COMMA TO THE TOP BECOMES RACING’S NEWEST MILLIONAIRE, AND AGAIN SHOWS HIS VERSATILITY IN WINNING GRADE III DAYTONA ON WET-FAST MAIN TRACK

CLASSY TEDDY’S PROMISE WINS $75,000 KALOOKAN QUEEN; EDDIE LOGAN, FOR 2-YEAR-OLDS, TAKEN BY RICK PITINO’S AVARE

ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 29, 2012)—Sent from the gate through blistering fractions of 21.78, 44.16, 1:08.25 and coming home 6 ½ furlongs on a wet-fast main track in 1:14.55, 1 ¾ lengths in front of Clubhouse Ride and Aaron Gryder, Comma to the Top, with replacement rider Edwin Maldonado aloft, became racing’s newest millionaire in winning the Grade III, $100,000 Daytona Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita.

With the winner’s share of $60,000, Comma to the Top, who is owned by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara, passed the magical million dollar mark, running his earnings to $1,027,696. He has an enviable overall record of 25-11-2-1.

“Words can’t describe a horse like this,” said winning trainer Peter Miller, who has had the horse throughout his entire career. He’s gone through so much, but he wants to beat you. He’s just an iron horse. He’s a $22,000 gelding and you wish you had a barnful of them. He makes training easy. He tries every time. He just wants to please you.”

Comma to the Top, who was purchased out of an Ocala, Florida 2-year-old in training sale for just $22,000, again displayed ample gameness and versatility in winning the Daytona, which was originally scheduled to be run at 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course.

In addition to the change in surface, necessitated by day-long rain, Comma to the Top adjusted to a late rider change, as he was originally scheduled to be handled by veteran Corey Nakatani, who was forced to take off his remaining mounts Saturday due to a spill in the fourth race.

“With the speed scratching (original morning line favorite, Great Mills), we felt we would go for the lead and it worked out good,” said Maldonado, who picked up his third win of the day with Comma to the Top. “I felt I had a ton of horse under me at the end. The horse drifted out late, but the middle of the track was the hardest part of the track.”

A close second in the 2011 Santa Anita Derby, the 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding was a winner of the restricted one-mile Big Bear Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 21, and was a solid fourth, beaten only 1 ½ lengths, in the six furlong Grade III Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 2.

The second choice at 8-5, Comma to the Top paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80.

Clubhouse Ride, the longest shot in the five-horse field at 14-1, was just up to edge Ain’t No Other and Juan Hernandez for the place, returning $7.40 and $3.40.

Ain’t No Other, who pressed the winner early, finished three-quarters of a length in front of 8-5 favorite Capital Account and David Flores, and paid $3.00 to show.

“He broke good,” said Flores of the favorite. “The pace was fast, they just never slowed down in front of us.”

FAVORED TEDDY’S PROMISE DOMINANT IN KALOOKAN QUEEN STAKES

Teddy’s Promise, a winner 363 days ago of the Grade I La Brea Stakes, was completely dominate in winning Saturday’s $75,000 Kalookan Queens Stakes for fillies and mares by 5 ¼ lengths under Victor Espinoza, getting 6 ½ furlongs on a wet-fast strip in 1:14.72.

Owned and bred in California by Ted and Judy Nichols, the 4-year-old daughter of Salt Lake sat close to an opening quarter of 22.28, took the lead at the half mile pole in 44.50, and drew off under a hand ride stopping the six furlong timer in 1:08.26 en route to victory.

The heavy favorite at 3-2, Teddy’s Promise paid $5.00, $3.40 and $2.80.

“I had a great trip,” said Espinoza. “I had a good post (five, in a six-horse field) outside. She’s got a lot of class. When she wants to run, she’s the best…when she’s inside she doesn’t always like it.”

With the winner’s share of $60,300, Teddy’s Promise hiked her bankroll to $484,981, from an overall mark of 20-7-2-1.

According to trainer Ron Ellis, Teddy’s Promise will make her next start in the Grade II, $250,000 Santa Monica Stakes on Jan. 26 at seven furlongs.

Off at 9-1, Snow Fall and Tyler Base finished 2 ¾ lengths in front of Great Hot and Alonso Quinonez. Snow Fall paid $7.40 and $4.00.

Brazilian-bred Great Hot paid $3.20 to show.

AVARE, OWNED IN-PART BY RICK PITINO, EASY WINNER OF EDDIE LOGAN

Saturday’s $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes, for 2-year-olds at one mile and named for Santa Anita’s beloved late shoeshine attendant, was reduced from a field of 10 to five horses due to a shift in surface from the turf to one mile on the main track.

Avare, owned in part by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, and trained by Doug O’Neill, relished the wet-fast going and scored a dominate gate to wire victory, winning by 4 ¼ lengths in 1:36.39 after carving out fractions of 23.50, 47.44, 1:11.26 and 1:23.89.

“We were actually glad when the race came off the grass,” said assistant trainer Dennis O’Neill. “Coach Pitino (who races as RAP Racing) owns a majority interest in him and he’s in Kentucky today (coaching the Cardinals to victory over the University of Kentucky), trying to find out how he did. This is a nice horse and we think he’ll run a long way.”

Just how far, is an oft-asked question this time of year.

“The late 2-year-old, early 3-year-old picture changes so much so we’re keeping all our options open,” said Doug O’Neill. “It’s still just a five-horse field victory but this game is part dreaming, so we’ll dream a little bit.”

The second choice at 5-2, Avare and Bejarano broke from post position four and paid $7.60, $3.60 and $2.80.

“I knew I had to try to send him because I knew the eight (even-money favorite Gabriel Charles) wanted to get to the lead,” said Bejarano. “I knew I had to take the chance. Once he got the lead, I got him to relax and when we hit the stretch, he was off. I worked him two or three times before the race and he was just amazing. I think he loves the distance and I think he could get a mile and a quarter.”

Also owned by Jeff Bloom and Michael Shustek’s Majestic Racing Stable, LLC, Avare, a Kentucky-bred son of Johannesburg, picked up $46,500 for the win, boosting his earnings to $78,900 from a record of 4-2-0-0.

Gabriel Charles, ridden by Joe Talamo, never threatened the winner while second-best, finishing 4 ¼ lengths in front of Will True Up and Edwin Maldonado.

“We had a perfect trip,” said Talamo. “I was lying second to the winner the whole way, but we were just second best today.”

Gabriel Charles paid $2.80 and $2.40.

Will True Up, off at 5-1, paid $3.00 to show.

Santa Anita will conduct live racing Sunday through New Year’s Day on Tuesday, with first post time each day at 12:30 p.m.

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