Dogwood Stable's Smok'n Frolic made the trip to California worthwhile for her connections, defeating Cee's Elegance in the $750,000 Vessels Stallion Farm Distaff at Santa Anita Park Saturday and completing a Florida rout in the first-ever Sunshine Millions competition with California breds.
Final score for the eight-race, $3.4 million series at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita was Florida 56, California 16. Points were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis for top three finishes.
With Jerry Bailey aboard, the 4-year-old grey or roan filly was rated comfortably on the rail behind the pace set by Cee's Elegance and Victor Espinoza in the 1 1/16-mile event. As the field completed the turn for home, Bailey angled the daughter of Smoke Glacken off the rail inside of Svea Dahl and quickly pursued the leader.
Cee's Elegance was comfortably in front in the stretch after setting reasonable fractions of :23.18, :46.96 and 1:10.99, but she could not hold off the winner in the final 1/16th of a mile, losing by about 2 1/2 lengths. Final time was 1:43.40. Cee's Elegance held off late-running Smart Lacy, with Mike Smith riding, for the place. Svea Dahl was a close fourth.
"It appeared on paper that there would be plenty of pace," said Bailey, "and there was. She was patient and when I called on her, she finished them off."
Bailey said he enjoyed his first Sunshine Millions, but noted, "By the look of the size of this crowd today, maybe they should double the purses next year."
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Smok'n Frolic won for the sixth time in 15 career outings for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable and picked up a $450,000 winning share. The victory nearly doubled her career earnings to nearly $950,000. The filly had been off since winning the Oct. 5 Cotillion Handicap (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park while recovering from a minor knee problem.
Paul F. Oreffice, a principle partner with Dogwood for 15 years, noted, "She's been somewhat of a nervous filly, but it looked like she relaxed well today. She used to have so much speed, but now she's become much easier to rate and that's really worked out well for her. My only real concern today was the weather because I think she probably likes it a bit cooler. But Jerry rode her so well and I couldn't be any happier."
Pletcher was unable to make the trip to the West Coast because he got food poisoning, Oreffice said.
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the 11-horse field, she paid $5.60, $3.40 and $3. Cee's Elegance returned $4.20 and $3.40. Smart Lacy, who drew into the field with the scratch of Coolbythepool, had an $8.60 show payoff. The $2 exacta was $24.
While the results of the initial Sunshine Millions was heavily in favor of Florida breds, who won seven of the eight races, four of the winners were based in Southern California.
The only Cal-bred victory came in the $500,000 Barretts/CTBA Turf, the first of the four Sunshine Millioins races contested at Santa Anita.
California did have a sunshine edge on Sunshine Millions day. The temperature reached 77 degrees at Santa Anita, and was in the 50s at Gulfstream Park.
The on-track attendance was 17,108 at Santa Anita and 18,719 at Gulfstream Park.
Overall handle at the tracks and other wagering outlets was $35,320,732. Of that number, $19,543, 272 was bet in California and $15,777,460 in Florida.