Caracortado, a Grade 2 winner on Santa Anita's synthetic track last winter, proved equally at home on the lawn when he outlasted The Usual Q. T. to capture the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf by a half-length Jan. 29.
This was the turf stakes debut for Caracortado, was bred in California by Michael Machowsky, who also trains the gelding and owns him as part of Lo Hi Racing with Donald Blahut's Blahut Racing. The 4-year-old son of Cat Dream won an optional claiming allowance on at Hollywood in his only prior try on grass Nov. 11.
Joe Talamo drove Caracortado to victory at 3-1 odds with a stalking trip on the outside. Coming three wide around the far turn, Caracortado reached even terms with the Usual Q. T. leaving the eighth pole and gained a narrow advantage in deep stretch.
"He's a freak on turf and has such a tremendous turn of foot," Talamo said. "He just explodes that last eighth."
Caracortado won under strong encouragement over a stubborn The Usual Q. T. The second choice in the field eight, The Usual Q. T. fought back hard along the inside for Victor Espinoza all the way to the wire but could not out-finish a game Caracortado.
"The great thing about him is he's run on every surface so far," Machowsky said. "Right now, percentages would point to staying on the turf, but he's so versatile I'm just going to play out my options."
Asked about Caracortado's next start, Machowsky said, "Right now, March 5 will be the date, whether it's the Kilroe Mile or the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I at 1 ¼ miles on the main track), we'll just wait and see how it all plays out. At the level he's at now, every race is going to be a tough, tough race, but I want to make it as easy as possible on him. He's a gelding and I want him racing with us a long time."
The winning time was 1:46.75 for the 1 1/8-mile distance on firm ground.
It was 1 3/4 lengths to the late-running Soul Candy and Garrett Gomez in third as Cal-breds swept the top three spots over their Florida rivals. They were followed by 7-5 favorite Jeranimo, pacesetter Presious Passion, Mobiized, No Inflation and Pickapocket.
After veering out at the start, Presious Passion carved fractions of :23.59, :47.02 and 1:10.81 while building a five-length lead. But the multiple grade I-winning lifetime earner of more than $2.6 million was overpowered in upper stretch by The Usual Q. T., who was in the clear briefly.
Caracortado, after winning all four of his starts as a 2-year-old, was a popular contender on California's Triple Crown trail last year. He captured the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February before finishing third in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes and fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
In his only Triple Crown appearance, he ran seventh in the Preakness before going to the sidelines for six months. He returned with his win on the Hollywood Park turf Nov. 11.
The victory in the Millions' Turf was worth $165,000, which expanded Caracortado's overall earnings to $491,520. He has now won seven of 11 starts.
Caracortado is out of the Maria's Mon mare Mons Venus.
Sent off as the third choice, winning chestnut carried 120 pounds and paid $8.20, $3.80 and $2.80 and topped a $27.20 exacta. The Usual Q. T., second to Jeranimo in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes last time for trainer James Cassidy, returned $3.40 and $2.80. Should Candy paid $4.40 to show.