ARCADIA, CA – A perfectly-timed stretch run from jockey Flavien Prat was the key to Michael House’s Hunt springing the upset over the 3-2 favorite Heart to Heart in Monday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
The Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Hunt receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking without error from post 5 at odds of 9-1, Hunt settled in mid-pack and saved ground along the inside while Om burst off with a large lead. Under jockey Joe Talamo, Om held command by over 5 lengths at one point while posting splits of :23.22 and :46.66. Nearing the far turn, Om’s lead began vanishing as Heart to Heart ranged up near the 3/8 pole, but he refused to yield and dug in, battling Heart to Heart through the turn. Straightening for home, the duo continued to tussle while Prat tipped Hunt off of the rail and set him straight for a three-wide run for the wire. Though Heart to Heart began inching away by the 1/4 pole, the wear and tear of competing for the lead had taken its toll on the betting favorite. Just past the 1/8 pole, Hunt had collared his foe and stuck his nose in front. Despite a very game effort, Heart to Heart didn’t have enough to retake the lead, and the Phil D’Amato-trained Hunt was able to hit the wire first by a neck in a final time of 1:34.07 for the mile-long turf event.
“He’s been training really well, pretty much like he was at Del Mar last summer before he won two graded stakes,” Prat said. “He was fresh and he got the job done.”
The Santa Anita stewards needed several photos to determine the placing for all eight competitors, with only 3 1/4 lengths separating first from last. A late surge along the outside put Next Shares in third, only a neck behind Heart to Heart and 1 length ahead of Om, who refused to give up in the late stages. Hunt’s stablemate Bowies Hero, the 2-1 second choice at the betting window, wasn’t able to capitalize on his early stalking position and had to settle for fifth, a head behind Om and a 1/2-length past Colonist. Seventh went to Blackjackcat, while Arms Runner was never able to fire his best and completed the order of finish.
Hunt’s victory was his first in a Grade 1 and improved his overall record to 27-9-5-3 with career earnings of $908,764. The Irish-bred 6-year-old gelded son of Dark Angel was making his 2018 debut after a six-month break from the track.
“The time off did this horse a world of good,” said D’Amato. “He’d been training so well, and I give a lot of credit to Flavien Prat. He’s been breezing this horse the last couple of times and really tightened the screws on him. He was pretty confident this horse was going to run a good race off of those workouts, and it showed today.”
Hunt had ended 2017 with a win in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar, but prior to that victory, he had finished a disappointing 13th in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf over the same surface. His previous start at a mile over the turf was an even fifth-place effort in the 2017 edition of the Grade 3 American Stakes, which was won by another D’Amato runner, Pee Wee Reese.
Hunt returned $21.60 to win, $8.40 to place, and $5 to show. Heart to Heart brought back $3.40 to place and $3.20 to show, while Next Shares paid $5.40 to show.