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THE USUAL Q.T. PUTS SIX-RACE WINNING STREAK ON LINE WITH SURFACE SWITCH IN SATURDAY'S SUNSHINE MILLIONS CLASSIC
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 25, 2010) – A winner of six straight races on turf including the Grade I Hollywood Derby and Grade II Oak Tree Derby, The Usual Q. T. will attempt to transfer his run of perfection to Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface on Saturday when confronted with no easy task in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic presented by Pepsi Cola, centerpiece of the unique bi-coastal competition between California and Florida-breds.
California-bred The Usual Q. T. is the most compelling competitor among eleven entrants in the eighth running of the mile-and-one-eighth Classic, one of three Sunshine Millions events to be contested at Santa Anita with three others, including the $300,000 Turf, to be contested at Gulfstream Park.
James Cassidy, who trains the streaking The Usual Q. T., has opted to forego the compatible Turf in Florida for a couple of primary reasons. (a) travel, and (b) opportunity. “The money enters into it,” he said, “but the big thing is the travel. 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 (synthetics), and I think this is a good opportunity.”
Among those standing in the way of a seventh straight win for the gelded 4-year-old son of Unusual Heat are 7-year-old millionaire Bold Chieftain, a winner of 14 of 33 starts including the California Cup Classic twice; 8-year-old Florida-bred Palladio, whose nine lifetime wins include five graded stakes for earnings of $960,812; Florida-bred Bad Action, in-the-money in 14 of 22 starts which include eight victories, and lightly-raced 4-year-old California-bred Compari, winner of four in a row.
Other Sunshine Millions stakes to be raced at Santa Anita, where first post will be 11:30 a.m., are the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino at 1 1/8 miles, and the $200,000 Filly & Mare Sprint at six furlongs.
Fans in attendance at Santa Anita, where an on-track crowd of 22,155 attended last year’s Sunshine Millions, will receive free over-sized Sunshine Millions infield/beach umbrellas while supplies last. The day also will mark this year’s debut of the popular Magna 5, a $1 wager that encompasses races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream as well as other Magna tracks within one hour’s time.
Victor Espinoza will be back aboard The Usual Q. T., who was winless, but second four times in his first five starts before embarking on his spotless ascent for Don Van Racing Inc. and partners. Distances on turf have ranged from one mile to 1 ¼ miles. His most recent victory in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sir Beaufort Stakes on Dec. 26 raised The Usual Q. T.’s earnings to $516,670 from his overall record of 6-4-0 in 11 races.
Bob Chieftain, with earnings of $1,131,411, is trained by Bill Morey Jr. for Dwaine Hall and partners. Russell Baze, North America’s all-time leader in races won, will be aboard the California-bred son of Chief Seattle for the 24th time while looking for victory No. 14. Morey says the Classic could be “the last big dance” for the winner of 11 stakes races over the past 3 ½ years in California.
Palladio, who will have Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the saddle, is coming off a win in the Group II Autumn Stakes at Woodbine Race Course in Toronto. Although Palladio will be making his Santa Anita debut for trainer Roger Attfield, he is well familiar with synthetic surfaces. He owns a 4-1-4 record in 15 starts over the footing. Owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, Palladio has accumulated an overall record of 9-1-5 in 35 starts.
Eastern based Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount on Bad Action for trainer Todd Pletcher. A 4-year-old gelded son of Brahms, Bad Action won the Grade III Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands before running second to Haynesfield in Aqueduct’s Grade III Discovery Handicap, his last start on Nov. 21. Bad Action has earned $320,215 for Sanford H. Robbins and partners.
Trained by Marty Jones for Harris Farms and partners, 4-year-old gelding Compari has raced but five times although winning the last four including Hollywood Park’s $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at 1 1/8 miles over a synthetic surface. Garrett Gomez, the nation’s leading rider in earnings the last four years, will handle the winner of $272,640.
The complete field for the Sunshine Millions Classic presented by Pepsi Cola, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Jeranimo, Brice Blanc, 120; Unusual Suspect, Alonso Quinonez, 122; Enriched, Michael Baze, 122; Palladio, Mike Smith, 122; Unusual Smoke, Martin Garcia, 122; Bad Action, John Velazquez, 120; The Usual Q. T., Victor Espinoza, 120; Compari, Garrett Gomez, 120; Bold Chieftain, Russell Baze, 122; Wicked Style, Rafael Bejarano, 122, and Acclamation, David Flores, 120.
The Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino attracted a competitive field of eight with no clear standout. With earnings of $458,726, 6-year-old California-bred mare Bootleg Annie is the wealthiest of the entrants.
Gomez will ride trainer Kathy Walsh’s daughter of Go for Gin who once was claimed for $5,000. At the time, she was a maiden competing at Turf Paradise. She has been claimed a total of five times during a career that has seen Bootleg Annie post a 15-4-6 record in 32 starts.
Since joining Walsh’s stable early last year, Bootleg Annie has truly blossomed with 5 wins in 9 starts including a pair of stakes races. She has been particularly effective on turf while winning 14 of her 24 starts.
Pretty Unusual is fresh off a stunning upset in Santa Anita’s Grade II El Encino Stakes with Chantal Sutherland generating the victorious rally at odds of 29-1 for Madeline Auerbach and partners. In the process, the 4-year-old California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat upset Stardom Bound, the 2008 champion 2-year-old filly.
Trained by Barry Abrams, Pretty Unusual is yet to win a race on turf in two attempts, but her breeding validates the connection. The bay filly, who will have Sutherland back in the irons, has posted a 3-2-0 mark in 10 starts for earnings of $249,632.
Tom Proctor is sending out a pair of runners from Florida to compete in the event. Closeout, a 5-year-old Repriced mare, brings a record of 5-5-0 in 15 starts with earnings of $368,846 for Glen Hill Farm. Tight Precision, a 5-year-old daughter of Pure Precision, has won her last two starts while posting an overall record of 4-3-2 in 13 outings for earnings of $172,970.
The complete field for the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Closeout, Jose Lezcano Jr., 122; Tight Precision, Joel Rosario, 122; Pretty Unusual, Chantal Sutherland, 120; You Lift Me Up, Bejarano, 122; Bootleg Annie, Gomez, 122; Saucey Evening, Jose Valdivia Jr., 120; Catsalot, Quinonez, 120, and Century Park, Tyler Baze, 120.
High Resolve, a 5-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Put It Back, will be back to defend her title among 13 entrants in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint for co-owner and trainer Greg Gilchrist. Russell Baze rides the Northern California-based gray who wired her opposition by 2 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream Park last year when Robby Albarado was the rider.
A winner of her first five starts by a combined 26 lengths before suffering a loss, the ultra consistent speedster has recorded a 7-3-2 record in 13 races while earning $452,098. Fourth in Santa Anita’s Kalookan Queen Handicap in her last start on Jan. 3, it was the first time she had ever finished off the board.
Dubai Majesty, second to High Resolve in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint, will return for another crack at her rival. The Florida-bred and based 5-year-old mare has earned $499,519 during an active career that includes 24 starts with an 8-3-5 showing. Regular rider Jamie Theriot gets the call from trainer Bret Calhoun.
Gomez has the mount on another hard-hitting Florida-bred, Libor Lady. The 5-year-old mare, trained by Michael Pino for David Ross, has put together a 9-5-3 record in 13 starts while banking $335,375. She is a winner of three minor stakes races.
California-based trainer Mike Mitchell will saddle another promising Florida-bred in Miss McCall, named for one of his daughters. Co-owned by Mitchell, the 4-year-old grey daughter of Lightnin N Thunder, has raced but four times, but won her last three while improving in each one. She is coming off a 4 ¾-length triumph in the Phoenix Stakes at Turf Paradise. Tyler Baze has the mount.
The complete field for the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint, with jockeys and weights in post position order: U R All That I Am, Smith, 120; Emmy Darling, Solis, 120; Miss McCall, Tyler Baze, 120; Dotsy Jean, Espinoza, 122; Rate of Exchange, Rosario, 122; Sleep Tight, Lezcano, 122; Libor Lady, Gomez, 122; Fearless Leader, Sutherland, 122; Via Veneto, Martin Garcia, 120; Dubai Majesty, Theriot, 122; High Resolve, Russell Baze, 122; Quisisana, Bejarano, 122, and Magdalena’s Chase, Joseph Talamo, 122.
The Classic will be presented as the eighth race on an 11-race program and will follow the Filly & Mare Sprint, which goes as the sixth, and the Filly & Mare Turf, which will be the seventh race. Simulcasts from Florida of the $200,000 Sprint, $300,000 Distaff and $300,000 Turf will be intermixed among the Sunshine Millions races at Santa Anita.