12/22/2009 12:00AM

The Usual Q.T. eyes 6 in row


It took him six tries to capture so much as a maiden race. But since winning for the first time in August, it seems that The Usual Q.T. has forgotten how to lose.

With five straight victories to match those career-opening five losses, The Usual Q.T. will be a solid favorite to notch his sixth in a row when he goes postward Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita.

Trainer Jim Cassidy said he is not surprised to see The Usual Q.T. become a rising star among North American turf horses.

"I really did always think he had a lot of talent," said Cassidy. "It was just a matter of getting him through some of those earlier races and going on to bigger and better things."

In the Sir Beaufort, a one-mile turf race, The Usual Q.T. will be looking to wrap up what has been a sensational last half of 2009. After taking an Aug. 5 maiden race at Del Mar, the 3-year-old California-bred gelding reeled off wins in a statebred allowance race, the California Cup Mile, the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, and the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

"I was actually just hoping he could do some good against Cal-breds, but after he won the Oak Tree Derby, I thought, 'Wow, we could have something really special here,'" said Cassidy, who trains the gelding for a partnership that includes Don Van Racing Inc.

Cassidy said he seriously considered bypassing the Sir Beaufort and running The Usual Q.T. against older horses in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Gabriel on Sunday at Santa Anita, but a more favorable weather forecast for Saturday and the fact the gelding will get to stick with 3-year-olds in the Sir Beaufort became overriding factors. Cassidy said the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 30 at Gulfstream Park is the next goal for The Usual Q.T.

The Usual Q.T., with Victor Espinoza to ride, was assigned post 6 in a field of nine entered Tuesday for the Sir Beaufort. He will carry high weight of 122 pounds under the prevailing allowance conditions.

As for the opposition, well, they seem closely matched. Riviera Cocktail beat Pleasure to Ride by a few inches in winning a restricted stakes at Hollywood three Saturdays ago. Massone has some class and most recently was fourth in the Oak Tree Derby. And the comebacking Gallant Son won a stakes over the course in March. Tamborim, Mr. Rod, Quoted, and Brenthurst round out the field.

The Sir Beaufort goes as race 7 on a terrific opening-day card highlighted by the Grade 1 Malibu and Grade 1 La Brea.

w The first of the four Saturday stakes is the $100,000 California Breeders Champion Stakes (race 6), a 1 1/16-mile Pro-Ride race for 2-year-old statebreds.

Caracortado, making his stakes debut after winning three straight races to open his career, figures to face a stern test when stretching out around two turns for the first time. Paul Atkinson will be aboard the gelding when they break from post 4 for trainer Mike Machowsky, who also is the co-owner and breeder of Caracortado.

Other prime considerations include Wolf Tail, Tribal Face, and the lone filly in the field, La Nez, who was supplemented to the race for $2,000.