01/24/2012 3:58PM

Santa Anita: Unusual Heatwave looks like the one to beat

Shigeki Kikkawa
Unusual Heatwave uses a late-running style.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Miss Alphie lost all seven starts before she was retired from racing. Zoom Zip Zoom lost twice and was finished. Thank goodness for residual value.

Though neither filly made it to the winner’s circle, both succeeded as broodmares. Miss Alphie produced multiple stakes winner Alphie’s Bet and recent maiden winner Unusual Heatwave, while Zoom Zip Zoom’s first foal is the flashy maiden winner Tenacious Thomas.

Unusual Heatwave and Tenacious Thomas meet Thursday as likely favorites in an interesting Santa Anita turf allowance for 3-year-olds, race 4. The co-feature is race 7, a first-level allowance/optional $40,000 claimer for fillies and mares on the main track.

Alexis Barba trains Unusual Heatwave, and trained Miss Alphie. “She was very, very talented, but she turned out to be a serious bleeder,” Barba said. Bleeding issues can be reasonably managed, but Miss Alphie fractured a pastern in her final start and retired as a maiden.

Her first foal was Alphie’s Bet, winner of the Grade 3 Sham and $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes in 2010. Alphie’s Bet has not raced since 2010, but Barba said plans are for him to return.

Meanwhile, owners Peter and Ellen Johnson and Teresa McWilliams look forward to the development of Unusual Heatwave, by Unusual Heat, who shares one trait with his sibling. “He’s sort of reminiscent of [Alphie’s Bet] in that he doesn’t have any speed,” Barba said.

But he can run. Unusual Heatwave put it all together in his fifth start, winning a downhill maiden sprint with a closing style that makes him the horse to beat Thursday.

Unusual Heatwave and jockey Mike Smith will have to catch Tenacious Thomas, whose background is less auspicious. In June 2007, his owner John Liviakis claimed Zoom Zip Zoom from an eighth-place finish in a $40,000 maiden-claimer at Hollywood Park.

“The day I claimed her, she was bowed,” Liviakis said. “She was done when I claimed her.”

Liviakis bred Zoom Zip Zoom to Stormy Atlantic. The result was a good-looking colt Liviakis named Tenacious Thomas. Reports from the Kentucky farm were that Tenacious Thomas was among the best-looking Stormy Atlantic offspring farm personnel had seen.

And it turns out, Tenacious Thomas also could run. He finished a creditable fourth for trainer Melody Conlon in his Aug. 6 debut at Del Mar before taking off the rest of summer. He returned Dec. 17 at Hollywood Park and scored a sharp maiden win in a live race. The runner-up Consulado returned to win by more than seven lengths.

Tenacious Thomas switches to turf Thursday. Two good recent grass works suggest surface will not be an issue, but because of weather interruptions, Tenacious Thomas will enter the race without a workout since Jan. 14. Corey Nakatani rides.

Other contenders include maiden winner Bling Cha Bling, route-to-sprint dropper Champions Gate, comebacker Tiz Point, and longshots Loukas and Plenny of Henny.

Race 7 is a main-track route for fillies and mares, nonwinners of a race other than maiden or claiming, with an optional $40,000 claiming price. Bwana Babe, a 9-for-27 pro trained by Steve Asmussen, could be the controlling speed under Nakatani.


Her main rival is Miss Radiance, scratched Sunday from the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes in favor of the allowance. Last out, Miss Radiance finished second while possibly best in a similar main-track allowance. She stumbled badly at the start, fell 11 lengths off the pace, and missed by 3 1/4 lengths.

Other starters in race 7 include Ambitoness, Summer Song, Screaming Regal and Heidi Maria.