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    Kyle Frey rides Gold Phoenix to Whittingham Stakes win at Santa Anita
    • May 5, 2024

    ARCADIA — Gold Phoenix’s victory in the Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday was a consolation prize for trainer Phil D’Amato and something bigger for jockey Kyle Frey.

    “(It means) everything, especially with my family here,” Frey said in the winner’s circle, holding two small children. “God has really taken me a long ways. I’m just grateful and eager to see what else is in store.”

    Replacing Juan Hernandez aboard Gold Phoenix, Frey helped the 6-year-old gelding get the smoothest trip to win a four-way photo over Price Abama, Planetario and Offlee Naughty in the $200,000, Grade II Whittingham, a 1 1/4-mile turf race.

    Gold Phoenix paid $13.80, and the all-D’Amato exacta with Prince Abama paid $63.60 for $1.

    That might help soothe whatever disappointment D’Amato felt after the Kentucky Derby, run less than an hour before the Whittingham. D’Amato’s Santa Anita Derby winner, Stronghold, finished seventh behind winner Mystik Dan in the Derby. The other California horse, Michael McCarthy-trained Endlessly, was ninth.

    Frey, the 2011 Eclipse Award winner as America’s top apprentice rider, can give them all lessons in dusting yourself off after a setback. Last year, the now 32-year-old Californian took a break from riding from July to September, and told Daily Racing Form writer Steve Andersen he needed a mental break from self-imposed pressure to succeed.

    Frey wound up winning his first Grade II stakes later last year with Wynstock in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Saturday’s Whittingham was his second Grade II. He hasn’t won a Grade I.

    He went into the weekend leading Santa Anita jockeys with eight wins at the track’s Hollywood Meet.

    While Hernandez stuck with 2023 Whittingham winner Offlee Naughty, Frey got the call to ride Gold Phoenix, a Grade I winner in the Kilroe Stakes at Santa Anita last year with jockey Kazushi Kimura.

    It was a reunion for Frey and Gold Phoenix, who hadn’t teamed up since 2022, when the Irish-bred was a different animal.

    “He was pretty green at the time and still figuring things out,” said Frey, remembering a slow start that the horse’s connections blamed on him. “He just has those off days.

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    “Today I was ready for it. I made sure I got him on his toes in the post parade, and then before we got to the gate I gave him a little cluck to make sure he was attentive. Luckily, (he) got out good, sat right behind the leaders.”

    Gold Phoenix, owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Sterling Stables and Marsha Naify, increased his earnings to $1,342,257 with his seventh win in 19 starts.

    Next could be the July 28 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar.

    ​ Orange County Register