Bold Chieftain won a tough stretch battle to upset the weekend's top race, the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita -- highlight of the annual multi-race, two-track showdown between Florida-breds and California-breds.
Bold Chieftain, with Russell Baze up, raced off the pace in the Classic, moved toward the leaders nearing mid-stretch and fought through between horses to gain the lead. Under strong urging, he outfinished Palladio to win by a neck. Unusual Smoke was third and the favorite, The Usual Q.T., who had won six straight on the grass, faded to finish last of nine.
Bold Chieftain, a 7-year-old, California-bred son of Chief Seattle, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.33. He now has won 15 times in 35 career starts.
"I didn't know if I was going to get through or not," Baze said. "But a hole presented itself coming to the three-sixteenths and we got through."Then I had to check up, and we clipped heels. Even though we got through, I had that horse (Unusual Smoke) laying on me. It's hard for a horse to move when he's got horses laying on him like that. But he did it."
Also at Santa Anita:
Tight Precision allowed Bootleg Annie to make the pace in the $300,000 Filly & Mare Turf, finally got by in the deep stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Bootleg Annie held second, just a nose better than Pretty Unusual. Tight Precison, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Pure Precision mare, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.27 with Joel Rosario in the irons. "She's a very classy filly," Rosario said. "Going to the top of the stretch, I saw (Pretty Unusual) coming inside of me, but I wasn't worried. My mare has got a real long stride, and when I asked her, she gave it to me."
Quisisana rallied to the leaders at mid-stretch in the $200,000 Filly & Mare Sprint and just got there in time, a nose in front of late-running Dubai Majesty. Dotsy Jean also ran well late to take third, another 1/2 length back. Quisisana, a 5-year-old, California-bred Decarchy mare, got the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.47 with Rafael Bejarano riding. "When we got to the stretch, we were in perfect position," Bejarano said. "I gave her a chance to switch leads, and she was really tough today."
In Sunshine Millions events at Gulfstream Park:
-- This Ones for Phil just caught pace-setting Pashito the Che in the final strides of the $200,000 Sprint, winning by a nose over that rival. Drift King was 10 1/2 lengths back in third. This Ones for Phil, under John Velazquez, pressed the pace most of the way around and through brisk fractions and finished the 6 furlongs in 1:08.81. The 4-year-old, Florida-bred Untuttable gelding is owned by Paul Pompa Jr. Winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said he skipped a race with This Ones for Phil "and I'm glad we did because he needed everything he had today." He said he will hope for an invitation to the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai March 27 -- a race he won two years ago with Benny the Bull.
-- Sweet Repent stalked the pace in the $300,000 Distaff, shot to the front along the outside with a furlong to run and drew off, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Jessica Is Back. Even Road came from last of nine to finish third, another 1 1/2 lengths in arrears. Sweet Repent, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Repent, got the 9 furlongs on the fast track in 1:49.26. Manoel Cruz rode. "She had some time off last hear with some problems with her feet," said winning trainer Dave Braddy. "She was a better 3-year-old than a 2-year-old and is still maturing. She gets a vacation now, probably about 60 days off."
-- Jet Propulsion jetted right out to a big lead in the $300,000 Turf and wasn't challenged, winning by 2 lengths over Pickapocket. Picou was third and the favorite, Soldier's Dancer, settled for fourth. Jet Propulsion, a 7-year-old, Florida-bred Double Honor gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:45.96 under Julien Leparoux. Trainer Marty Wolfson claimed Jet Propulsion at Calder in December for $50,000. "He's beat up on horses of mine a number of times," Wolfson said. "I never thought he'd be dropped in for a tag but when he was, I took him with this in mind."
Kentucky Derby trail:
Kera's Kitten, one of the big litter of "kittens" owned by Sara and Kenneth Ramsey, got out to a comfortable lead in Saturday's $50,000 WEBN Stakes at Turfway Park and rolled home an easy winner in a minor upset. At the wire, Kera's Kitten, a Kentucky-bred Kitten's Joy colt, was 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Slewzoom, with Lucky Chuck third as the favorite. Patti's Kitten finished sixth. Kera's Kitten, with Thomas Pompell in the irons, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:41.21. The WEBN Stakes, sponsored by a local radio station, is a prep for the Lane's End Stakes March 27. Trainer Mike Maker said Kera's Kitten will run back in the John Battaglia Memorial Feb. 27 -- the intermediate step. Pompell said Maker told him: "I had the speed. He didn't break real well but I kind of got after him and got him to the lead and settled him down there."
-- Drosselmeyer made a case for himself with an off-the-pace win in a Sunday allowance event at Gulfstream. The Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor colt sat well off the pace, rallied around the leaders when asked by jockey Mike Smith at the top of the lane and got home first, 1 3/4 lengths in front. Drosselmeyer, trained by Bill Mott for WinStar Farm, went to the post as the favorite after Pulsion, second to Lookin at Lucky in the Norfolk Stakes, was a late vet's scratch.
General Maximus got an easy lead in another highly anticipated allowance event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday and held off favored Afleet Express, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. General Maximus, a New York-bred son of Freud, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.59.
First Dude rallied from off the pace to win a maiden special weight on Saturday's Gulfstream card by 2 3/4 lengths over The Director. Trained by Dale Romans, the winner is a Florida-bred son of Stephen Got Even. He got the 1 mile in 1:37.18.
In other weekend racing:
No Risk Al Maury under Richard Hills made the history books as the first winner on Meydan Racecourse's all-weather Tapeta artificial surface to kick off the Dubai International Racing Carnival Thursday. No Risk Al Maury's win came in the mile-long Jazil Handicap reserved for Purebred Arabians, a tradition in Dubai for the first race on the eight-race card.
"It is great to ride the first winner here," said the delighted Hills, who also notched his 450th win in the Emirates. "This is a nice horse and one we thought would love this new track."
Raihana, trained by South Africa's Mike de Kock, was the first winning Thoroughbred in the second race, the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial. De Kock also scored a winner with Lizard's Desire in the third race.
In the evening's featured $200,000 Invasor Handicap, Brazil's Gloria De Campeao, who ran second to U.S.-bred Well Armed in last year's Dubai World Cup, fought off several challengers and closed strongly after being briefly headed for a half-length win to become an early favorite for this year's World Cup.
Popular Godolphin Stables' jockey Frankie Dettori scored his first Meydan win and first characteristic flying dismount in the Winner's Circle on Whispering Gallery. Drunken Sailor, Sir Gerry and Leahurst were other opening-night winners.
The International Racing Carnival has eight more meetings culminating in Dubai's $10 million World Cup Day March 27, Meydan's official opening day.
Gabby's Golden Gal rallied down the stretch to upset Sunday's $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap for fillies and mares, beating the favorite, Proviso, to the line by 1 1/4 lengths. Free Flying Soul led at the top of the lane and held on for third. Gabby's Golden Gal, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.25 with Martin Garcia up. The filly was coming off a poor effort in her last start, the La Brea Stakes, five weeks earlier with Mike Smith riding. "She just needed the race," winning trainer Bob Baffert said of the La Brea. "I thought she was training well enough to win it, but she just laid an egg that day. Today, I was just hoping she didn't go too fast. She picked up the bit. Last time when she went to make the move, Mike said she was just empty. So she just needed the race." It was Garcia's first Grade I victory.
Sunday's $150,000 Forward Gal featured the 3-year-old debut of recently crowned Juvenile Filly champ She Be Wild. The race, however, didn't go quite according to script. While She Be Wild chased the pace and never got going, finishing fifth, Bickersons stalked the pace, pounced and took off in the stretch, winning by 7 easy lengths. Joanie's Catch was second and Liam's Dream completed the $5,951.10 trifecta. Bickersons, an Ontario-bred daughter of Silver Deputy, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.35 with Joe Bravo handling the reins for trainer Kelly Breen. "Seven-eighths is probably her best game and maybe she can go a one-turn mile," Breen said. Julien Leparoux, who rode She Be Wild, said: "She took to the dirt well and I got a good trip. But he distance was too short for her."
Sam Houston Race Park
Acting Zippy made all the going in Saturday's $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Handicap, then held on at the end to win by 1/2 length over Orientate Express. Baltimore Bob was third. Acting Zippy, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred City Zip gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:52.31 with Robby Albarado in the irons. Noting the other pace horse entered for the race, King Dan, was a late scratch, Albarado said he was confident of Acting Zippy's chances. "If he broke well, I knew he could carry the pace," the jockey said. He is a versatile horse and I knew he could win this."
Love to Tell stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares, split rivals at mid-stretch to take the lead and won off by 3 3/4 lengths under Shane Sellers. The favorite, Pleasantly Blessed, finished second after encountering traffic problems and Final Refrain was third. Love to Tell, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Stage Colony, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:44.91.
Hold That Prospect led the way in Saturday's $65,000 Correction Stakes for fillies and mares and dominated down the stretch, winning by 7 1/2 lengths. Heaven's Voice was best of the rest and Fascinatin' Rhythm finished third. Hold That Prospect, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Hold That Tiger mare, got the 6 furlongs over the fast inner track in 1:11.23 under Jorge Chavez. The race was run as the third on the Saturday card and the remainder was canceled because of bad weather.
Tiger's Rock stalked the pace in Sunday's $60,000 Coyote Lakes Stakes, began a move at the quarter pole and got home first, 3/4 length ahead of Nite Light. Giant Chieftain was third. Tiger's Rock, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway colt, ran the 1 5/8 miles on the fast inner track in 2:45.07 under David Cohen.
Tampa Bay Downs
Lady Alexander jumped quickly to a daylight lead in Saturday's $65,000 Manatee Stakes and held well to win by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths over Satans Quick Chick. Choragus finished third and the favorite, Rising Fever, checked in fifth. Lady Alexander, with Ricardo Feliciano in the irons, got the 7 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:23.8. She is a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Exchange Rate filly. Trainer Bruce Alexander said he will point Lady Alexander to the Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay on Feb. 27.
Oaklawn's Saturday program, including the scheduled $50,000 King Cotton Stakes for 4-year-olds and up, was canceled because of the ice storm that swept through the area late in the week. The storm also forced the track to close for live racing and simulcasting Friday when the facility lost power due to the storm.
Laurel's Saturday program, including the scheduled $50,000 Dancing Count Stakes for 3-year-olds, was canceled because of snow and cold.