Amazombie, making his stakes debut for veteran trainer Bill Spawr at odds of 11-1, outfought odds-on choice Cost of Freedom in a terrific finish to snatch the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint by a head at Santa Anita Jan. 29 (VIDEO). The win gave California-breds a first win in their annual duel with horses bred in Florida.
The Santa Anita main track was playing extremely fast as usual. The six-furlong event was completed in 1:07.28 after quarter-mile fractions of :20.80 and :42.72.
Cost of Freedom was hard-pressed by Excessive Passion and led until the final strides in another game try for the grade I-winning 8-year-old gelding who was sent off at odds of 3-5. The stalking Amazombie, gradually cutting into the lead after a dream trip along the inside with Mike Smith, got up under left-handed urging just before the wire on the outside of Cost of Freedom. Joe Talamo rode the runner-up.
Apriority, flying on the far outside for Rafael Bejarano, came with a big run to pip Cost of Freedom for second by a head.
Owned by Spawr and Tom Sanford, Amazombie had split his career between races on turf and synthetic tracks. In his only prior start on dirt Dec. 30 at Santa Anita, the 5-year-old Northern Afleet gelding signaled his readiness with a head loss in an optional claiming allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs.
"This horse has really changed a lot and we’ve recognized how he’s developed," he said. "He’s grown up and matured. He’s learned how to relax.”
Amazombie has won six of his past nine starts after beginning his career with five consecutive defeats. He earned $110,000 for the Sunshine Millions Sprint, boosting his career bankroll to $308,708.
“Some horses, certain riders get along with," said Smith, who has been aboard Amazombie for all six of his victories. "I know this horse really well. He’s one of those horses that it doesn’t matter if he’s on the turf or dirt. The rail was something new today. I probably could’ve stayed down there and followed Cost of Freedom, but I knew the closers would be coming and we made them fan out a little bit, which helped.”
Gregg Anderson bred the winning bay who is out of Wilshe Amaze, by In Excess.
Amazombie carried 122 pounds as the fourth choice in a field of eight and paid $24.80, $8.40 and $4.20. Donald Dizney's homebred Apriority, invading from Florida for trainer David Fawkes, returned $6 and $3.60 while seeing his three-race win streak ended. The exacta was $126. Cost of Freedom, whose three-race stakes win streak was also snapped, was $2.10 to show.
“He ran a good race, it’s just Russell (Baze) ran with me so hard (on Excessive Passion)," Talamo said of Cost of Freedom. "Those were some pretty fast opening fractions. I thought my horse would be on the lead, but I didn’t think he would get pressed that hard. He tried so hard down the lane, but he was pressed so hard early that it took its toll at the end.”
Don Tito, Cayambe, Quick Enough, Excessive Passion and Dance With Gable completed the order.