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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
FRESHENED UNUSUAL SUSPECT RETURNS IN SUNSHINE MILLIONS CLASSIC
Unusual Suspect is the exception to the rule in the training regimen of Barry Abrams, who has been known to race his charges at uncharacteristically frequent intervals. Unusual Suspect will be making his first start in nearly three months when he runs in Saturday’s $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic presented by Pepsi Cola at Santa Anita.
“His race in the Cal Cup Mile (Oct. 3, in which he finished sixth) didn’t set up well for him,” Abrams said. “He wasn’t as sharp as he had been because he had experienced a long campaign. I gave him some time off, he’s a fresh horse and this is a good place to start up. It’s a tough field, but he’s going to run well.”
Abrams admitted he often runs his horses more frequently than the norm, but gave Unusual Suspect the time he needed. “I wasn’t happy with his performance (in the Cal Cup Mile), and when one of my horses doesn’t run well and needs a break, I give it to them. If they run good, they keep running.”
A 6-year-old horse by Unusual Heat, Unusual Suspect has an 8-4-4 record from 41 starts, with earnings of $736,100.
Another son of the prolific stallion Unusual Heat, The Usual Q.T., a handy winner of the Grade III Sir Beaufort Stakes under Victor Espinoza on Dec. 26, will attempt to transform his scintillating turf form to the main track in Saturday’s Classic. The Jim Cassidy trainee has won his last six starts, all of them on turf, at distances ranging from one mile to 1 1/4 miles.
A 4-year-old California-bred gelding, The Usual Q.T. had also been considered for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at 1 1/8 miles.
“The money enters into it, but the big thing is the travel,” said Cassidy. “I’ve never really traveled with him except to Hollywood Park, and he’s gotten a little aggressive about that. Eventually, we were going to try him on the dirt (synthetic), and I think this is a good opportunity.”
Bred by Carlee Van Kempen and owned by Don Van Kempen, Inc. and Michael Netwig, The Usual Q.T. sports a 6-4-0 record from 11 starts and has amassed earnings of $516,670. The Usual Q.T. worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride synthetic Sunday morning in 59.80, under Espinoza. Fans attending on-track and around the nation can also participate in the 2010 debut of the popular Magna 5, which will begin on Sunshine Millions Day with the final race from Laurel Park.
The Magna 5 is a $1 minimum wager which requires players to select the winner of five races at tracks such as Laurel, Gulfstream, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, all in about one hour.
All fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive free over-sized Sunshine Millions infield/beach umbrellas with paid admission, while supplies last.
The field for the Classic: Jeranimo, Brice Blanc; Unusual Suspect, Alonso Quinonez; Enriched, Michael Baze; Palladio, Mike Smith; Unusual Smoke, Martin Garcia; Bad Action, John Velazquez; The Usual Q.T., Victor Espinoza; Compari, Garrett Gomez; Bold Chieftain, Russell Baze; Wicked Style, Rafael Bejarano; and Acclamation, David Flores.
BAFFERT FIRES BOTH BARRELS IN SUNDAY’S SANTA MONICA
Bob Baffert plans to send out two horses Sunday in a bid for his third victory in the Grade I $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs. The recent Hall of Fame inductee, tied for Santa Anita’s training lead with John Sadler at 12 wins each through Sunday, has Gabby’s Golden Gal and Gilded Gem ticketed for the Santa Monica, which he won in 2006 with Behaving Badly and in 2007 with Pussycat Doll.
“I hope she needed her last race,” Baffert said when asked if Gabby’s Golden Gal would benefit from her seventh-place finish in the Grade I La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26, her first start since last July 4. Owned by Arnold Zetcher, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro won the Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park last June 6, leading throughout the one-mile event at 13-1.
Gilded Gem is perfect in two starts at 6 ½ furlongs on synthetic, but steps up dramatically in company Sunday. “She’s training well and I think she deserves a shot,” Baffert said of the daughter of Smarty Jones. “She’s a late-running horse, the distance should suit her and it’s a Grade I.”
Probable for the Santa Monica: Czechers, Chantal Sutherland, 113; Diamondrella, Garrett Gomez, 119; Evita Argentina, Joel Rosario, 120; Free Flying Soul, no rider, 118; Gabby’s Golden Gal, Martin Garcia, 118; Gilded Gem, Victor Espinoza, 114; Proviso, Rafael Bejarano, 120; and possibly Tuscan Evening, no rider, 119.
Proviso worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Tuesday in :49.20 for Bill Mott.
POPULAR GELDING EPIC POWER RETIRES AT AGE NINE
The grand gelding Epic Power has been retired. After 75 races, 13 victories, three stakes triumphs and earnings of $778,173, the popular 9-year-old bay trained by Jack Carava is off to a leisurely life at Leigh Gray’s facility in Bradbury where she will make him a riding horse.
“He’s doing terrific at the farm there, and I don’t think he’s been off the race track before this,” said Carava, who had the California-bred son of Epic Honor-Petite n Powerful virtually throughout his career. “I did lose him briefly at Del Mar, but I got him right back when the stewards ruled the claim put in for him that day had the wrong price on it,” Carava said. “But it was time for him to retire. He was too smart and just wasn’t trying anymore, but the good thing is, he retired sound. He was a popular horse because he’d been around so long, and had a lot of fans.”
Owned by the La Caňada Stables of Ron Valenta, Epic Power had 13 wins, 13 seconds and 17 thirds. He had lost 12 straight races since his last victory, on Jan. 11, 2009, but after being reclaimed by Carava on March 12, 2006, recorded stakes wins in the 2006 California Cup Mile and the Khaled and the Korbel in 2007.
Not too shabby for a horse that broke his maiden in a $12,500 claiming race at Solano on July 11, 2003.
FINISH LINES: Joel Rosario, Santa Anita’s leading jockey with 21 wins through Sunday, begins a three-day suspension Thursday but did not ride Wednesday. “He left Sunday night for his native Dominican Republic,” agent Vic Stauffer reported. “He hadn’t been home in two years, and he took the extra day to spend more time with his family.” . . . Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite Lookin At Lucky has been galloping and jogging in lieu of an official workout due to recent inclement weather. The Eclipse Award winner as 2009’s outstanding male 2-year-old could breeze some time next week, said trainer Bob Baffert, who is considering the Grade II $150,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 13 for Lookin At Lucky’s 3-year-old debut. “Either that or out of town,” Baffert said . . . Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux has been engaged to ride Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Furthest Land for trainer Mike Maker in the Grade II $150,000 San Antonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7. . . Zenyatta worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park Monday in 1:00.20, breezing . . . Ever a Friend worked four furlongs Sunday at Hollywood in :51.60, breezing, for Mike Mitchell, who is pointing to the Grade I $250,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 6 . . . Friday marks another ‘Free Friday’ at Santa Anita. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . . Santa Anita’s Marketing Dept. will add a new mystery mutuel ticket offer on Saturday, March 13 to all THOROUGHBREDS on Santa Anita’s mailing list. All tickets are worth $5 with one grand prize ticket at $10,000. The promotion was offered on Breeders' Cup Friday last year and was very well received, with just under 10,000 tickets redeemed. Fans can sign up for THOROUGHBREDS membership on Mainline One at Santa Anita . . . Trainer Julio Canani is scheduled to be Jerry Antonucci’s guest at Saturday’s Today’s Racing Digest seminar, 10:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Entering Wednesday’s races, there were 19 contestants alive in ShowVivor.