01/31/2005 1:00AM

Teamwork does trick

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Musique Toujours, with Jorge Chavez up, wins the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. - A little bit of trust never hurts.

John Sadler had enough faith in Larry Benavidez to give his assistant the green light to claim a 3-year-old named Musique Toujours Then, almost a year later, owners Lloyd DeBruyker and Richard Glassman trusted Sadler and Benavidez when they recommended pulling Musique Toujours out of training, even though the horse had just run a solid third in a tough Del Mar allowance and seemed on target for the California Cup Classic.

As a result, Musique Toujours rewarded everyone in his corner with the grand prize on a memorable day by winning the $1 million last Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Neither Sadler nor Benavidez made the journey from their California base to Gulfstream for the Classic. Instead, they trusted two of their top guys - groom Cesar Aguilar and exercise rider Jose Lopez - to make sure everything went according to plan. Fellow California trainer Mark Glatt did the official saddling honors.

"If I can send Jose and Cesar halfway around the world to Dubai, a trip to Florida ought to be a piece of cake," Sadler said.

Fair warning then. If Aguilar and Lopez show up in your neighborhood with a Sadler horse, beware. Every time they leave town, they seem to come back with a million-dollar race. Actually, in the case of the 2004 Golden Shaheen with Our New Recruit, it was the winning share of a $2 million pot.

Our New Recruit was coming off good races in top California company and therefore was hardly a surprise last year in Dubai. By contrast, Musique Toujours had not raced since last August and was 70-1 last Saturday against graded stakes winners Midas Eyes, Limehouse, Supah Blitz, Second of June, Classic Endeavor and Zakocity. He was the walking definition of "taking a shot."

"Isn't that what these [Sunshine Millions] races are all about, though?" said Benavidez, who has worked for Sadler since 1989. "They give the little guys a chance to win a really big one. Can you believe it? For the next couple of weeks, anyway, this horse will be number one on the Racing Form list of money-winners."

And January of 2005 will go down in history as a pretty good month for the 31-year-old Benavidez. It started with the birth of his first child, Nathan Patrick, on Jan. 5, and ended with new dad at home Saturday afternoon, jumping all over the furniture and screaming at the television as Musique Toujours held on in the Classic to beat Zakocity by a neck.

"I'm afraid I scared the baby," Benavidez confessed.

Young Nathan will get over it. On the other hand, it remains to be seen if the racing scene is ready for Musique Toujours as a major player. Although second in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Canterbury last summer, he has been more comfortable in allowance and top claiming company. Sadler credits a break in training last fall as making the difference.

"The key is this - and it's old school, I know - but either you give them a little break and turn them out, or you can jam them back in there for $50,000," Sadler said. "I thought he could be a nice horse if he was given the chance. In the 'new school,' though, a horse like this doesn't get a chance."

"He wasn't broken down," Benavidez noted. "He didn't need any surgery. He just needed 30 days to go out there to Bradbury and stand in the sun, to help his hind end. That kind of killed the owners' dreams of running in the California Cup. But at least I was able to say that if he could get those 30 days off, he could be pointed for the Sunshine Millions.

"When I visited him in Bradbury last October, at Leigh Gray's Winner's Circle Farm, he was very happy. When he came back to the track, he was a new horse."

So one dream replaced another, and everything went perfectly for Musique Toujours . . . until it started to rain. He missed two works, according to Benavidez, and popped a nasty quarter crack in his left front foot that could have threatened his participation in the Sunshine Millions.

"It was pretty horrific," Benavidez said. "Even though the crack itself has grown down, the spot on the hairline where the abscess broke through has to be tender, so the foot still isn't 100 percent. But Cesar took exceptional care of him. That made all the difference."

That, along with some prerace tactics devised by Sadler and their rider, Jorge Chavez.

"I know the surface is new, but I presumed Gulfstream would still be speed, speed speed," Sadler said. "I told Jorge, whatever you do get good position in the first turn. I didn't say go to the lead, but be forwardly placed."

Chavez was impressed enough to call Benavidez on Saturday night and vow, "Larry, if horse go, I go."

Benavidez took that to mean Chavez would follow Musique Toujours wherever his next race takes him. Chances are, Benavidez won't let him out of his sight either.

"This horse is very special to me," Benavidez said. "He's quite a character, and he's very close to my heart - even before last Saturday."