CARACORTADO UNCORKS ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ RALLY TO CAPTURE SUNDAY’S GRADE III DAYTONA STAKES. . .JUST ASK TREVOR DENMAN

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 8, 2012) – Moments after track announcer Trevor Denman had remarked, “Caracortado did not fire today,” the 5-year-old California-bred gelding unleashed a torrid closing rally to capture Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Daytona Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.

As Denman had suggested, it was an “unbelievable” finish by the 19-10 third-choice in an event that had been considered a preview to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint scheduled for the same course on the weekend of Nov. 2-3.

As expected, defending Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion Regally Ready and Mr Gruff, a winner of 5 of 6 over the layout, alternated on the early lead in a field reduced to five starters after the late scratch of Silver Summation.

Silver Summation reared and unseated two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Garrett Gomez as the runners left the walking ring. Gomez, who has won six stakes at the meet, was transported to Arcadia Methodist Hospital complaining of pain in his left heel.

Mr Gruff, the 19-10 favorite, proceeded to gain the early lead by a head over 17-10 Regally Ready. Caracortado, with jockey Rafael Bejarano sitting very chilly, was 15 lengths behind the leaders at the half-mile mark. The leaders dueled through early fractions of 21.55 and 43.03.

The winner’s dramatic late surge was executed on the extreme outside with Bejarano never having to resort to the whip to drive Caracortado to his stirring 1 ¼ length victory.

Victory Pete, with Martin Garcia aboard, passed the two favorites to gain the place, one-half length ahead of Mr Gruff and Regally Ready, who dead-heated for the show.

Caracortado had been able to make little impact on Regally Ready when finishing fifth in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs after taking the Grade II Del Mar Mile.

Despite never having previously raced on Santa Anita’s unique downhill course, the race appeared to set up well for Caracortado. He was well-supported due to his acclaimed closing kick and the fact his two principal opponents liked to do their running on or near the lead.

“He’s got that turn of foot that’s really unbelievable,” said Mike Machowsky, who bred, trains and co-owns Caracortado. “But when the horses hit the quarter pole, I started walking to the bar. I knew he would fly home, but I couldn’t believe the way he was finishing. I couldn’t believe how fast he went the last quarter-of-a-mile.”

It was estimated that Caracortado ran his final eighth-of-a-mile in a remarkable five seconds or under.

“I knew I had a lot of horse, so I didn’t want to use him too early,” said Bejarano, who was riding Caracortado for the first time. “I just tried to follow instructions from the trainer. He said not to go too early and just wait for one big run. As soon as I crossed the dirt, my horse was flying. This was the first horse that I’ve rode that has this kind of finishing speed. He showed me a big kick. It was unbelievable.”

With no show betting, Caracortado paid $5.80 and $3.60. Victory Pete paid $6.80 to place.

While gaining his ninth victory in 19 career starts, the gelded homebred son of Cat Dreams earned $60,000 for Machowsky’s Lo Hi Racing Stable and partner Don Blahut. Caracortado elevated his career earnings to $864,105.

Santa Anita will be dark Monday through Wednesday before commencing five straight days of racing on Thursday with an eight-race card that begins at 1 p.m.

-30-