ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2012) – Third in last year’s Daytona Stakes, Regally Ready will be just what his name implies when heavily favored to mend that unsightly little glitch in Sunday’s renewal of the Grade III, $100,000 event over 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.

Talk about progress, Regally Ready went from failing by 1 ¾ lengths in the 2011 Daytona to winning three successive starts over the hillside course including the Grade III San Simeon Handicap. Next, he went to Churchill Downs to take the Grade III Turf Sprint. The gelded son of More Than Ready completed 2011 with grass sprint triumphs in Woodbine Race Course’s Grade I Nearctic Stakes and the Grade II, $909,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

“That was absolutely awesome,” exclaimed trainer Steve Asmussen after Regally Ready crossed the Breeders’ Cup finish line 1 ½ lengths ahead of Country Day. Jockey Corey Nakatani called it “the easiest possible win.” Said Nakatani, “It was over on the turn.”

At the age of 5 and rejoined by Nakatani, Regally Ready returns to action in the ninth running of the Daytona Stakes as a far different horse than last year’s 2-1 beaten favorite. The Vinery Stables’ chestnut gelding brings earnings of $1,210,684 from a 9-2-4 record in 17 career starts. And, oh, yeah, Regally Ready is one of the three finalists for an Eclipse Award as last year’s champion male sprinter.

He will face a respectable lineup of six challengers including popular California-bred Caracortado, who last summer captured the Grade II Del Mar Mile Handicap and missed by a neck to Courageous Cat in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile. Caracortado, however, failed to menace Regally Ready in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint when finishing three lengths behind in fifth place.

The 5-year-old gelding, co-owned by Don Blahut and trainer Mike Machowsky, will try a new rider and an alien distance on Sunday. Rafael Bejarano will take the reins as Caracortado makes his first start over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.

His stretch-running style may well suit the unique downhill layout. In his only race sprinting on grass prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Caracortado rallied to win a six-furlong allowance event at Hollywood Park by 1 ¾ lengths in November of 2010. Amazombie, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion, finished third in that race.

Machowsky seems ready for another meeting with Regally Ready. “Bring him on,” he said after Caracortado worked five furlongs in a bullet 57.80 last Sunday. The homebred son of Cat Dreams has posted an 8-2-3 record in 18 starts for earnings of $804,105. Caracortado and Regally Ready each will carry 123 pounds while ceding five pounds to each of the five other Daytona entrants.

A lightly raced 8-year-old gelding trained by Ron Ellis for Gary Broad, Mr Gruff clearly adores the hillside turf course. He has won 5 of 6 starts over the strip including the 2009 and 2010 runnings of the Grade III San Simeon Handicap. He did not compete in last year’s running won by Regally Ready. Mr Gruff was beaten by a nose in his only loss on the hillside course.

Joel Rosario, aboard for each of Mr Gruff’s previous races over the course, has the mount atop the son of Mr. Greeley who has earned $298,110 from a 6-2-1 showing in 11 career starts.

The complete field for the Daytona Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Calimonco, Mike Smith, 118; Mr Gruff, Joel Rosario, 118; Victory Pete, Martin Garcia, 118; Caracortado, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Silver Summation, Garrett Gomez, 118; Regally Ready, Corey Nakatani, 123, and Al Instante, Kevin Krigger, 118.

The Daytona will be contested as the eighth race on a program of nine races with first post at 12:30 p.m.