Usual Q.T. Looks To Extend Win Streak
The Usual Q.T. Looks To Extend Win Streak
Riding the wave of a six-race win streak on turf, Grade 1 winner THE USUAL Q. T. (Unusual Heat) will attempt to open up new doors by returning to Pro-Ride for Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita. The 1 1/8-mile contest over Pro-Ride is the most lucrative of the six Sunshine Millions races, restricted to horses bred in California and Florida, that will be contested at both Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park. Due to business downturns, a pair of three-year-old sprints have been eliminated and purses for the remaining Sunshine Millions races have been cut for this year's renewal.
After losing his first five outings, four of which were on synthetic surfaces, The Usual Q. T. ended his 2009 campaign as one of the hottest horses in the country. Commencing with a state-bred maiden score over the Del Mar turf in early August, the Jim Cassidy-trained four-year-old next beat state-breds again in an allowance/optional claiming event, then landed the California Cup Mile, Oak Tree Derby (G2), Hollywood Derby (G1) and Sir Beaufort S. (G3). Though he ran second on three occasions over both Pro-Ride and Cushion Track, it remains to be seen whether the bay gelding will be as effective at this level over the main track.
BOLD CHIEFTAIN (Chief Seattle), the venerable seven-year-old who is expected to close out his career in the Classic, is a more proven commodity over the Santa Anita strip. Among his 11 stakes wins have been two editions of the California Cup Classic, in 2007 and 2009, and the Golden Gate-based veteran enters off a useful fourth, beaten two lengths, in the San Pasqual H. (G2).
Though last of 12 in the 2009 Classic contested at Gulfstream, Canadian invader PALLADIO (Lycius) should be more at home over the Pro-Ride. The Dominion's three-year-old colt champion of 2005, Palladio has fared quite well in the synthetic era with scores last season in the Autumn S. (Can-G2) and Seagram Cup (Can-G3), both over Woodbine's Polytrack. Another shipper with back class, WICKED STYLE (Macho Uno), won the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) three years ago, and last season placed in both the Fayette S. (G2) and Washington Park H. (G3). He's also been cross-entered in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream.
Other notables in the field of 11 are Pegasus S. (G3) winner BAD ACTION (Brahms), another who was cross-entered to both the Turf and Classic; Hollywood Derby third ACCLAMATION (Unusual Heat); Cougar II H. upsetter UNUSUAL SUSPECT (Unusual Heat); and the one-two finishers from the January 1 Sensational Star H., COMPARI (Redattore [Brz]) and ENRICHED (High Brite).
Trainer Tom Proctor will have a strong hand to play in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf over 1 1/8 miles. The multiple Grade 3 winner CLOSEOUT (Repriced) was a fine second in the Las Palmas H. (G2) the last time she raced over the Santa Anita turf, while the Grade 3-placed TIGHT PRECISION (Pure Precision) enters off two solid allowance triumphs at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream.
California-based runners make up the remaining field of eight. California Cup Day winners BOOTLEG ANNIE (Go for Gin) and CENTURY PARK (General Meeting) both appear ready to set an honest pace along with YOU LIFT ME UP (Lord Carson). SAUCEY EVENING (More Than Ready) just won a minor stakes over the Hollywood turf, while CATSALOT (Momentum) does not appear to be the classiest on paper but often tends to find away to earn one of the larger checks.
A surprise entrant is PRETTY UNUSUAL (Unusual Heat), upset winner of the January 17 El Encino S. (G2) on the main track over champion Stardom Bound (Tapit). She's been well beaten in two prior attempts over the grass.
HIGH RESOLVE (Put It Back), who landed the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Gulfstream a year ago, is back to defend her title in the $200,000 six- furlong dash. However, the Greg Gilchrist trainee is winless in four prior starts over Pro-Ride, though she did place in the Las Flores H. (G3), Kalookan Queen H. and Cascapedia S.
Among those with past success over the local synthetic are DOTSY JEAN (Lit de Justice), MISS MCCALL (Lightnin N Thunder) and QUISISANA (Decarchy)., while stakes winners U R ALL THAT I AM (Valid Wager) and RATE OF EXCHANGE (Exchange Rate) have both run well over the track in losing efforts.
Prominent ship-ins include LIBOR LADY (Exchange Rate), a stakes winner over the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs last summer, and Grade 3 vixen DUBAI MAJESTY (Essence of Dubai), who lost last year's Madison S. (G1) over the Keeneland Polytrack by just 2 1/2 lengths when fourth behind champion Informed Decision (Monarchos) and Ventura, the eventual one-two finishers in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
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