ARCADIA, Calif. -- Bold Chieftain refuses to leave the racetrack.
The partnership that owns the 7-year-old tried to send him to stud this winter, but never reached a deal with a farm. So, Bold Chieftain stayed in training, and on Saturday won the richest race of his career in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita.
To reach that milestone, Bold Chieftain needed a brave ride from jockey Russell Baze, who credited the horse for displaying the same trait.
Bold Chieftain rallied between horses through a narrow gap in the final furlong to win the Classic by a neck over 6-1 Florida invader Palladio. Unusual Smoke, the longest shot in the field at 50-1, finished third in the field of nine California-breds and Florida-breds. The Usual Q.T., the even-money favorite who was seeking his seventh consecutive win, was near the front until early stretch and faded to finish last.
Bold Chieftain ($12.20) ran 1 1/8 miles on the main track in 1:48.33.
Baze and trainer Bill Morey were amazed by Bold Chieftain's performance in the final furlong. The chances of a win seemed remote when Baze had to check Bold Chieftain while racing just behind the leaders. When a gap opened between Acclamation and Unusual Smoke, Baze urged Bold Chieftain, and the veteran showed a sharp rally.
"He responded really well," Baze said. "We were in pretty tight straits. A tiny hole opened and he was brave to go through it."
Baze was impressed that Bold Chieftain was able to shrug off contact with Unusual Smoke at a pivotal point late. "It's hard for a horse to move when he's got a horse leaning on him like that," Baze said.
Morey, winning the richest race of his career, had trouble spotting Bold Chieftain in the field until the final furlong. He said there was a time in Bold Chieftain's life when he would not run between horses.
"It was a thrill to see the horse shoot through there," Morey said. "Earlier in his career, he wouldn't do that."
Bold Chieftain was seventh for the first half-mile, well behind Enriched, who set early fractions of 23.31 and 46.77 seconds while being closely followed by The Usual Q.T. They remained the first two runners until early stretch when The Usual Q.T. began to drop back.
Jim Cassidy, who trains The Usual Q.T., said pressure from Acclamation, who raced within a length of the leaders on the backstretch, did not help The Usual Q.T.'s chances. Acclamation "came up on the outside and he started getting rank," Cassidy said of The Usual Q.T. "They were going too fast, too early."
Bold Chieftain became the first California-bred to win the Sunshine Millions Classic since McCann's Mojave at Gulfstream Park in 2007.
Palladio, a two-time stakes winner at Woodbine last year, is a Florida-bred, while Unusual Smoke is a California-bred.
Bold Chieftain has won 15 of 34 starts and $1,406,411 for a partnership that includes the trainer. Morey was not sure where Bold Chieftain would make his next start, but a retirement this year has become more remote.
"He was going to have to jump up and run a monster race to keep going and he came through," Morey said.
Filly and Mare Turf: Tight Precision responds to patient ride
Jockey Joel Rosario picked an odd time at Santa Anita on Saturday afternoon to get to know the 5-year-old mare Tight Precision.
On the turn of the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf ,Tight Precision dropped back from second to third in the race over 1 1/8 miles for California-breds and Florida-breds. Rosario said he was waiting to ask Tight Precision for her best, confident that she would rally. Rosario got the response he expected, with a three-wide rally, but in doing so made trainer Tom Proctor a bit nervous.
"I thought she was beat," he said.
Rosario roused Tight Precision near the eighth pole and pulled away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetter Bootleg Annie. Pretty Unusual, who passed Tight Precision on the turn, finished a nose behind Bootleg Annie in the field of eight.Both Bootleg Annie and Pretty Unusual are California-breds.
Rosario had Tight Precision within a length of Bootleg Annie on the backstretch. Tight Precision lost about a half-length of ground to Bootleg Annie before Rosario urged the mare.
"I saw the other mare coming up inside of me and I wasn't worried about it," he said. "I thought, 'I'll ask her again.' She gave me what she had."
Sent off favored, Tight Precision ($4.40) was timed in 1:47.27, winning the first stakes of her career. Rosario rode Tight Precision for the first time in the Filly and Mare Turf.
A Florida-bred owned by E.J. Sukley, Tight Precision has won 5 of 14 starts and $337,970. She was second in two stakes in 2008, including the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes at Keeneland, and then missed a year because of injury. After finishing fifth in her comeback at Keeneland last October, Tight Precision won an allowance race at Churchill Downs in November and an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park earlier this month before being sent to California for Saturday's race.
"Tight Precision is on a roll right now," Proctor said.
Quisisana holds on by a nose
The finish of Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Million Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita arrived just in time for Quisisana.
With Dubai Majesty closing rapidly, and looking like a winner in the final strides, Quisisana held on to win by a nose, scoring the first stakes win of her 10-race career. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Quisisana ($15) was timed in 1:08.47 for six furlongs.
The victory was the fifth in the 10-race career for Quisisana, and maintained her perfect record in three starts over six furlongs on the main track.
"It's what she wants to do," trainer Mike Puype said.
Bejarano gave Quisisana an ideal trip. She was wide on the backstretch, stalking 2-1 favorite Miss McCall through early fractions of 21.44 and 43.75 seconds. With a four-wide rally through the stretch, Quisisana hit the front in the final furlong and was fully extended to beat Dubai Majesty, the winner of two stakes at Keeneland and Churchill Downs last year.
Dotsy Jean, who was fifth early, finished third in the field of 13 California-breds and Florida-breds. Miss McCall faded to finish fourth.
Pupye's confidence soared when Miss McCall did not reach an easy lead, but he admitted to being concerned about Dubai Majesty s presence in the stretch.
"I knew when [Miss McCall] didn t clear that I had a shot down the backstretch," he said. "Rafael didn't let her get too far back. The other horse would have gotten by her in another jump or two.
Owned by Ran-Jan Racing, Quisisana is a 5-year-old California-bred mare by Decarchy. She has earned $275,768. Dubai Majesty is a Florida-bred, while Dotsy Jean was bred in California.
Quisisana made her fourth stakes appearance in the Filly and Mare Sprint. She was third in the 2008 Fleet Treat Stakes at Del Mar and third in the California Cup Distaff on turf here last October.