Familiar names come together on closing day at Santa Anita

Familiar names come together on closing day at Santa Anita
Photo: Benoit Photo

Restrainedvengence has been with the Brinkerhoffs so long he is part of the family.

Although not worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, the old warhorse has more than earned his keep, with a bankroll of $708,182 in this his fifth year of racing, never running where he could be claimed and holding his own in graded stakes company.

He has eight wins, four seconds and three thirds in 30 starts but no graded victories. He has won on turf, dirt and synthetic, sprinting at 6 1/2 furlongs and routing at 1 1/8 miles, but his niche is going a mile on turf.

Perhaps his best performance was a second by a head in the City of Hope Mile (G2) at Santa Anita on Oct. 5, 2019, although his third in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) last out at Santa Anita on May 31 was not too shabby.

On Sunday, closing day at Santa Anita, the venerable cash cow for trainer Val Brinkerhoff, his wife and valued assistant, Kelly, who owns the six-year-old gelding along with Bobby Grayson Jr., seems ideally spotted to win the American Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on turf.

“He came out of the Shoemaker really well, ate everything up, breezed four furlongs in 48-flat last Friday and galloped out nice,” said Brinkerhoff, himself a former jockey who turns 65 on Oct. 19. “He’s ready to fire one of his better races, hopefully.

“I thought he ran well in the Shoemaker, but it was a tough spot. He had an accident at the barn that caused me to scratch him a race before the Shoemaker, and that set him back, but I think we’ve got him as good as we can get him right now.

“This is his best shot to win a graded race, but he’s been right there in other graded stakes. Whatever you ask him to do, he tries to do it for you.”

Brinkerhoff, an angular version of John Wayne, cowboy hat and all but without the swagger, is a hands-on horseman from dawn ’til dusk. He is the patriarch of a cohesive Mormon family that grew even closer 16 years ago after his two younger brothers, Brad, 45, and Todd, 42, died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Val Brinkerhoff is 5-feet-10 and was 118 pounds when he rode at bush tracks in Montana and his home state of Utah at outposts with far flung names like Beaver, Richfield, Marysvale, Kanab, Parowan, Ferron, Payson and Panguitch. He started riding when he was 14 in Fillmore, Utah, population circa 2,500.

Restrainedvengence, a Kentucky-bred son of the Giant’s Causeway stallion Hold Me Back out of Cupids Revenge, thus his name, has been with Brinkerhoff since he was a yearling.

“I bought him at the Keeneland September sale, had him from day one, broke him and everything,” Brinkerfhoff said. “He was a nice-looking colt when I saw him at the sale, although not fashionably bred, but they kept bidding on him and I think we gave $65,000 for him. The bloodstock agent came running over all excited and said, ‘Congratulations, you just bought the most expensive Hold Me Back ever sold.’

“It was pretty funny, but it turned out to be true. I’ve never had much trouble with the horse, although he’s a little bit below the best horses in the country. “But he’s paid his way and I’m sure thankful to have him.”

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