09/28/2014 7:37PM

John Henry win earns Bright Thought shot at Breeders' Cup

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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.”