G2 John Henry Turf Championship Preview: Trainer Richard Mandella Poised With United

(Trainer Richard Mandella this Spring at Churchill Downs / Photo by Gene McLean)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s highly regarded United and a pair of Phil D’Amato trainees, Acclimate and Cleopatra’s Strike, rate big chances in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita, which has attracted a wide open field of eight 3-year-olds and up at a mile and one quarter.


Owner:  LNJ Foxwoods
Trainer:  Richard Mandella

Idle since rallying from off the pace for a 1 ¼ length win in a mile and one eighth turf allowance at Del Mar on July 17, this 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding was a troubled second two starts back in the Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes at a mile and one quarter on turf here on May 25. With Flavien Prat riding back, United could be poised to post his first stakes win in the John Henry.


Owner:  The Ellwood Johnston Trust & Timmy Time Racing
Trainer:  Phil D’Amato

A front-running 5-year-old California-bred gelding by Acclamation, he registered his first graded win when waltzed to one length gate to wire score in the Grade II Del Mar Handicap going 1 3/8 miles on turf Aug. 17. Ridden by eastern-based Florent Geroux at Del Mar, he’ll be handled for the first time on Saturday by Victor Espinoza. With a hillside start, he’ll shorten up in distance an eighth of a mile.


Owner:  Slam Dunk Racing & Michael Nentwig
Trainer:  Phil D’Amato

A sharp second, beaten a nose in his So Cal debut, the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes here on Jan. 5, this 6-year-old Ontario Canadian-bred gelding by Smart Strike went to the sidelines and resurfaced in a second condition allowance at Del Mar Sept. 2. A fast finishing second, beaten a head going 1 1/8 miles on turf, he’ll be making his third start for D’Amato on Saturday and should get plenty of pari-mutuel attention.


Race 7 of 10 Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT

  1. Ya Gotta Wanna–Geovanni Franco–121
  2. Oscar Dominguez–Joe Talamo–121
  3. Cleopatra’s Strike–Abel Cedillo–121
  4. Ritzy A.P.–Martin Garcia–121
  5. United–Flavien Prat–121
  6. Grecian Fire–Mike Smith–121
  7. The Street Fighter–Edwin Maldonado–121
  8. Acclimate–Victor Espinoza–125

First post time for an 11-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE. 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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