11/05/2016 5:57PM

Eight-year-old Obviously leads Turf Sprint gate to wire

Barbara D. Livingston
Obviously gave jockey Flavien Prat and trainer Phil D'Amato their first Breeders' Cup win when he triumphed in the Turf Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Obviously, an 8-year-old gelding who made his U.S. debut more than four years ago, showed off his longevity in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Running in a Breeders’ Cup race for the fifth straight year but first in the Turf Sprint, Obviously ($9.60) led virtually gate to wire in the $1 million race, winning by a nose over Om and giving trainer Phil D’Amato and jockey Flavien Prat each their first Breeders’ Cup win.

D’Amato, 40, was longtime assistant to trainer Mike Mitchell, who developed Obviously from allowance sprinter in 2012 to Grade 1-winning turf miler before Mitchell died at age 66 in spring 2015, having never won a Breeders’ Cup race.

D’Amato took over for Mitchell, expanded the stable into a California powerhouse, and frequently acknowledges Mitchell’s influence. Obviously might be trained by D’Amato, but it was a mutual achievement with his former boss.

“To me, it couldn’t have been more special than winning the Breeders’ Cup with this horse. It’s like we both finally won our Breeders’ Cup,” D’Amato said. “Mike campaigned him to a couple of Group 1 victories, and passed the baton on to me with this guy, and here I am with the Breeders’ Cup win. Pretty amazing.”

Prat, 24, was riding Obviously for the first time Saturday. He was a teenager in Europe when Obviously made his U.S. debut. Prat has since relocated to Southern California, where he is one of the circuit’s top riders.

As for Obviously, he keeps on keeping on. D’Amato was among the scouts Mitchell sent to England in late 2011 to purchase horses for owners Tony Fanticola and Joe Scardino. Obviously had won two of three starts in Ireland prior to being purchased, and in the U.S. he gradually improved.

In summer 2012 he stretched out and became a front-running terror at one mile. He won eight graded stakes at a mile, including two Grade 1’s, but every time he ran in the BC Mile, four straight years from 2012 to 2015, the same thing happened.

“We tried the Mile a bunch of times, and he kind of always got caught at the sixteenth pole,” D’Amato said, explaining the reason for cutting back to a sprint this year. “He had run on the hill with success, he had enough bottom.”

Shortening up after finishing third last out in a G2 mile, Obviously was quick to the lead under Prat in the Turf Sprint. “I was surprised to be on the lead that easy,” Prat said. “He relaxed really well … after that, I was gone.”

Obviously got a relatively easy opening quarter-mile in :21.41 on the downhill course, the half-mile in :43.08, opened up in the lane and won by a nose in 1:11.33.

The runner-up Om did not have the greatest of trips. He steadied at the break and was surprisingly last early. Jockey Gary Stevens lost his whip at the sixteenth pole, and Om surged late to miss by a nose.

“He got wiped out leaving the gate, which he did to himself, and it was a tough beat,” Stevens said. “He broke completely sideways from the gate and he had to overcome a lot. Almost got it done.”

Pure Sensation finished third after looming a threat into the lane. The order of finish was completed by Calgary Cat, Green Mask, Holy Lute, Washington DC, Undrafted, Mongolian Saturday, A Lot, Home of The Brave, Celestine, Ambitious Brew, and Karar.

Obviously was the first winning favorite in a 2016 Breeders’ Cup race; the Turf Sprint was the eighth BC race, including four on Friday.

A gelding sired by Choisir, Obviously will continue to race into 2017, when he could try to equal the record of oldest Breeders' Cup winner Calidoscopio, who won the 2012 BC Marathon at age 9.