The $100,000 Daytona Stakes (gr. IIIT) attracted a dozen entrants to the hillside turf course at Santa Anita Park Dec. 29 including Great Mills, most recently fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) on the course.
Millennium Farms' 4-year-old War Front colt is seeking his first graded-stakes victory for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Daytona. Other leading contenders in the about 6 1/2-furlong test are Comma to the Top, who could go over $1 million in career earnings with a win, the 3-year-old filly Byrama, Capital Account, and American Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Wilkinson.
The Daytona, set as the eighth race with a 4:07 p.m. PST post, is one of three stakes on the Saturday card, along with the $75,000 Kalookan Queen for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs, and the $75,000 Eddie Logan for 2-year-olds at one mile on turf.
Great Mills pressed the pace but was outkicked while a solid fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 3. A five-time winner from 14 starts, he has placed in a total of four graded stakes, including a nose defeat in the Shakertown (gr. IIIT) in April at Keeneland. He retains the services of Rafael Bejarano and will break from the rail in his second lifetime try down the hill.
Comma to the Top has done most of his best running on synthetic or dirt tracks, winning the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) in 2010 and running second, beaten by a head, in the following spring's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). But the hard-hitting 4-year-old gelding has two wins from five tries on turf as well.
Trained by Peter Miller and owned by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara, Comma to the Top comes off a hard-fought fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III) going six furlongs on the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 2. One race prior, on Oct. 21, he was an impressive gate-to-wire winner of the restricted Big Bear Handicap going one mile at Santa Anita.
A $22,000 2-year-old in training purchase, the Florida-bred son of Bwana Charlie has only run once before down the hillside, finishing fourth in the Eddie D Stakes (gr. IIIT), formerly the Morvich, Sept. 28. His earnings stand at $967,696 from a record of 24-10-2-1. Corey Nakatani has the call once again from post 3.
Byrama, a highly regarded 3-year-old filly trained by Simon Callaghan, is drawn between Great Mills and Comma to the Top and will be facing males for the first time since she was a 2-year-old maiden in her native England. She enters the Daytona fresh, having run a fast-finishing second as the 2-1 favorite in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (gr. IIIT) Oct. 20.
With Bejarano aboard Great Mills, Callaghan has tabbed Garrett Gomez, who will hope to have plenty of early pace to exploit in the final furlong. Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Byrama has won two of three down the hillside course.
Trainer Bob Baffert will be represented by Capital Account, who makes his turf debut as the 124-pound high weight for Thoroughbred Racing Legends. The 5-year-old son of Closing Argument was third last time in the Underwood.
Third in the Bing Crosby (gr. I) and winner of the Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. II) on Polytrack last summer at Del Mar, Capital Account was beaten a head in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I) Oct. 6 prior to running a dull 12th in the Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 3.
Trainer Jeff Mullins sends out a dangerous commodity in Wilkinson, a 4-year-old by Lemon Drop Kid who has been idle since winning the American Handicap at a mile on turf May 26 at Hollywood Park.
Owned by E.K. Gaylord II, Wilkinson will be reunited with Martin Pedroza in the Daytona. He has three bullet works on his tab and was clocked going five furlongs in :58 2/5 Dec. 22 at Santa Anita, the second-fastest move of 89 drills at the distance.
$100,000 Daytona Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 3 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Great Mills (KY), R Bejarano, 119, S M Asmussen
2. Byrama (GB), G K Gomez, 114, S Callaghan
3. Comma to the Top (FL), C S Nakatani, 119, P Miller
4. Starspangled Heat (CA), M E Smith, 119, B Abrams
5. Circa'sgoldengear (CA), J Talamo, 119, B R Heap
6. Clubhouse Ride (KY), A T Gryder, 119, C A Lewis
7. Capital Account (KY), D R Flores, 124, B Baffert
8. Guest Star (KY), V Espinoza, 119, J A Shirreffs
9. Red Sun (CA), J R Leparoux, 119, C Gaines
10. Wilkinson (KY), M A Pedroza, 121, J Mullins
11. Ain't No Other (CA), J J Hernandez, 119, J Hollendorfer
12. Tale of a Champion (KY), T Baze, 119, K Mulhall
Blinkers Off: Tale of a Champion