01/22/2009 12:00AM

Machismo out to lead gate to wire

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The fast gelding Machismo came up for sale in Florida about the same time Grade 1 winner Cost of Freedom went on the vet's list in California. Bad timing for Cost of Freedom, but the right time to speculate on the quick Florida-bred Machismo.

"He came across my desk like a lot of horses, and I thought he could be a replacement for Cost of Freedom," trainer John Sadler said. "I was thinking about a back-up plan."

Good idea, because California-bred Cost of Freedom, owned by Cecil and Gary Barber, is out of training and out of the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Saturday at Santa Anita. Yet Sadler and the Barbers might have the winner of the six-furlong race anyway.

Machismo, purchased for "under $100,000" according to Sadler, runs for his new connections for the second time, and if the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Sprint unfolds as expected, the front-running gelding could shake loose and be gone.

Eleven entered the Sprint, including Grade 1 winner In Summation and California-breds Georgie Boy, a Grade 2 winner, and Dancing in Silks. But the main rival for Machismo is his longtime Calder nemesis Yesbyjimminy, who has won six straight starts, including a Grade 3. He has defeated Machismo all four times they met.

The difference is that while Machismo has a runner-up finish on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, Yesbyjimminy is racing for the first time on synthetic.

"It's something he is facing that's different," said Eddie Plesa Jr., trainer of Yesbyjimminy. "It's something that has to play in the back of our heads."

Last year, Plesa shipped Gottcha Gold and Electrify to Santa Anita for the Sunshine Millions Classic, and they finished eighth and ninth as the third and fourth betting choices. "Neither one liked that surface," Pleasa said, referring to what was then a Cushion Track main track.

Yesbyjimminy has won 11 of his 20 starts at Calder, and a series of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures makes him the top-figure horse in the Sprint. "He's a hard-knocking, hard-trier who has dominated in south Florida," Plesa said.

Machismo is making his second start on Pro-Ride, following a sharp second-place finish Jan. 1 in the Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs. "He's probably better at six [furlongs], and he had to ride him every step of the way," Sadler said.

Beyond the pace advantage held by Machismo, Sadler believes his established form on Pro-Ride provides added benefit. "I think that's significant," he said. "I think that helps the local horses. We've been running on this track and training on this track."

None of the entrants are more specialized on synthetics than In Summation, who has won 5 of 10, including graded stakes, on the engineered surfaces Polytrack, Cushion Track, and Pro-Ride. In Summation, 11 of 27 overall, defeated Machismo last out in the El Conejo.

In Summation won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap a year ago, and could have cross-entered that six-furlong race on Sunday, but trainer Chris Clemente said he "did not want to keep people guessing" which race he will run in. In Summation runs Saturday in the Sprint.

Other noteworthy Sprint entrants include Big Bad Leroybrown, Carnacks Choice, Partywithlarryz, Sok Sok, Cape Hatchet, and Devoted Magic.