Balladeer & Espinoza Tough On The Lead As They Take Grade II, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship
BALLADEER & ESPINOZA TOUGH ON THE LEAD AS THEY TAKE GRADE II, $200,000 JOHN HENRY TURF CHAMPIONSHIP, GETTING 1 ¼ MILES IN 1:58.94
ARCADIA, CA (Oct. 1, 2023)—Although he’s a three-time Kentucky Derby winner and was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2017, business has been slow of late for Victor Espinoza but in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita, Espinoza, a 51-year-old native of Mexico City, looked half his age as he took no prisoners while aboard trainer George Papaprodromou’s Balladeer for the first time, leading seven rivals on a merry chase en route to a half length score while getting a mile and one quarter in 1:58.94.
Fresh off a rousing gate to wire score going 1 5/16 miles on turf under Florent Geroux at Kentucky Downs Sept. 9, Balladeer, keen out of the gate and wide-out in the short run down the hillside turf to the dirt crossing, settled into a nice rhythmic stride as the field came past the wire for the first time and was bounding along to the far turn as last year’s John Henry winner, Masteroffoxhounds loomed dangerously, cutting Balladeer’s lead to a half length a quarter mile out, but Balladeer was far from finished, and repelled the challenge while staying on gamely to prevail in a huge effort.
Off at 6-1 in his second career stakes assignment, Balladeer paid $15.00, $9.00 and $6.60.
Owned by Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran, Balladeer, a 4-year-old colt by Distorted Humor out of the Galileo mare Golden Ballad, picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $367,290 from an overall mark of 18-4-2-2.
Trained by Phil D’Amato and ridden by Edwin Maldonado, Masteroffoxhounds ran a tremendous race and was actually gaining again on the winner at the wire, but had to settle for the place, finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of Speaking Scout. Triple overlayed at 12-1, Masteroffoxhounds paid $8.60 and $6.00.
Next to last heading to the far turn, Speaking Scout, off at 7-1 with Joel Rosario, paid $4.60 to show while finishing a half length in front of Brazilian-bred Planetario.
Fractions on the race were 23.36, 47.41, 1:12.07 and 1:35.95.
With free parking and admission, racing resumes at Santa Anita on Friday with first post time at 1 p.m.