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THE USUAL Q.T., EVENING JEWEL GIVE CASSIDY SOLID HAND IN SATURDAY’S SUNSHINE MILLIONS TURF & DISTAFF AT SANTA ANITA; COST OF FREEDOM FIGURES AS SOLID FAVORITE IN SPRINT
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 23, 2011) – With multiple Grade I winners The Usual Q. T. and Evening Jewel, New York City-born trainer James Cassidy figures to be a force Saturday in Santa Anita’s portion of the 9th Sunshine Millions competition conducted in concert with Gulfstream Park.
In the bicoastal event offering purses of $1.8 million and comprised of six races exclusively for California and Florida-bred Thoroughbreds, The Usual Q.T. will be the leading challenger to Floridian multi-millionaire Presious Passion among eight entrants in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf. Evening Jewel heads a cast of nine in the $300,000 Distaff. The $200,000 Sprint, featuring Cost of Freedom, completes the Sunshine Million races at Santa Anita.
They will be interspersed among the three stakes taking place at Florida’s Gulfstream Park, with the afternoon’s headliner being the $500,000 Classic. Gulfstream will also present the $300,000 Filly & Mare Turf and the $200,000 Filly & Mare Sprint.
The Turf, at 1 1/8 miles over Santa Anita’s Camino Real turf course, has attracted a formidable lineup that includes such notables as Florida-bred Jeranimo and Cal-bred Caracortado, in addition to Presious Passion and The Usual Q. T.
A gelded 8-year-old son of Royal Anthem trained by Mary Hartman for Patricia A. Generazio, Presious Passion has amassed $2,679,099 in earnings while racing 49 times. His record is 14-7-2. He will be joined by Elvis Trujillo, aboard for his last 16 races.
Presious Passion won Oak Tree’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch by 2 ½ lengths over the Santa Anita turf in October of 2009 before losing by one-half length to Conduit in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. No stranger to The Great Race Place, he was second to Soldiers Dancer in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita in January of that year.
The veteran campaigner, who clearly likes the grass course at Santa Anita and who does his best running on the front end, will be attempting to end a five-race losing streak when returning to Southern California.
The Usual Q.T., a gelded 5-year-old son of Unusual Heat, has earned $1,423,240 from an 8-5-2 record in 19 career starts for Don Van Racing and partners. Regular rider Victor Espinoza will be in the saddle.
After finishing third to the remarkable Goldikova and Gio Ponti in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, The Usual Q.T. went to the sidelines for a freshening. He returned as the 7-10 favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Gabriel Handicap on Dec. 27, but was upset by Jeranimo when fading to third.
The Usual Q. T. needed the race, according to Cassidy. “This horse is as good as he’s ever been,” said Mike Pender, who trains Jeranimo for B. J. Wright. “He’s really improving,” noted jockey Rafael Bejarano, who will be back aboard on Saturday.
The San Gabriel was the second win in as many tries on turf for the 5-year-old son of Congaree who had taken Santa Anita’s prestigious Grade II Strub Stakes last year at odds of 11-1. Jeranimo has compiled a 5-3-2 record in 15 starts for earnings of $429,400.
Caracortado was an impressive winner in his only race on turf, a sprint at Hollywood Park last November. He came back to run third at seven furlongs in the Grade I Malibu Stakes behind Twirling Candy and Smiling Tiger on Santa Anita’s opening day, Dec. 26.
Trained by Michael Machowsky for Blahut Racing and Lo Hi Racing, the 4-year-old Cal-bred son of Cat Dreams has won 6 of 10 starts while banking $326,520. Caracortado captured the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita as a 3-year-old to extend an unbeaten streak to five races.
The complete field for the Sunshine Millions Turf, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Pickapocket, Joel Rosario, 122; Mobilized, Alonso Quinonez, 122; Jeranimo, Rafael Bejarano, 122; Soul Candy, Garrett Gomez, 122; Caracortado, Joe Talamo, 120; No Inflation, David Flores, 122; The Usual Q.T., Victor Espinoza, 122, and Presious Passion, Elvis Trujillo, 122.
Evening Jewel, whom Cassidy trains for the Tom and Marilyn Braly, has not raced since finishing third behind Dubai Majesty and Switch in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Cassidy expects her to be fit enough for the 1 1/16 miles of the Distaff.
The 4-year-old California-bred daughter of Northern Afleet hasn’t been off the board since her maiden debut at Del Mar in August of 2009. While earning $1,015,943 from a 6-5-2 record in 14 races, Evening Jewel posted Grade I triumphs in the Del Mar Oaks and Ashland Stakes at Kentucky last year while banking $915,343. She lost a pair of Grade I events by a nose, the Kentucky Oaks to Blind Luck and Santa Anita’s Las Virgenes to last year’s 3-year-old Eclipse filly champion.
Her primary competition might come from trainer Vladimir Cerin’s Briecat, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare who won the Grade II Las Palmas Handicap at Hollywood Park last October before venturing to Delta Downs where she took the $125,000 Treasure Chest Stakes by 5 ½ lengths. Patrick Valenzuela, who was aboard for both those wins, has the return call.
During a career that began in January of 2008, Briecat has won 9 races from 25 starts for David and Holly Wilson. She ran second to Horse of the Year Zenyatta in the Grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park last year.
The complete field for the Sunshine Millions Distaff, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Camille C, Quinonez, 120; Warren’s Blossom, Martin Pedroza, 120; Briecat, Patrick Valenzuela, 122; Amazing, Bejarano, 122; Antares World, Frank Alvarado, 120; All Due Respect, Talamo, 120; Evening Jewel, Espinoza, 120; Lady Railrider, Russell Baze, 122, and Ultra Blend, Joel Rosario, 122.
In search of his fourth straight win, Cal-bred 8-year-old Cost of Freedom will take some beating in the six-furlong Sprint. The Cee’s Tizzy offspring, trained by John Sadler for Gary and Cecil Barber, has won 11 of his 21 starts including the 2008 Grade I Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita two races after being claimed for $50,000.
After finishing fourth in the following year’s Ancient Title, Cost of Freedom subsequently ran a bang-up third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita when crossing the wire just a head behind victorious Dancing in Silks.
Joe Talamo, aboard for Cost of Freedom’s last three wins late last year that included the Grade III Vernon O. Underwood at Hollywood Park, will be back at the controls of the gelding who has earned $857,983. He drew post position No. 3.
Quick Enough, who finished 4 ½ lengths behind Cost of Freedom when second in the Dec. 11 Miles Tyson Stakes at Hollywood Park, may be among the most formidable challengers on Saturday.
A 7-year-old gelding who was sired in California by High Brite, Quick Enough was claimed for $40,000 in August by trainer Doug O’Neill on behalf of Michael Bello and partners. He won Oak Tree’s Grade III Morvich Handicap on turf the following month. Patrick Valenzuela rides Quick Enough, whose career record is 7-5-3 in 17 races for earnings of $313,360.
The complete field for the Sunshine Million Sprint, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Amazombie, Mike Smith, 122; Cayambe, Gomez, 122; Cost of Freedom, Talamo, 122; Don Tito, Rosario, 120; Excessive Passion, Russell Baze, 120; Quick Enough, Valenzuela, 122; Apriority, Bejarano, 120, and Dance With Gable, Espinoza, 122.
On a 10-race program beginning at 12 noon, Santa Anita will commence its Sunshine Millions stakes races with the Sprint going as the fifth. It will be followed in succession by the Turf and Distaff.