In the first of the Sunshine
Millions Day races exclusively for California-breds, Compari, handled by Hall
of Famer Smith, split horses in midstretch to score as the even-money favorite
in the $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s
hillside turf course.
Compari inherited the favorite’s
role following the previous day’s scratch of Caracortado due to a foot ailment.
Caracortado had been scheduled to make his second start over the layout after
staging a breathtaking rally to win the Grade III Daytona Handicap on Jan. 8.
A 6-year-old Redattore gelding
trained by Marty Jones, Compari tracked pace-setters Ain’t No Other and My
Summer Slew before bursting between the pair to defeat the former by 1 ¼
lengths in 1:12.02. The latter held second, one-half length ahead of
third-place Red Defense.
The victory was the eighth in 14
races for the Sensational Star’s defending champion who was bred by owners
Harris Farms, Donald Valpredo and John Nicoletti. Compari’s earnings surged to
“He ran dynamite,” said Smith. “I
asked Marty (Jones), ‘If I just come out of there and put him where he’s
comfortable, will that work?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, he’s a class horse. You just
put him where he’s in good rhythm.’
“He was just so relaxed laying
third. He was pricking his ears, so I knew he was going to fire. Midway through
the turn, I could see the horse that was second getting out just a bit, and a
lot of times when they hit that dirt, they really spread it. So I banked on it,
and it worked.”
“He’s a lot more versatile than he
used to be,” Jones said, “and when you get a trip like that, it sure helps.
That horse just floated out, and he just got a dream run. He’s a nice horse.
He’s all heart. It’s nice to see him back on track with a couple wins.”
Compari paid $4, $3.20 and $2.20 for
his second successive victory. He had enjoyed a stretch of six successive wins
earlier in his career. Runner-up My Summer Slew, ridden by Alonso Quinonez,
returned $7.60 and $3.60. Red Defense, with Rosario up, paid $2.60 to show.
Holladay Road was victorious in the
$100,000 Crystal Water Stakes at 1 1/16 miles when rallying to overtake Macho
Dorado and triumph by 2 ½ lengths while covering the distance in 1:41.25 with
The 7-year-old gelding, trained by
Julio Canani for Gary and Wendy Broad, was rated near the rear as Macho Dorado
and Bluegrass Reward dueled for control through much of the early going.
Macho Dorado dispatched Bluegrass
Reward nearing the far turn. He gamely held the place under Corey Nakatani
after being collared by the winner in midstretch. Spud Spivens, with Smith in
the saddle, gained third, 3 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
“I knew there was going to be plenty
of speed in the race,” Bejarano said in the winner’s circle. “I got comfortable
with my horse, and I knew I could be patient a little bit. From the half-mile
pole, everybody spread out, so I tried to go to the rail and make a little
move, and that was it.”
As the second choice, Holladay Road
paid $6.60, $3.60 and $2.60. The return on Macho Dorado was $6 and $3.60 while
Spud Spivens paid $3.80 to show. Thirtyfirststreet, the 19-10 favorite, was not
a factor while finishing fourth. The $60,000 won by Holladay Road, a son of
Street Cry, boosted his earnings to $231,820 from six wins in 13 races.
Chokecherymary capped off the stakes
events for Cal-breds with a hard-charging finish to take the $100,000 Valentine
Dancer for fillies and mares at one mile on turf at odds of 8-1. The 4-year-old
daughter of Capsized was clocked in 1:34.42.
Nakatani guided the winner to a
half-length score over California Nectar, ridden by Hector Berrios. “It
couldn’t have panned out any better,” said Nakatani. “There was plenty of speed
in the race, and wherever she was going to be happy and comfortable was where I
was going to try to keep her. The last run was the most important one, and she
did it today.”
Secret Cove, with Rosario in the
irons, finished a neck behind California Nectar and a nose ahead of
fourth-place Halo Dolly, the 8-5 favorite.
Trained by Gary Mandella for Steve
and Sue Woskow, Chokecherymary paid $18.80, $8 and $4.20 after recording her
third victory in eight starts. California Nectar paid $8 and $5. Secret Cove
returned $3.80 to show. With the winning purse of $60,000, Chokecherymary’s
earnings rose to $172,478.
“I wouldn’t blame anybody for
betting against her today because her last mile grass race looks really bad on
paper,” said Mandella. He noted that she was never comfortable in the Oct. 27
event at Santa Anita when finishing sixth. “She was tossing her head all over
the place going into the first turn, and she does that sometimes,” explained
Mandella. “When she’s calm and runs like she did today, she’s got a pretty
significant turn of foot.”