01/06/2012 4:02PM

Santa Anita: Daytona provides early BC Turf Sprint preview

Barbara D. Livingston
Regally Ready, under Corey Nakatani, wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The date of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint did not move from November to January, even if the outstanding lineup Sunday in the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita suggests otherwise.

Regally Ready, Mr Gruff, and Caracortado sprint 6 1/2 furlongs on the Santa Anita downhill turf course in a winter preview of the BC Turf Sprint scheduled for the same course the weekend of Nov. 2-3.

“It’s the three best turf sprinters in the country,” trainer Mike Machowsky said, taking the liberty of including Caracortado on the list.

Machowsky may be right about graded winner Caracortado, a bad-trip fifth in the 2011 BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. Yet Caracortado has never raced on the hill at Santa Anita and won only one turf sprint. For his chief rivals Sunday, the hill is like home.

Regally Ready, the 2011 BC Turf Sprint winner, won three of four hill starts last winter; Mr Gruff has won five of six on the course and makes his second start back after a sharp comeback victory.

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Beyond the favorites, the seven-horse Daytona field includes graded stakes placed Calimonco and Victory Pete, and outsiders Silver Summation and Al Instante.

Since switching to grass, Regally Ready has won 7 of 10 for trainer Steve Asmussen, capped by a decisive win Nov. 5 in the Breeders’ Cup. Regally Ready, 9 for 17 overall, is making his first start since then for Asmussen and assistant Scott Blasi.

“He’s one of those horses that run well with more racing,” Blasi said. “He does better when he’s in the fight. So we’ll get him back going and see where we’re at.”

Last season, Regally Ready improved as the year unfolded and finished 2011 with six wins and earnings of more than $1 million from nine starts. Though the Daytona is a comeback, his front-running style could put him and jockey Corey Nakatani on the lead.

Mr Gruff, meanwhile, makes his second start back after a solid comeback victory. Trained by Ron Ellis, Mr Gruff is a lightly raced 8-year-old with 6 wins from 11 career starts, including Grade 3 victories on the Santa Anita hill in 2009 and 2010.

“We’re going to run him sparingly,” Ellis said, recognizing the long season ahead before the richest race in the country for turf sprinters in the Breeders’ Cup. Mr Gruff won his comeback on the lead, but with a race under his belt he may relax.

“He was a little fresh, hopefully this time he’ll settle,” Ellis said.

Joel Rosario rides Mr Gruff, whose natural speed should allow him to be positioned no farther back than second.

A change for Caracortado is jockey. Joe Talamo is replaced by Rafael Bejarano.

“The way [Bejarano] rides, when he came open I thought those two were a perfect fit,” Machowsky said. “He’s not going to panic, he’s going to sit and let the race unfold.”

Machowsky believes Caracortado was rushed prematurely in the BC Turf Sprint.

“He kind of sent him from the gate, and it diluted his punch a little bit,” he said.

Caracortado finished fifth, three lengths behind Regally Ready.

While both Regally Ready and Mr Gruff will have sprint campaigns, Caracortado is using the Daytona to prep for the one-mile, Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes on Feb. 4.

Calimonco has a chance to upset, dropping from a third-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 into a sprint.

“He looks like he’s a ‘tweener’ on distance, so this might be good for him,” trainer John Sadler said. Calimonco finished third in his only previous start on the hill.

Daytona S. (G3), Post Time: 4:07 ET Sunday

Purse: $100,000; 6 1/2 furlongs (T)





ML Odds



J. Sadler

M. Smith



Mr Gruff

R. Ellis

J. Rosario



Victory Pete

A. Barba

M. Garcia




M. Machowsky

R. Bejarano



Silver Summation

M. Puype

G. Gomez



Regally Ready

S. Asmussen

C. Nakatani



Al Instante (CHI)

R. Cardenas

K. Krigger