09/28/2014 8:37PM

John Henry win earns Bright Thought shot at Breeders' Cup

Benoit & Associates
Bright Thought, ridden by Tyler Baze, will move on to the Breeders' Cup Turf after winning the John Henry Turf Championship.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Less morning activity in recent weeks resulted in a fine afternoon for Bright Thought in Sunday’s $201,000 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Bright Thought won the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship by three-quarters of a length over Finnegans Wake, running 1 1/4 miles on turf in 1:58.27. The victory will lead to a start in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf here on Nov. 1, trainer Phil D’Amato said.

D’Amato, who began training Bright Thought in early August, said he altered the training schedule for the 5-year-old Bright Thought  through September, deciding for a less strenuous schedule.

“I thought he’d improve because of the way he’s training,” D’Amato said. “I trained him the way I thought he should be trained. I kept him fresh and kept the speed in him. He’s got plenty of stamina.”

Bright Thought was always prominent in the John Henry Turf Championship, which drew a field of nine. Big Kick, the winner of the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf in June, had the early lead over Bright Thought by a half-length through fractions of 23.66 and 46.75 seconds.  On the turn, Bright Thought was alongside Big Kick and took the lead with a quarter-mile remaining.

Bright Thought led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go and held off a late threat from Finnegans Wake. Sunday’s race was Finnegans Wake’s debut for trainer Peter Miller. The 5-year-old Finnegans Wake won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in July and was fifth in the Arlington Million on Aug. 16 when trained by Dale Romans.

Big John B, the 4-5 favorite who won the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 23, closed from last to finish third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner.  D’Amato trains Big John B, who was ridden by Mike Smith. Big John B is also a candidate for the BC Turf, which is run over 1 1/2 miles.

“It seems the turf course has been favoring speed or stalking types,” D’Amato said. “Mike said a mile and a half will be perfect for him.”

Starspangled Heat finished fourth, followed by Irish Surf, Bench Light, Big Kick, Si Sage,  and Unbridled Command.

The John Henry Turf Championship was the first stakes win for Bright Thought since the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes here in March 2013. At the time he was trained by Jorge Gutierrez. Bright Thought lost his next six starts before being transferred to D’Amato. In the Del Mar Handicap, Bright Thought’s first start for D’Amato, he finished third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths by Big John B.

Bright Thought ($16.40) has won 4 of 7 starts on Santa Anita’s turf course, and has won 5 of 15 starts and $339,161 for owners Marjorie Post Dye and Alex Venneri.

D’Amato said he expects further improvement from Bright Thought this fall.

“The first race was a learning process,” he said. “I think he has an affinity for this turf course.”


Jordan More than 1 year ago
The difference realistic placement and a new training approach can have on a horse. Poor Bright Thought was asked to run in last year's BC Mile off an 8 month layoff, and after running 3rd in an ungraded stake at Santa Anita this April was shipped out to face off with Wise Dan and Seek Again among others in the gr.1 Turf Classic at Churchill, and then was flown back to Cali to run 3 weeks later in the Whittingham. Suffice to say he didn't run well in those races. I understand why the connections chased big dreams. Bright Thought is a very talented turf horse, and can run fast from a mile to 12 furlongs, although the marathons appear to be his favorite. In fact, Bright Thought is arguably the most talented marathon turf runner to emerge in Cali over the last two years, with the possible exception of Indy Point, who was a multiple group 1 winner in South America and won last year's John Henry before running a good 3rd in the BC Turf. The key with Bright Thought is that after another solid 3rd in the 1 mile ungraded Whickerr off a 2 month break this summer, they didn't throw him into the fire by shipping him out for the Arlington Million or some other monster task. Now in the D'amato/Michell barn, they kept him local where in finishing 3rd he was the only horse involved in a demanding speed duel early to be anywhere close at the finish. The John Henry was the logical next step, and for Bright Thought's sake, that's where they pointed him. After having played catch-up for the last 18 months, it appears Bright Thought is finally back near his peak, and that makes him one of the better turf marathoners in North America.
Jim Eggers More than 1 year ago
Love to see young Mr. Baze riding well and winning big races.