WITH 14 OLDER FILLIES & MARES ENTERED, 12 TO FACE STARTER IN TOUGHEST RACE ON SUNSHINE MILLIONS DAY CARD
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 27, 2016)–In what looms as the most competitive race on an action-packed Sunshine Millions Day program Saturday at Santa Anita, the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint, to be run at 6 ½ furlongs down the Camino Real Turf Course, has attracted a field of 14 older fillies and mares, with 12 to start.
In a tough call, Harris Farms’ homebred Velvet Mesquite, who comes off a close seventh place run in the Grade II Monrovia Stakes down the hill on Jan. 3, may rate top billing for trainer Blake Heap. A 6-year-old mare by In Excess, she is 11-5-1-2 over the course, including a win in the Calirornia Distaff Handicap here in October, 2014. Although winless in seven starts last year, she had a pair of seconds and thirds, which included a close second down the hill in the Grade III Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes three starts back on Oct. 25.
Out of the Huddle Up mare Mesquite, Velvet Mesquite is 18-5-4-2 overall with earnings of $343,446.
Trained by Phil D’Amato and owned by Little Red Feather Racing or RM Racing, Sheer Pleasure, a two-time state-bred stakes winner who has been the beaten favorite in her last two starts, would appear to rate a big chance as she tries the hillside turf for the first time. A 4-year-old filly by Birdonthewire, she was most recently sixth, beaten 4 ½ lengths as the 9-5 favorite in a 6 ½ furlong allowance here on Jan. 10. She has three wins from eight starts and has earnings of $307,700.
An even 10th, beaten 6 ½ lengths in the Grade I, one mile turf Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar Nov. 29, trainer Mike Puype’s Chati’s On Top took the one mile turf Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar three starts back on Aug. 16 and was fifth as the 5-2 favorite two back in the Maddy Stakes here Oct. 25.
A 5-year-old mare by Old Topper, Chati’s On Top, who is owned by Little Red Feather Racing and Marsha Naify, is 5-1-2-1 down the hillside turf and is 17-4-6-2 overall with earnings of $296,978.
Talented My Fiona, who won three state bred stakes as a juvenile, could well have needed her most recent start, a third place finish in a 6 ½ furlong allowance here on Jan. 10. A 4-year-old filly by Kentucky-based Ghostzapper, My Fiona was bred in California by Terry Lovingier and is owned by Lovingier, Tom Beckerle and Amanda Navarro.
Originally conditioned by Walther Solis, My Fiona is now trained by Gary Sherlock, who combined with Lovingier and jockey Fernando Perez to win the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes this past Saturday with California-bred Lost Bus. My Fiona, who will be trying turf for the first time, is 8-4-1-3, with earnings of $373,934.
Curt and Lila Lanning’s hard hitting Qiaona comes off a facile three length allowance win going 1 1/16 miles over a soft turf at Golden Gate on Jan. 1 and merits respect off an impressive resume that includes an overall mark of 31-7-6-4 and earnings of $585,643. A 6-year-old mare by Wilko, she is trained by Ed Moger and was a winner over the course of the California Distaff Handicap in October, 2013. She also has a second and a third place finish from five lifetime tries down the hill.
Trainer Matt Chew’s Singing Kitty, a winner of the downhill Unzip Me Stakes three starts back on Sept. 26, comes off an even ninth, beaten five lengths, in the Grade II Monrovia on Jan. 3 and will be ridden back by Gary Stevens. A storybook $32,000 claim on Dec. 11, 2014, she won three stakes and banked $267,800 last year. Owned by Chris Aulds and Peter Jeong, the 4-year-old filly by Ministers Wild Cat is 14-5-1-1 overall with earnings of $333,238.
The complete field for the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint, to be run as the seventh race on a 10-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Yana, Agapito Delgadillo, 119; My Fiona, Fernando Perez, 121; Smoove It, Mario Gutierrez, 121; Chati’s On Top, Santiago Gonzalez, 124; Heavens Stairway, Joe Talamo, 121; Sheer Pleasure, Tyler Baze, 124; Velvet Mesquite, Kent Desormeaux, 121; Singing Kitty, Gary Stevens, 124; Jenna’s Faith, Drayden Van Dyke, 119; Light One, Flavien Prat, 121; Qiaona, Victor Espinoza, 121, and Ashley’s Sassy, Alonso Quinonez, 119. ALSO ELIGIBLE: Nite Delite, Edwin Maldonado, 119, and Princess Bertrando, Abel Lezcano, 119.
First post time on Saturday is early, at 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.