Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready begins 2012 in the Daytona at Santa Anita.

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready begins 2012 in the Daytona at Santa Anita.

Skip Dickstein

Regally Ready Starts Season in Daytona Stakes

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner faces Caracortado on hillside course at Santa Anita.

Regally Ready, the 2011 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) winner, begins his 2012 campaign in the $100,000 Daytona Stakes (gr. IIIT) Jan. 8 on the Santa Anita hillside grass course.

One of three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the nation's oustanding male sprinter, Regally Ready is trained by Steve Asmussen for Vinery Stables.

Regally Ready concluded the 2011 season with a pair of important front-running victories. The 5-year-old More Than Ready  gelding captured Woodbine's Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT) at 9-1 odds on a yielding course in October, followed by the BC Turf Sprint three weeks later. On a good course at Churchill Downs Nov. 5, he ran away from 13 rivals in the five-furlong Turf Sprint as a 2-1 favorite, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Country Day.

Regally Ready is no stranger to Santa Anita's hillside course at about 6 1/2 furlongs, winning three of four starts over the unique layout. That Includes his nose victory over a fast-closing Camp Victory in the San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) last April. Third in last year's Daytona, he should be heavily favored this time around.

But with multiple grade II winner Caracortado in the lineup as well as the talented Mr Gruff, the Daytona comes up tough this year. The race, which attracted seven entrants, is the eighth on Santa Anita's program with a 4:07 p.m. PST probable post.

Corey Nakatani will once again be aboard Regally Ready, who comes into the Daytona with a 9-2-4 mark in 17 races with earnings of $1,210,684. The chestnut, who will break from post 6, won more than $1 million last year while capturing six of nine starts.

“He’s a tremendous horse, he’s a great sprinter, and he goes as fast as he can as far as he can,” Nakatani said. “He’s going to go fast. It’s just a matter if somebody wants to run with him or not. He’s pretty handy. He doesn’t have to be on the lead, but he likes to control the race. We’ll see how he is and what Steve wants to do and we’ll go from there.”

Caracortado also competed in the BC Turf Sprint, finishing fifth after a wide move on the turn and coming up empty in the stretch.

Bred, trained and co-owned by Michael Machowksy, the popular Caracortdao found a home on turf last year, winning both the Sunshine Millions Turf and the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT). He missed by head and a neck, respectively, winning a pair of grade I events, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and the Shoemaker Mile, while finishing second both times.

The stretch-running 5-year-old California-bred son of Cat Dreams will be making his first start since the Breeders' Cup and will have a new rider. Rafael Bejarano replaces the gelding's regular pilot, Joe Talamo.

Caracortado, making his first start on the downhill course, has a record of 8-2-3 in 18 lifetime starts and earnings of $804,105. He worked five furlongs in a bullet :57 4/5 Jan. 1, after which Machowksy said, "Bring 'em on."

Gary Broad's Mr Gruff is an 8-year-old making just his 12th lifetime start for trainer Ron Ellis. Though he has spent much of his career on the sidelines, the speedy Mr. Greeley gelding is as tough as anyone on the downhill course, winning five of six tries with one second. He won the San Simeon in both 2009 and 2010 in front-running style, the latter by 2 1/2 lengths over grade I winner Victor's Cry.

Joel Rosario was aboard Mr Gruff for his most recent start, a victory in an overnight stakes on the Hollywood Park turf Nov. 18, and he retains the mount. Mr Gruff owns a career mark of 6-2-1 in 11 starts.

Stakes winner Calimonco , a full brother to Breeders’ Cup winners Sweet Catomine and Life Is Sweet, is campaigning once again after original plans called for him to enter stud in 2012 at Donald and Karen Cohn’s Ballena Vista Farms.

Owned by his breeders, Marty and Pam Wygod in partnership with Ballena Vista, Calimonco is trained by John Sadler. The 6-year-old son of Storm Cat out of 2009 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Sweet Life last ran in Hollywood's 1 1/16-mile Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 26, giving way in the stretch to Jeranimo  and finishing third.

$100,000 Daytona Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Calimonco (KY), M E Smith, 118, J W Sadler
2. Mr Gruff (KY), J Rosario, 118, R W Ellis
3. Victory Pete (FL), M Garcia, 118, A Barba
4. Caracortado (CA), R Bejarano, 123, M Machowsky
5. Silver Summation (FL), G K Gomez, 118, M Puype
6. Regally Ready (KY), C S Nakatani, 123, S M Asmussen
7. Al Instante (CHI), K Krigger, 118, R Cardenas