Presious Passion, who bounced back from a ninth-place finish in last year's Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park to become a grade I winner, invades Santa Anita for the 2009 renewal Jan. 24.
The 1 1/8-mile grass test worth $500,000 attracted a 14-horse crowd. Patricia Generazio's millionaire Presious Passion, winner of the United Nations (gr. IT) and two other graded stakes in 2008 for trainer Mary Hartmann, brings the strongest credentials. The front-running Royal Anthem gelding has the preferred running style for a field of this size, which he demonstrated when he held off all challengers for a neck victory in Monmouth Park's United Nations.
Presious Passion will be running at Santa Anita for the first time in 34 career starts that include nine victories. He is coming off a gate-to-wire two-length victory in the W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) at Calder Race Course Dec. 13.
A year ago in the Sunshine Millions, 6-year-old Presious Passion was unable to overcome a poor break and was never a factor. Elvis Trujillo, who was aboard the chestnut in the McKnight, has the mount this weekend. They will break from post 3.
Florida breds Icy Atlantic and Soldier's Dancer give the Sunshine State two more strong candidates in the Turf.
Herman Heinlein's Soldier's Dancer, a multiple grade III winner who gains the services of top Southern California jockey Rafael Bejarano, was second to War Monger in last year's race. Coming off a nose defeat in the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Dec. 6 for trainer David Vivian, the gray 5-year-old Lost Soldier gelding has a lifetime mark of 9-7-4 in 27 starts with earnings of $952,480.
Icy Atlantic has become a fixture in the this race, making his fifth try at the age of 8. Sixth last year, the son of Stormy Atlantic has also finished fifth, third and second since 2005. He is a winner of four graded stakes including Santa Anita’s Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) in 2007. The bay has two victories and a runner-up finish in four tries on the Santa Anita lawn.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Icy Atlantic has raced 45 times while posting an 8-11-3 mark worth $990,050 for James T. Scatuorchio. Eibar Coa rides.
California's best hopes in the Turf appear to be John Harris' Lucky J.H., coming off back-to-back stakes wins on Santa Anita's hillside course for trainer Carla Gaines, and Swift Winds, winner of the California Cup Mile over the course Oct. 5. Trained by Victor Garcia for owner Jack Bruk, Swift Winds had a three-race win streak snapped in a sixth-place finish in the San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 28.
Mr. Chairman, conditioned by Doug O'Neill for Great Friends Stable, dictated the pace in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) in his most recent try Dec. 6 before weakening to fifth, three lengths behind the victorious Champs Elysees.
Liberian Freighter, an allowance winner in his most recent start for trainer Neil Drysdale Nov. 1, has nine consecutive in-the-money performances. The 4-year-old seeks his first stakes victory.
$500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf (Race 6, 2:15 p.m. at Santa Anita), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Jack's Wild (CA), 122, Joel Rosario
2. Epic Power (CA), 122, Corey S. Nakatani
3. Presious Passion (FL), 122, Elvis Trujillo
4. Swift Winds (CA), 122, Alonso Quinonez
5. Liberian Freighter (CA), 120, David R. Flores
6. Victory Pete (FL), 120, Mike E. Smith
7. Icy Atlantic (FL), 122, Eibar Coa
8. Soldier's Dancer (FL), 122, Rafael Bejarano
9. Pistol Pete Afleet(FL), 120, Jesus M. Rios
10. Lucky J. H. (CA), 122, Victor Espinoza
11. Unusual Suspect (CA), 122. Joseph Talamo
12. Mr. Chairman (CA), 122, Michael C. Baze
13. Seminole Native (CA), 122, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
14. Screen to Screen (FL), 120, Garrett K. Gomez