince Abama was bred in Ireland by Tom Jones. By Tamayuz , the gelding is out of the unraced Mr. Greeley mare Abama Lady.