07/16/2016 6:44PM

D'Amato's backup Toowindytohaulrox takes Wickerr

Benoit & Associates
Toowindytohaulrox prevails by a neck under Tiago Pereira to win the Wickerr Stakes.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Trainer Phil D’Amato was counting on running multiple stakes winner Vyjack for the first time on Saturday in the Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar, but a minor illness forced him out of the race. Fortunately for D’Amato, he had also entered Toowindytohaulrox, who salvaged the day by capturing the one-mile grass race for older runners, downing Forever Juanito and Little Curlin in a three-way battle to the wire.

 Toowindytohaulrox ($4.20) was 10-1 on the original morning line when nine were entered on Wednesday, but when Vyjack and three others were scratched from the race, Toowindytohaulrox wound up the favorite in a field of five. He settled into fourth while saving ground early, was able to find a seam entering the lane, and was fully extended to down Forever Juanito and Little Curlin, who had volleyed for the lead from the start.

 With Tiago Pereira aboard, Toowindytohaulrox prevailed by a neck, with Forever Juanito nosing out Little Curlin for second. Power Ped was fourth and A Red Tie Day trailed.

 Toowindytohaulrox completed one mile on firm turf in 1:36.09, closing into a moderate pace of 1:12.54 for six furlongs.

 “It worked out in the end,” said D’Amato, who was told Vyjack has a habit of getting ill when he travels.

 “He was fine shipping cross-country, but then an hour-and-a-half van ride from Santa Anita got him,” D’Amato said.

 Toowindytohaulrox, a 5-year-old by Harlan’s Holiday, has been a steady, consistent earner for D’Amato. He won the Grade 3 Daytona at Santa Anita in December, then returned from a five-month layoff last month to finish second in the Siren Lure.

 Both those races were on Santa Anita’s downhill course, but Toowindytohaulrox won going a mile on Del Mar’s turf last summer. D’Amato, though,  believes 6 1/2 furlongs on turf is the ideal distance for Toowindytohaulrox, and said the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint at that distance on Sept. 3 likely would be next.

 Toowindytohaulrox, owned by Queen Bee Racing LLC, has now won 5 of 21 starts. He earned $46,740 from a gross purse of $77,900 to bring his lifetime earnings to more than $370,000.