Coastline beats Heat, D’Amato has plenty to smile about in Clocker’s Corner

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January 25th, 2016

Once a promising youngster on the Triple Crown trail, Coastline has reinvented himself as a turf sprinter for new trainer Phil D’Amato. The son of Speightstown missed by a neck in his first try down Santa Anita’s hillside turf in the December 26 Daytona (G3), and made good next time over the same course in Sunday’s $79,250 Clocker’s Corner.

The form of the Daytona held up well in the Clocker’s Corner, and that could be taken as a boost to Daytona winner Toowindytohaulrox, another D’Amato trainee, who hasn’t worked in the interim. Not only did the Daytona placegetters, Coastline and Rocket Heat, run one-two here, but Bench Warrant, fifth in the blanket finish to the Daytona, came back to rally for fourth on Sunday.

At the same time, Coastline may have moved forward with that experience under his belt. What is certain is that he benefited from an inside trip in the Clocker’s Corner, unlike his wide passage in the Daytona. He also secured better position when third in the initial stages.

Rocket Heat once again proved the truth of his name as he opened up early, only he scorched even faster Sunday with splits of :20.98 and :42.82 on good turf. Holy Lute was his nearest pursuer until tiring in the stretch. After six furlongs in 1:06.25, Rocket Heat was also beginning to labor, his stride shortening in desperate search for the wire.

But Coastline was just hitting his top gear. Bursting through along the rail for Tyler Baze, the 5-1 shot won going away by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:12.68 for about 6 1/2 furlongs.

Stablemate Cape Wolfe did his best work late to get up for third in his U.S. debut, giving D’Amato a one-three finish. Previously trained by Ger Lyons in Ireland, the Piccolo gelding was a progressive handicapper last summer. He hadn’t raced since extending his winning streak to three on July 22 at Naas, and needed this to blow off the cobwebs. With his winning form over seven furlongs and a mile, you’d expect him to stretch out off this.

Note that Cape Wolfe has something in common with a highly successful Irish import for the same barn, Obviously: both were purchased at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale. Obviously brought $217,635 in 2011, and Cape Wolfe was secured for $104,457 last October. Another common denominator was the role played by Craig Rounsefell’s Boomer Bloodstock in landing both. Rounsefell is the son-in-law of late trainer Mike Mitchell. D’Amato was Mitchell’s longtime assistant who ultimately took over the helm in his own right. Of course, Cape Wolfe took a lot longer to get his act together back home than Obviously did, but as a fast-ground specialist who’s on the upswing, the westward move suits him.

Coastline has now bankrolled $336,806 from his 19-5-3-3 line. Victorious in the 2013 Street Sense at Churchill Downs as a juvenile, the gray was third in both the 2014 Spiral (G3) and Smarty Jones, but subsequently lost his way. His original connections, owner John C. Oxley and trainer Mark Casse, dropped him in for a $62,500 tag at Keeneland last fall, and Agave Racing Stable promptly claimed him out of that muddy optional claiming score. Coastline raced once for trainer Michelle Lovell, finishing a troubled last of six in the October 29 Lafayette, before relocating to D’Amato’s barn. He now races for Agave in partnership with Jaam Racing.

D’Amato indicated that he still believes Coastline can get a mile, and another chance around two turns is in the cards. But at least he’ll always have turf sprints as a fallback option.

Indeed, races like the Clocker’s Corner may have special resonance this year. Although we’ve got a long way to go until November, these downhill turf specialists could have a home course advantage for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

Photo courtesy of Benoit/Santa Anita.