Grade I winner The Usual Q. T., ridden with great confidence by Victor Espinoza, rallied wide on the far turn to take the $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) for his sixth consecutive win on opening day Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park.
Since being switched to the turf by trainer James Cassidy, The Usual Q. T., a 3-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat, has not lost. Sent off as the heavy 2-5 favorite, The Usual Q. T. defeated eight 3-year-old rivals, posting a one-length win over Gallant Son.
“He hasn’t surprised me, the way he’s developed," Cassidy said. "His style is consistent. What can I tell you? He’s been fabulous."
The Usual Q. T. was dropping in class from his victory in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) Nov. 29 and also cutting back in distance a quarter-mile, but he had no problem staying with the pace before kicking away to take the lead mid-stretch and holding sway over Gallant Son, who rallied late to nudge the closing Massone by a neck for second. The final time for the one mile over a firm turf course was 1:34.58.
The winner sat fourth on the outside as Quoted, pressed by Pleasure to Ride and a pulling Mr. Rod, set the pace for the first half-mile. Quarter-mile fractions were :23.81, :47.47, and 1:11.27 before Pleasure to Ride took the lead from Quoted briefly on the final turn. The Usual Q. T. could wait no longer on the far outside as the field made its way around the bend and raced five wide as he challenged the leaders in the lane.
The Usual Q. T. took the lead from the weakening Mr. Rod and Pleasure to Ride in spite of drifting in a bit in upper stretch and he opened up a clear edge in the lane after getting a nudge to keep going from Espinoza. He won under good handling in the final furlong.
“He loves to run, he loves to win and he’s very game, that gives me a lot of confidence," Espinoza said after his third win on the opening card. "I’ve been working really hard to get my business together for this meet and it’s great to get off to a good start like this on opening day.”
Gallant Son, making his first start since running seventh in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in April, gave a strong accounting for jockey Mike Smith, overcoming his inside draw to rally for second over Massone, who also charged late after an awkward start.
The Usual Q. T. placed in four of his first five starts without winning before Cassidy moved him to the turf at Del Mar, where he broke his maiden and won an optional claimer over state-breds. The Usual Q. T. won the first of four consecutive stakes over state-breds in the California Cup Mile at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet in October, then returned to stun an open field Nov. 7 in the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT).
Owned by Don Van Racing, Michael Nentwig, George Saadeh, and Jeffrey Byer, the Usual Q. T. is now four-for-four at a mile on the turf while compiling a 6-4-0 overall record in 11 starts with earnings of $516,670. The Sir Beaufort win was worth $60,000.
Cassidy said he's "leaning" toward the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf Jan. 30 at Gulfstream Park on for The Usual Q. T.'s next start.
Out of the Western Fame mare Lunge, the Usual Q. T. was bred by Carlee Van Kempen.
The Usual Q. T. carried top weight of 122 pounds and paid $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10 while keying a $2 exacta worth $26. Gallant Son, winner of the Pasadena Stakes over the course in March, returned $8.20 and $5.40 in her comeback attempt for trainer Frank Lucarelli. Massone, ridden by Garrett Gomez, was $3.20 to show.
Riviera Cocktail finished fourth, followed by Tamborim, Mr. Rod, Brenthurst, Quoted, and Pleasure to Ride.