Balnikhov Takes Oceanside as Del Mar Begins; Record Opening-Day Handle is $23.56 Million

July 23, 2022

Balnikhov Benoit Photo

Balnikhov © Benoit Photo

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Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables or Old Bones Racing’s Balnikhov came from far back with a solid run through traffic and drew clear late to capture the 77th edition of the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes Friday as Del Mar began its 83rd summer run under blue skies and sweet breezes Friday.

The seaside track limited its Opening Day attendance to 21,680, but there was no limit to the wagering that went through the wickets on the 11-race card. The track took in $23.56 million for a new Opening Day handle record, besting the $21.30 mark that was established in 2021.

The Irish-bred Balnikhov was a length and a half to the good at the wire in 1:34.85 for the mile on grass. The gelding was handled by grass ace Umberto Rispoli and was saddled by three-time Del Mar training champ Phil D’Amato.

Finishing second in the Oceanside was Peter Redekop’s Anmer Hall, who had three quarters of a length on Drakos or Hanson’s Barsabas.

The winner paid $8.40, $5.00 and $3.80 across the board. Anmer Hall returned $26.20 and $14.60, while Barsabas paid $18.80.

Balnikhov picked up a check for $60,000, increasing his career earnings to $238,905. It was his fourth win in his 12th start.

The riding star on the day was Juan Hernandez with a trio of victories.


UMBERTO RISPOLI (Balnikhov, winner) – “That was an amazing trip. I was all the way on the outside on the backstretch, so I said ‘I think I’m losing too much ground here’ and I went down inside. From there it happened. I love this race (Oceanside). In the three years I’ve ridden it, I’ve won it twice and been second. I’ve got a new baby in the family. I’m a blessed man.”

PHIL D’AMATO (Balnikhov, winner) – “You know we got pace in the race, sat a good trip and was able to use his turn of foot late and got the job done. Umberto (Rispoli) fits this horse well. Just get him to settle, save ground and then come with his run.  I think that’s the key to this horse. Probably wait until the Del Mar Derby but we could possibly go in the La Jolla. We’ll just have to play it by ear and see how he comes out of the race.”


FRACTIONS:  :22.62  :46.30 1:10.91  1:23.26  1:34.85

The stakes win was the first of the meet for all parties involved.

It was the second win in the Oceanside (Hit the Road, 2020) for rider Rispoli and his 13th stakes victory at Del Mar.

It was the second win in the Oceanside (Bowies Hero, 2017) for trainer D’Amato and his 36th stakes win at Del Mar overall.

The winner is owned by the Little Red Feather partnership (headed by Billy Koch of Woodland Hills, CA); Madaket Stables (Sol Kumin of New York City), and Old Bones Racing (Andrew Molasky of Las Vegas).

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