Da Stoops and Victor Espinoza win the Sunshine Millions Pepsi Dash.

Da Stoops and Victor Espinoza win the Sunshine Millions Pepsi Dash.


Da Stoops Drops Da Hammer in Millions Dash

Favored Da Stoops left the field far behind on the turn and swept to the easiest of victories in the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash for 3-year-olds, the first of four stakes races at Santa Anita Park for California and Florida-bred horses Saturday.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Bob Baffert and owners Weitman Performances LLC and Kathy Watson, the dark bay son of Distorted Humor  stopped the clock in 1:08 4/5 while defeating seven sophomore rivals in the six-furlong test by 7 1/2 lengths.

Da Stoops made it back-to-back wins after taking the seven-furlong California Breeders' Championship at Santa Anita by 8 3/4 lengths Dec. 26. His third win in eight lifetime starts was worth $137,500, pushing Da Stoops earnings to $301,470.

Breaking from the inside post, Da Stoops was away third as Dinner Magic and Rattlesnake Joe battled for the early lead. But Da Stoops soon reached the leaders on the insde and set fractions of :21 1/5 and :43 2/5 as Dinner Magic and Corazondelcampeon pressed him. On the turn, Da Stoops began to draw away from his challengers and lengthened his lead through the stretch.

"I got lucky," Espinoza said. "I wanted him to break as sharp as he could but he kind of bobbled coming out of the gate, just a little bit, one or two jumps, he kind of lost his balance. After that it was no problem."

Baffert, who won his second Sunshine Millions race, was concerned about the distance and post position prior to the race, but he obviously had little to worry about.

"I didn't expect him to do what he did last time," Baffert said. "He really trained well into this race. I was a little worried about (drawing) number one. He did stumble a bit out of the gate, but he's so athletic he recovered.

"About the five-eighths pole I knew we were in good shape. This colt's got some serious gears. He's really fast. He's the quickest Cal bred I've ever trained."

The gray colt Changing Weather, ridden by David Flores, closed the best of the rest to get second by 1 1/4 lengths over Brite Manuevers and Corey Nakatani.

Maiden winner Plagiarist, the 2-1 second choice in the field after a smashing debut effort at Hollywood Park five weeks ago, and Calder sprint standout In Summation were never factors.

The 6-5 choice, Da Stoops paid $4.60, $3.40, and $2.60, topping a $55 exacta with 14-1 Changing Weather in the place spot. Brite Manuevers was $4.80 to show.

Dinner Magic stuck around for fourth, followed by In Summation, Corazondelcampeon, Rattlesnake Joe and Plagiarist.

(Chart, Equibase)