ARCADIA, Calif. (March 27, 2015)–Irish-bred Abbey Vale overcame an 11-month layoff to register a convincing one length victory on Friday in Santa Anita’s $60,000 allowance feature for older horses at one mile on turf. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Abbey Vale sat a close third into the far turn, rallied three-wide turning for home and held favored Awesome Return off late while covering the distance in 1:35.46.
Trained by former Mike Mitchell assistant Phil D’Amato, Abbey Vale, who had been off since being vanned off the track on April 20, was off at 7-1 and paid $17.20, $6.80 and $5.40. Originally trained in America by Mitchell, the 5-year-old gelding, who was making his third stateside start, improved his overall mark to 18-3-4-1. Owned by Andy Ellis, JR Riley Stables and Michael Sim, Abbey Vale picked up $36,000 for the win, thus increasing his earnings to $98,014.
“It’s amazing,” said McCall Mitchell Rousenfell, daughter of Mike Mitchell, who retired last April due to health concerns. “My husband, Boomer, picked the horse out in Ireland and Dad was so high on him before he got hurt. He thought this horse had more potential than (eventual Grade I winner) Obviously when he came into his barn.
“Dad has been so excited the past three days, never forgetting that the horse was running today. We thought, ‘Okay, first time back so…,’ but he’s such a tiger, we were just so excited.” (Mitchell, who is suffering from brain cancer, watched the race from home).
Part owner Michael Sim checked his poker-face at the admission gates.
“I can’t even put it into words, it’s unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable,” said Sim. “I thought Flavien moved too early. Before the quarter pole, he started moving and I got nervous, but he had plenty of horse left.”
Ridden by Mike Smith, Awesome Return who was next to last at the quarter pole, switched off the rail and rallied well to just touch Jules Journey for the place by a nose. Off at 8-5, Awesome Return paid $3.60 and $2.60.
Jules Journey, who was ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, finished third, 1 ¾ lengths in front of longshot Calm Pacific. Off at 8-1, Jules Journey paid $4.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.94, 48.15, 1:11.65 and 1:35.46.
First post time for a nine-race card on Saturday, to be highlighted by the Grade III, $100,000 Tokyo City Cup, is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.