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Caracortado (Saturday) and Switch (Sunday) stole the show at Santa Anita. It is time for a weekend stakes recap.
# There was belly-aching by supporters of Cost of Freedom after the odds-on sprinter was hounded into defeat in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint (race 5) on Saturday.
While the insane early fractions (:20.80 and :42.72) would be enough to get most sprinters beat, it sounds shallow to grumble about pace. A six-furlong race with a six-figure purse is supposed to unfold at a fast clip. At odds-on, Cost of Freedom weakened to third.
Cost of Freedom ran well, arguably better than the winner. But give Amazombie credit. He was positioned only two lengths and two heads behind the opening quarter-mile after breaking from the rail. He chased the hot pace, finished the race in 1:07.28, and earned a 101 Beyer Figure over a main track that remains wickedly fast.
# Memo to trainer and part-owner Mike Machowsky – do not run Caracortado on a surface other than grass ever again. Caracortado's victory in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf (race 6) was nothing short of brilliant.
Caracortado stamped himself as the top middle-distance turf horse in California after he unleashed a final three furlongs in 34 seconds and ran past Grade 1 winner The Usual Q.T. by a half-length in the mile and one-eighth race. Even if favorite Jeranimo had shown up (he finished a bad fourth), it would not have mattered.
Caracortado is now 2-for-2 on turf, and produced a wicked turn of foot in both his wins on grass. He is headed for a March 5 showdown with front-runner Sidney’s Candy in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile. Who do you like – the speed or the closer?
# Evening Jewel postponed retirement by winning the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff (race 7), but she remains well below the Grade 1 form she established last year. Her half-length victory in 1:42.25 earned an 89 Beyer. Notwithstanding the victory, Evening Jewel has not yet regained her best form.
# Most everyone expected Switch to win the seven-fulrong Grade 1 Santa Monica Stakes (race 7) on Sunday. She did more than win. Switch crushed. She won by three and one-half lengths in 1:20.70 while under a hold.
Now that 2010 Horse of the Year and top older female Zenyatta has retired, Switch is heir to the distaff throne. Next stop, two turns. Switch will aim for the Santa Margarita on March 12, or the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 15.
The stakes schedule is heating up, and few are hotter than Caracortado and Switch. They stole the show on Sunshine Millions weekend at Santa Anita.
While I agree that Caracortado looks good on turf, I don't think he could be called surface-challenged having won over every surface except Colorado Blvd. I would try and win the Big Cap with him as he is a professional race horse. Not just a talented but green phenom. There is no good reason to limit him when the older horse ranks are so thin. I have no reason to believe he can't outrun Giant Oak and the rest of the bums back east and he was moving at the end of the Malibu. Twirly is good but certainly not unbeatable.
Why keep doing the Sunshine Millions? This last battle was a true confrontation? No horses, no jockeys, no trainers across towns to get a real battle between California vs. Florida.
I agree the that it was a good weekend of racing, and stories, at Santa Anita. The three Sunshine Millions races at Santa Anita were solid, thanks in part to the fact that Team Florida was actually represented (Apriority, Amazing), unlike Team California at Gulfstream. Obviously, the California breeding industry should take pride in winning all three races at Santa Anita (and sweeping the deep Turf); it should also take special pride that Caracortado and Evening Jewel won the male and female divisions respectively of the Cal Breeders Stakes to begin the last winter meet. Caracortado and Evening Jewel are wonderful representatives of the California breeding industry, as they were two of the stars of 2010 who have remained near the top of their divisions for over a year, running on synthetic, turf, and dirt. Of the two, Caracortado's win in the Turf was certainly the more impressive, and signaled him a major player in the turf mile division, but Evening Jewel made for an equally good story given her popularity. Although not a Cal-bred, Switch also represented California racing well by winning the Santa Monica, her second Grade 1 win in a little over a month. Switch was good enough on synthetic to almost win the Grade 1 Las Virgenes last February, to beat Blind Luck in the Hollywood Oaks, and run Zenyatta to a desperate half-length in the Lady's Secret. As with Lookin at Lucky, Zenyatta, Blind Luck, Twirling Candy, Caracortado, Evening Jewel and others, Switch is a horse that first rose to prominence racing on synthetic but that has since proven herself to be equally good, if not better, on another surface. For Switch, it appears she is probably best on dirt. If not for the champions Zenyatta and Dubai Majesty, Switch could be riding a four-race Grade 1 winning streak. Two other performances over the weekend are worth noting. Runflatout lived up to his name, stalking a fast pace and then flying home in under 12 to win his debut in 1:07.70. Runflatout has the physical tools and the breeding to be a first-rate runner up to at least nine furlongs. The second performance of note was turned in by Reba is Tops in winning the Wishing Well. More than six lengths behind at the top of the stretch of the downhill sprint, Reba is Tops almost took flight in the stretch, turning in a sensational final sixteenth in well under six seconds to win by an easy two lengths. it appears the race will be Reba's last, and she will exit the game with an admirable 14 for 29 slate. Finally to the Sunshine Millions Sprint. Clearly there is something not quite right with a surface in which a horse runs 107-and-1 and only earns a 101 Beyer. Apparently, to have earned a Beyer of 119 (Big Drama's Beyer this year at Gulfstream), a horse running at Santa Anita this past Saturday would have needed to run a sub-1:06 for six furlongs. Is this even physically possible? Because the surface remains so kind to front-runners around one turn(for whatever reason it is now playing fairly around two turns), even cheap speed is able to go out and set blazing fractions and still hold on reasonably well, so that the difference in times between low level races and stakes races is not great enough to warrant a high figure for the stakes races.
No mention of Blind Luck?
Man, Caracortado is such an awesome horse, and an even better story. They have to be cursing the day they gelded him. I was sad last year when he didn't have the cash to make the Derby, but I'm glad that he's found his calling on turf. Can't wait for the Kilroe and beyond.
Good to see the old Santa Anita Motor Speedway back in action. 42 and change for opening half-miles, 34 for finishing 3f on the turf. I feel the need, the need for speed, indeed. And a lot of people said that Zenyatta didn't beat anything out in California. Switch has just reeled off back-to-back Grade 1's and appears to be the leader of the F&M division. So spare the "only 7 Furlongs" talk, as it appears she will just get stronger with more ground - up to say 9f. She will win alot of top races. You will have to be something special to get past her.
20.80 and 42.72 are Bob Black Jack-type splits. Too bad he's not around, that would have made an exciting race.