Trainer Robertino Diodoro took a chance on the aging warrior, a multiple stakes winner who had hit the board nine times in graded company during his lengthy career, and claimed him for client John Holleman. Two starts later, the gelding’s former spark reignited in a big way with a gutsy frontrunning score in the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes Dec. 17 at Oaklawn Park.
“He’s a nice horse with a lot of back class,” Diodoro said. “He’s really been coming around the last few weeks here being at Oaklawn.”
Cutting back in distance from a third-place showing in the 1 5/8-mile Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard, Bal Harbour was sharp from the gate and hightailed it for the lead under jockey Christian Torres. The scratch of likely pacesetter Hozier left the 7-year-old with a healthy advantage on the front end as he cut out fractions of :23.53 and :47.41 on a fast main track that had been favoring speed throughout the afternoon.
Favored Run Classic making his second attempt at stakes company since an off-the-board effort in the 2021 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), was never far behind Bal Harbour and loomed a threat when pulling even with the gelding’s flank around the far turn. As they straightened for home, Bal Harbour scooted clear of that rival and drove for the wire, staving off the late-closing Last Samurai by a neck under the wire.
Bal Harbour ($5.80) clocked the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.22.
Bal Harbour’s connections enjoy the trophy presentation for the Tinsel Stakes
Last Samurai, three lengths ahead of Scarlet Fusion in third, turned in his finest performance since romping home a four-length victor of the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in April for trainer Dallas Stewart. Now trained by Stewart’s mentor D. Wayne Lukas, Last Samurai, owned by the late Willis Horton, is winless in his last six starts.
Diodoro won his second straight Tinsel after taking last year’s edition with another venerable gelding, Lone Rock . In comparing his two pupils, Diodoro remarked, “They both like their job in the morning, and they’re both big sound horses.”
Bal Harbour took one step closer to approaching Lone Rock’s $1.4 million in earnings, boosting his bankroll to $870,800 after Saturday’s victory.
A son of First Samurai Bal Harbour was bred in Kentucky by Red Oak Stable, who campaigned the gelding through the first 32 starts, including multiple stakes victories with Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. He is out of the stakes-winning Carson City mare Casino Transaction the dam of six winners from six foals to race, including multiple stakes-placed Charleymillionaire (Sky Mesa ).
Video: Tinsel S. (BT)