Heavily favored The Usual Q. T., ridden patiently by Victor Espinoza, made easy work of a strong field in the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) (VIDEO) over the Del Mar turf for the second grade I victory of his career July 24.
We've heard much over the years of the dreaded "Dubai Bounce" but the 4-year-old Usual Q. T. remains unaffected, having posted powerful victories in consecutive races since his fourth-place finish in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at Meydan Racecourse March 27.
Angled four paths wide for the stretch drive by Espinoza after tracking a slower than expected pace in the 1 1/8-mile Eddie Read, The Usual Q. T. kicked home impressively, pulling away from runner-up Victor's Cry past mid-stretch to win by two lengths. The final time was 1:47.28 over a firm course.
Trained by James Cassidy for Don Van Racing and partners, The Usual Q. T. is now unbeaten in three starts on the Del Mar turf. The gelded California-bred son of Unusual Heat--Lunge, by Western Fame, won the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) last fall.
Victor's Cry, winner of the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) in his most recent start was a clear second, with Enriched, half-brother to retired California star Lava Man, finishing third.
The Usual Q. T. showing a little more maturity than last year when he tended to fight early, settled into third for Espinoza as Acclamation outfought Enriched for the early lead and set early fractions of :23.64 and :48.50 and 1:13.08. Enriched then drew close along the outside of Acclamation to get a slight lead. As the field made its way around the final bend, Espinoza had a choice of making his bid along the rail or swinging wide with The Usual Q. T., who raced just in front of Victor's Cry to his inside with Corey Nakatani aboard.
Espinoza chose to angle out, leaving the inside path for Victor's Cry, who squeezed through a narrow gap as the pacesetters reached upper stretch. It appeared that Nakatani might have made the winning move at that point. But while Victor's Cry was traveling well, his burst came no where close to matching that of The Usual Q. T., who, racing four wide, assumed the lead at the eighth pole and won as much the best. The Usual Q. T. ran the final eighth of a mile in 11.14 seconds.
"He's learned to relax; it's made all the difference for him," Espinoza said. "I was just sitting back there behind those front two (Acclamation and Enriched) and they were going in and out. I thought for a second (on the turn) I was going to go down inside, but then I decided I didn't have to. I went wide and he just drew out. I took a pretty good hold of him at the end. He was a winner. I didn't need to do anything more with him."
"If he doesn't have any horses next to him, he can relax and that's what he did today," said Cassidy, who won his first Eddie Read. Cassidy said that he considering The Usual Q. T. for the Aug. 21 Arlington Million (gr. IT) next.
"I'll keep an eye on the weather in Chicago," he said. "I'm not going to run him there if the ground is bad. If that happens, we'll look at things here and consider the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT on Aug. 29) or even the Pacific Classic (gr. I, Aug. 28) on the Polytrack."
Victor's Cry, who sprang a 21-1 upset in the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park May 31, finished well while shouldering equal weight of 123 pounds with the 7-5 favorite.
"The race didn't quite set up the way we wanted," Nakatani said of the runner-up. "We thought there'd be more pace in there. But he kicked for me at the end and I got through inside and fired. But the winner was gone. He's a nice horse."
Enriched, who was coming off a 9 1/4-length romp over allowance foes at one mile at Hollywood May 22, ran a game third, nosing British invader Crowded House for the show spot. Then came Hyades, Acclamation and Loup Breton.
The Eddie Read victory over a field that included three other grade or group I-winning rivals should bring The Usual Q. T. some much-deserved recognition in a lackluster male turf division nationally.
A maiden after six starts, The Usual Q. T. has been superb since Cassidy switched him to the grass nearly a year ago. Breaking his maiden at Del Mar last Aug. 5, the bay gelding has now rattled off eight wins in 10 races, including successive graded victories in the nine-furlong Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT), the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby and the one-mile Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT) late last year. His only losses during that span came in a ninth-place finish over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride in the 2010 Sunshine Millions Classic and his fourth in Dubai.
In his first race three months after the Duty Free, The Usual Q. T. defeated a classified allowance field at one mile over the Hollywood turf. The Eddie Read victory boosted his career record to 8-4-0 in 15 starts with earnings of $993,320. The latest triumph was worth $180,000 to his connections, which include co-owners Michael Nentwig, George Saadeh and Jeffrey Byer.
Carlee Van Kempen bred The Usual Q. T.
He paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60 and keyed a $22.40 exacta with the Eoin Harty-trained Victor's Cry, who returned $5 and $3.60. Enriched paid $3.40.