01/08/2012 8:25PM

Santa Anita: Caracortado goes from last to first in Daytona

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Benoit & Associates
Caracortado, ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano, makes up a six-length deficit in the final furlong to win the Daytona.

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Mike Machowsky, the trainer of Caracortado, had given up on his horse. So too had track announcer Trevor Denman, who said Caracortado was not firing. But neither jockey Rafael Bejarano nor, most importantly, Caracortado, thought all was lost, and he displayed a breathtaking, last-to-first rush in the stretch to capture the Grade 3, $98,000 Daytona Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Caracortado ($5.80), who was officially 13 lengths back a half-mile into the downhill turf sprint, and more than six lengths back with a furlong to go, roared past his three rivals to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Victory Pete. Mr. Gruff and Regally Ready, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner, finished in a dead heat for third, another half-length back, after a vicious early speed duel that left both sapped in the final furlong.

Caracortado was timed in 1:11.59 for about 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf.

“I was watching the race on television at the clubhouse bar with my family and my father, and at the quarter pole I started to walk out,” Machowsky said. “I looked up again at the sixteenth pole, and I saw my dad jumping up and down.

“He’s got a heck of a turn of foot. I didn’t understand why he was so far back. He gives you an eerie feeling sometimes. He’s got so much natural talent, sometimes it seems like he’s playing with his opponents.”

Bejarano was riding Caracortado for the first time, replacing Joe Talamo, who is off to an uncharacteristically slow start at this meet. Caracortado was making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, in which he finished fifth of 14 after a wide trip from post 13.

“As soon as I crossed the dirt, my horse was flying,” Bejarano said. “He showed me a big kick. It was unbelievable.”

The late run was enhanced by the early fractions of 21.55 seconds for the opening quarter and 43.03 for a half-mile, both set by Mr. Gruff with Regally Ready right alongside.

The win was the ninth in 19 lifetime starts for Caracortado, 5, a California-bred gelding whom Machowsky also bred. He owns Caracortado in partnership with Don Blahut, and the AJL Productions of Steve Altman.