Briecat and Amazing, both riding three-race winning streaks, take on multiple grade II victor Leah's Secret in a highly competitive renewal of the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff, the last of four races to be held at Santa Anita Jan. 24 in the eight-race Florida-California competition worth $3.6 million.
Five of the 13 entrants in the 1 1/16-mile main track event for older fillies and mares will put multiple-race winning streaks on the line, including Leah's Secret, who is trained by Todd Pletcher. Waveline and Lady Railrider are the others to have back-to-back wins going into the Distaff.
The Distaff is supported on the Santa Anita card by three other stakes for California-breds and Florida-breds — the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf, the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint and the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks (see below). Florida’s four Sunshine Millions stakes at Gulfstream Park will be interspersed among the California races via simulcast.
Leah’s Secret, a hard-knocking Florida-bred by Tiger Ridge owned by WinStar Farm, enters the Distaff following victories in a pair of grade II events: the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct. The 6-year-old mare, to be ridden back by Eibar Coa, leads the field in earnings with $865,805 from an 8-4-2 record in 25 starts.
Though she has done her racing in California, Briecat will represent Florida in the Sunshine Millions. Holly and David Wilson's 4-year-old daughter of Adcat is fresh off a 13-1 upset by 2 1/4 lengths in Hollywood Park’s Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) Dec. 7. Trained by Vladimir Cerin, Briecat has won five of 10 starts while banking $226,800. Jon Court, who was aboard the chestnut filly in the Bayakoa, rides again.
Amazing, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly by Greatness, captured the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap at Calder Race Court by a nose over Millions Distaff rival Annabill Nov. 8 to stretch her streak to three wins for owner Marilyn Seltzer and trainer Terry Oliver. Elvis Trujillo takes over the riding duties from Shaun Bridgmohan, who has the ride on Unforgotten in this race.
Annabill, trained by Milton Wolfson, makes her first appearance at Santa Anita in a career that has included 17 wins in 39 starts for earnings of $604,270. The 6-year-old Florida-bred Outflanker mare, owned by N.T.S. Stable, won four in a row last summer.
Waveline, a 4-year-old Stravinsky filly, steps up following back-to-back allowance wins late last year for trainer Ben Cecil. The J. Paul Reddam-owned California homebred began her career in England.
Northern California-based Lady Railrider, a Cal-bred daughter of Ride the Rails, won the Pacific Heights Stakes at Golden Gate Fields Dec. 6 for trainer Steve Specht.
California's best hope, however, could be the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust's 6-year-old Bai and Bai, winner of 11 of 28 in her career and $724,983. Trained by Craig Dollase, the multiple stakes winner by Falstaff is coming off a victory in the Cat's Cradle Handicap at Hollywood Park Dec. 20.
A strong Distaff field also marks the return of 2008 La Canada (gr. II) winner Dawn After Dawn, a 5-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Successful Appeal who has been absent for more than five months for trainer John Sadler. A four-time winner in 19 starts with earnings of $427,393, Dawn After Dawn disappointed in two starts prior to being sidelined.
Sunshine Millions Sprint
A clash of grade I winners In Summation and Georgie Boy headlines the Sunshine Millions Sprint.
In Summation, a winner of 10 stakes races including Del Mar’s 2007 Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I), ranks among the nation’s top sprinters and has been particularly effective over synthetic surfaces such as Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride main track.
Trained by Christophe Clement for Waterford Farm, the 6-year-old Florida-bred Put It Back has compiled a 5-2-1 mark in 10 races over synthetics. His overall record is 11-6-1 in 27 starts for earnings of $1,175,166.
“One of the reasons In Summation was brought to Santa Anita is that he has more options on the West Coast,” said Nicholas Bachalard, assistant to Clement. “There aren’t too many sprints on synthetic tracks on the East Coast.”
Rafael Bejarano, perfect in two rides aboard In Summation while winning last year’s Palos Verdes (gr. II) and the El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) on Jan. 1 in the dark bay's most recent start, has the return assignment in the field of 11.
In Summation figures to face his most serious challenge from 4-year-old Georgie Boy, who took the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) in 2007 and the San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita last spring. After a freshening, George Schwary’s California homebred son of Tribal Rule returned to action with a third-place finish in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on Dec. 26.
Garrett Gomez, who was in the saddle for trainer Kathy Walsh when Georgie Boy captured the Del Mar Futurity, will be back aboard the bay gelding, who has earned $533,634 from a 4-2-2 record in nine career starts.
Florida-bred invader Yesbyjimminy, winner of the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap (gr. III) at Calder most recently, adds an interesting element to the mix. The son of Yes It's True, owned and bred by Trilogy Stable, brings a six-race win streak into the race.
Elvis Trujillo, who rode Yesbyjimminy to his first graded victory on Dec. 13, will ride for trainer Edward Plesa Jr. The 5-year-old bay brings earnings of $563,940 from an 11-4-3 mark in 21 career races.
The Florida-bred filly, who has been racing in California, won last June’s Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park. She finished a close fourth in the Miesque (gr. III) at Hollywood Park in her last start when beaten by less than one length for it all. Bejarano will be aboard the daughter of Graeme Hall. They teamed for a competitive fifth-place finish in Oak Tree’s Oct. 24 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Leigh McLovin, a Florida-bred daughter of Flame Thrower, dominated the Letellier Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds in gate-to-wire fashion by four lengths in her most recent try Dec. 20. Ronny Warner trains the bay filly, who has back-to-back wins for McKathan Brothers Farm after breaking her maiden at Fair Grounds a month earlier.
Ten Churros, a stakes-winning daughter of High Brite, may be the best California-bred hope. Trained by Bob Baffert for Patti and Hal Earnhardt, the speedy Ten Churros has finished in the money in five of six starts since breaking her maiden in June.
$250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks (Race 7, 2:45 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Spanish Ice (CA), David R. Flores
2. Beltene (CA), Joel Rosario
3. Ten Churros (CA), Clinton L. Potts
4. Leigh McLovin (FL), Eibar Coa
5. Hooh Why (FL), Tyler Baze
6. Yodelady O (CA), Garrett K. Gomez
7. Emmy Darling (FL), Rafael Bejarano
8. Costa Marta (CA), Joseph Talamo
9. Dancing Erin (CA), Pedro Arambula
Each assigned 120 pounds.
$300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint (Race 8, 3:15 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Big Bad Leroybrown (CA), 122, Joseph Talamo
2. Carnacks Choice (FL), 122, Eibar Coa
3. Machismo (FL), 122, Mike E. Smith
4. Partywithlarryz (CA), 122, Tyler Baze
5. Sok Sok (FL), 120, Shaun Bridgmohan
6. Cape Hatchet (CA), 120, Michael C. Baze
7. Georgie Boy (CA), 120, Garrett K. Gomez
8. Devoted Magic (CA), 122, Joel Rosario
9. In Summation (FL), 122, Rafael Bejarano
10. Dancing in Silks (CA), 120, Victor Espinoza
11. Yesbyjimminy (FL), 122, Elvis Trujillo
$500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff (Race 9, 3:45 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Waveline (CA), 120, Rafael Bejarano
2. Briecat (FL), 120, Jon K. Court
3. Leah's Secret (FL), 122, Eibar Coa
4. Eclatante (CA), 122, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
5. Lady Railrider (CA), 120, Frank T. Alvarado
6. Spenditallbaby (CA), 122, Victor Espinoza
7. Unforgotten (FL), 122, Shaun Bridgmohan
8. Bai and Bai (CA), 122, Corey S. Nakatani
9. Dawn After Dawn (FL), 122, Garrett K. Gomez
10. Annabill (FL), 122, Joel Rosario
11. Tiz a Blend (CA), 122, Tyler Baze
12. Amazing (FL), 120, Elvis Trujillo
13. Perfect Hostess (CA), 120, Alonso Quinonez