Grade I winner Obviously showed he's at the top of his game in his first start in 7 1/2 months, romping to a repeat victory in the $100,000 American Stakes (gr. IIIT) May 17 on the grass at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Making his first start for Phil D'Amato, longtime assistant to recently retired trainer Mike Mitchell, 3-5 choice Obviously was ridden to a 5 1/2-length victory by Joe Talamo for owners Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino. It was the first appearance by the gelded son of Choisir since he finished fifth after setting a fast pace in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 2 over the Santa Anita course.
Off his easy win in the American in 1:33.39 over firm going, 6-year-old Obviously is certainly set for a repeat try of his 3 1/4-length victory in last year's Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT), which will be contested at Santa Anita for the first time June 14. Obviously won last year's American, a longtime turf staple at shuttered Hollywood Park, by 2 1/2 lengths as a prep for the Shoemaker.
This year's race lost its luster when Winning Prize, winner of the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) in his most recent start, was scratched by trainer Neil Drysdale. Two other scratches, San Francisco Mile (gr. IIIT) winner Tigah and Pure Tactics, reduced the field to four.
Obviously, as he likes to do, was away from the rail post in good order but was pressed from the outset by 7-5 second choice Silentio, ridden by Gary Stevens. The opening quarter mile fractions were sizzling, :22.76 and :45.55, and after reaching the quarter pole in 1:08.58, Obviously began to edge away from Silentio to take command entering the stretch.
Under hand urging from Talamo, Obviously reached the eighth pole five lengths clear and cruised home under an easy hold.
Talamo said he was amazed by Obviously's strong performance off the bench.
"I knew Gary (Stevens, aboard Silentio) was going after me, but you can't take a hold of this horse," said Talamo, who won for the seventh time aboard Obviously from 13 tries. "You just gotta' throw his head away and let him roll.
"Believe it or not, he took about four or five breathers today. When Gary's horse fell away from us (leaving the quarter pole), he relaxed again and finished up great."
"The fractions were pretty fast but I thought he was going comfortably even though Gary was pushing and shoving on Silentio," said D'Amato, who, after working for Mitchell for 10 years earned his first graded stakes win as a head trainer. "I knew by the quarter pole we had a good shot. This is very special. Words can't describe this. I'm happy to have my mentor (Mitchell) next to me and win a graded stakes with this horse. He's just the barn favorite.
"The plans are to run him in the Shoemaker Mile," he added. "We'll point to the Shoemaker, and maybe the Breeders' Cup Mile (at Santa Anita on Nov. 1)."
Stevens' aggressive riding probably cost Silentio second money as the stalking Chips All In came on to grab the runner-up spot by a neck under Tyler Baze. Smart Ellis, in his first start in 13 months, trailed throughout.
Obviously, bred in Ireland by Miss Deidre Cogan out of the Montjeu mare Leala, recorded his sixth graded stakes win while running his career mark to 10-4-2 in 19 races with earnings of $1,097,361.
Carrying 121 pounds, he paid $3.40 and $2.60 and topped a $15.80 exacta with Chips All In, who returned $4. There was no show wagering.