CARACORTADO RUNS A SMASHER IN SUNSHINE MILLIONS TURF BEFORE 26,694 AT SANTA ANITA; EVENING JEWEL TAKES THE DISTAFF WHILE COST OF FREEDOM UPSET BY AMAZOMBIE IN SPRINT

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 29, 2011) – Victorious in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff, Evening Jewel saved a measure of face for the favored runners in the three stakes races that constituted Santa Anita’s presentation of Saturday’s $1.8 million Sunshine Millions for California and Florida-breds that was held in conjunction with Gulfstream Park.

Rags-to-riches Caracortado, however, was perhaps the most dramatic winner with a smashing victory over The Usual Q.T. in the $300,000 Turf while odds-on favorite Cost of Freedom fell to 11-1 upsetter Amazombie in the $200,000 Sprint before a Santa Anita on-track crowd of 26,694.

The $300,000 Turf evolved into a two-horse battle between victorious Caracortado and runner-up The Usual Q.T. Jeranimo, the 7-5 favorite, never got seriously involved in the mile-and-one eighth competition.

As expected, front-running multi-millionaire Presious Passion took the Turf field of eight as far as the 8-year-old Florida-bred could, which was to the head of the stretch. Then the two California-breds burst from the pack.

The Usual Q.T., a multiple Grade I winner with Victor Espinoza aboard, got the first jump with Caracortado and Joe Talamo in close pursuit. The unfashionably bred 4-year-old gelded son of Cat Dreams steadily wore down the 5-year-old to score by one-half length in 1:46.75.

“He’s a freak on turf and has such a tremendous turn of foot,” said Talamo after Caracortado had gained his second victory in as many starts on grass. “I really appreciate the opportunity; they did a heck of a job.”

The 21-year-old jockey addressed the work done by trainer and co-owner Mike Machowsky. “Mike has done such a good job with him,” Talamo said. “He’s been working with him on the turf and I have been working him every time. He just explodes that last eighth. I think in one of his workouts he came home in ten-and-four, and I didn’t even ask him the last eighth. He’s a tremendous horse.”

Soul Candy, an 11-1 shot ridden by Garrett Gomez, closed for third in the Turf, but was no match for the top two, finishing 1 ¾ lengths behind The Usual Q. T. Jeranimo and jockey Rafael Bejarano ran fourth the entire distance. “He was kind of flat, which surprised me, because he’s always shown a big kick,” commented Bejarano. “Maybe he was bleeding on the inside. . .maybe that’s why he was flat. He sort of ran out of gas.”

Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Don Blahut in partnership with Machowsky, Caracortado had begun his career with five straight wins including Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes. His only win in five races since, however, had been a turf allowance race sprinting at Hollywood Park on Nov. 11 prior to Saturday’s blockbuster.

As the 3-1 third choice, Caracortado paid $8.20, $3.80 and $2.80. The Usual Q. T., gaining a measure of redemption from a dull third behind Jeranimo in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes on Dec. 27, paid $3.40 and $2.80 as the 2-1 second choice. Soul Candy paid $4.40 to show. The winner earned $165,000 to bring his career total to $491,520 from 7 wins in 11 starts.

Machowsky wasn’t certain what might be next for Caracortado, but he knew the date. “March 5 will be the date,” he said. “Whether it’s the Kilroe Mile (on turf) or the Santa Anita Handicap (at 1 ¼ miles on the main track), we’ll just wait and see how it all plays out.”

Evening Jewel, ridden by Espinoza for trainer James Cassidy, rallied from seventh in the Distaff to take the mile-and-one-sixteenth competition by one-half length over 11-1 shot Amazing in 1:42.25. Cassidy also trains Turf runner-up The Usual Q. T.

A 4-year-old millionaire who had been beaten in her previous three starts that included a third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Evening Jewel faced possible retirement if she had not delivered on Saturday.

“Personally, I wouldn’t want to cheapen her in any way and keep running her if she’d had enough,” Cassidy said in reflection during the winner’s circle ceremony. “But after this performance today, you’ve got to keep running.”

And run Evening Jewel did in the Distaff. “Midway around the turn, the horses in front of me got tired and drifted off the rail,” said Espinoza. “I was able to cut the corner there at the quarter pole. She’s got a tremendous turn of foot, and she finished great today.”

Amazing nosed out 3-1 third-choice Ultra Blend for the place in the field of nine. Favored Evening Jewel paid $6.40, $4.20 and $3. Amazing, with Bejarano aboard, paid $9.40 and $5.40. Ultra Blend, ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $3 to show.

Back on her game, Marilyn Braly’s Evening Jewel increased her career earnings to $1,181,943 with the winning purse of $165,000 as the Northern Afleet offspring’s record rose to 7-5-2 in 16 starts.

“I gave Victor (Espinoza) two jobs to do, and he only got one of them done; he finished second (with The Usual Q.T.) in the other race,” said a relieved Cassidy following the Distaff. “Both of these horses are special. People wait a lifetime for one of them, never mind both of them. It’s a real blessing.

“I had a lot of questions today. We had problems with one of our horses bleeding (The Usual Q.T.), and with her (Evening Jewel), I wasn’t sure she had her head in it.”

Santa Anita’s portion of the bi-coastal event got underway with a stunner as heavily-favored Cost of Freedom was upended by Amazombie and jockey Mike Smith in the $200,000 Sprint while covering six furlongs in 1:07.28.

An 8-year-old California-bred gelded son of Cee's Tizzy who had won 11 of his 21 previous starts, Cost of Freedom seemed to be running within himself on the lead although pressed by longshot Excessive Passion. The 3-5 favorite, however, sped through early fractions of 20.80, 42.72 and 54.67 with Talamo along for the ride.

Amazombie, a Cal-bred offspring of Northern Afleet, rallied strongly between horses after stalking the early pace. He overtook Cost of Freedom in the final yards. Florida-bred Apriority, on the far outside, separated the pair with his rousing finish as two heads separated the first three finishers.

Trained and co-owned by Bill Spawr whose Bordonaro had won the 2006 Sprint, Amazombie paid $24.80, $8.40 and $4.20. Apriority, with Bejarano aboard, returned $6.80 and $3.60. The show price on Cost of Freedom was $2.10.

The Sprint marked the first stakes victory for Amazombie, a 5-year-old bay gelding who suffered a neck defeat in an allowance race that served as his only previous competition over a dirt surface.

“He’s one of those horses that it probably doesn’t matter if he’s on the turf or dirt,” said Smith. “The rail was something new today. I probably could’ve stayed down there and followed Cost of Freedom, but I knew the closers would be coming and we made them fan out a little bit, which helped. Bill Spawr has done a great job with this horse.”

Talamo thought the early pace pressure by Excessive Passion, who wound up seventh in the field of eight with Russell Baze in the saddle, proved costly to Cost of Freedom.

“He ran a good race,” Talamo said. “It was just that Russell (Baze) ran with me so hard. Those were some pretty fast opening fractions. I thought my horse would be on the lead, but I didn’t think he would get pressed that hard. He tried so hard down the lane, but he was pressed so hard early that it took its toll at the end.”

Amazombie’s first stakes win was worth $110,000 for Spawr and Thomas Sanford. It raised his career earnings to $308,708 from a record of 6-3-2 in 14 career starts. “This horse has really changed a lot and we’ve recognized how he’s developed,” said Spawr. “He’s grown up and matured. He’s learned how to relax.”

Switch, a 4-year-old filly who has swiftly risen to stardom for trainer John Sadler, is the even-money favorite among eight fillies and mares in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Monica Stakes that heads Sunday’s nine-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.

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