02/04/2011 3:09PM

California Thoroughbred Breeders Association names 2010 Cal-bred champions

Benoit & Associates
Evening Jewel was named the California-bred 3-year-old filly of the year for 2010 and is a finalist for California-bred horse of the year.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Evening Jewel, The Usual Q.T., and Unzip Me are the finalists for the 2010 California-bred Horse of the Year award, which will be announced Feb. 15.

Already this year, Evening Jewel is campaigning to be included on the list of 2011 finalists.

Owned by Marilyn Braly and trained by Jim Cassidy, Evening Jewel was a two-time Grade 1 winner in 2010 – the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in April and the Del Mar Oaks on turf in August. She also was second by a nose in the Kentucky Oaks in April, losing to eventual champion 3-year-old filly Blind Luck.

Those credentials make her a strong candidate for California-bred Horse of the Year against The Usual Q.T., who won the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes and was third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and Unzip Me, who won five stakes and was third in the BC Turf Sprint.

Evening Jewel is off to a good start this year, winning the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita on Jan. 29. The restricted race was a prep for the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes at Santa Anita on March 13.

Evening Jewel’s victory was a poignant one for Braly as it was the filly’s first since the death of her husband, Tom, last September. The win ended a three-race losing streak.

“Before I’d say, ‘Let’s win one for Tom,’ ” she said in the winner’s circle. “This one will be for me. She came through like she always does. I knew she’d come back.”

The Bralys adult children attended the Sunshine Millions Distaff.

“This is huge for my mom,” Brandon Braly said. “It’s been a journey.”

Cassidy had broached the subject of retiring Evening Jewel if she ran poorly in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, but she will stay in training. He said his outlook brightened approaching the race.

“I could see a difference in her every day in the last week,” Cassidy said. “She needed the race.”

Evening Jewel was named the top 3-year-old California-bred filly of 2010. The divisional honors were announced last week by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, which will host the awards dinner at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in Coronado, Calif., on Feb. 15.

California Nectar, who won the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes and was second in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies, was named outstanding 2-year-old filly. She won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes in January in her first start of 2011 and was entered for Saturday’s Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

The award for top 2-year-old male went to the undefeated Bench Points, who won two sprint stakes at Del Mar – the Graduation and I’m Smokin. He has been working regularly for a comeback in coming weeks.

Caracortado, who won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes in February, was the champion 3-year-old male. Caracortado ended 2010 with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December and opened his 2011 season with a win against The Usual Q.T. in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 29. Caracortado was the champion 2-year-old male of 2009.

The Usual Q.T. was the only winner of two divisional titles – champion older male and turf horse – while Unzip Me was the leading older female. Unzip Me had an outstanding year in 2010, winning 6 of 8 starts, including five sprint stakes. She was third in the BC Turf Sprint and won the Grade 3 Monrovia at Santa Anita on Jan. 2, her first start of 2011.

The Usual Q.T., the statebred champion 3-year-old male of 2009, had the highest earnings among Cal-bred males in 2010 – $906,570 – but missed the overall title to Evening Jewel, who earned $915,343.

Cost of Freedom, who won four sprint stakes in 2010, was named champion sprinter, two years after being named champion older male. Now an 8-year-old gelding, Cost of Freedom finished third in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 29.

Cassidy, who trains The Usual Q.T., was honored as the top trainer of California-breds in 2010.