Gary Stevens had a message for outrider Linda Baze pulling up after the $107,400 Palos Verdes Handicap Saturday at Santa Anita.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone that fast before,” he said.
Stevens was right. Sunny Blossom, his companion in the Grade III sprint, bettered Chinook Pass’ seven-year-old track record for six furlongs with a 1:07 1/5 clocking in upsetting Olympic Prospect and Sam Who. The Sunny Clime gelding’s time was two fifths of a second faster than Chinook Pass had gone in winning the 1982 Palos Verdes.
Second to Olympic Prospect in a Dec. 3 allowance race at Hollywood Park, Sunny Blossom got the edge on the 11-10 favorite out of the gate and that basically was the difference.
“I was prepared to sit off Olympic Prospect, but my horse was a length and a half in front after the first jump,” said Stevens, who has won this race four consecutive times.
“My strategy changed right away. My horse was running fast fractions (:21 2/5 for the quarter and :43 2/5 for the half-mile), but he was doing it awfully easy. When I asked him at the top of the stretch, he gave me everything he had.
“I was pretty sure he was close to the track record, if he hadn’t broken it. He was real anxious in the gate (on Dec. 3) and didn’t get off to a good start, but he was a perfect gentleman in there today.”
Trainer Ed Gregson said a lot of time had been spent working with Sunny Blossom in the gate since his last race. The work paid dividends as the 5-1 third choice won for the seventh time in 23 starts.
“He’s been real tense in the gate,” Gregson said. “Gary got him out of there today. Half the race was over at the break.
“He’d been breaking off-stride and on the left lead. He was losing too much at the start.”
Olympic Prospect had overcome a poor beginning and the rail in taking the National Sprint Championship two weeks earlier at Hollywood Park, but he was never closer than a length to the winner Saturday.
“He broke a little bit better today than last time,” Alex Solis said. “Any time he gets the (rail) he moves around a lot in there because he has to wait a long time. Plus, he was giving eight pounds to the winner.
“But, he ran well. The other horse broke the track record.”
Sam Who, the 6-5 second choice, was a distant third, beaten just over seven lengths. He was close enough early, but had no rally late. Reconnoitering, Cutter Sam and Order completed the field.
“The way the race shaped up, it was perfect for him,” Laffit Pincay said of Sam Who. “But, I think (trainer) Henry (Moreno) was right. He’s not at his best now. He made a nice move at the turn, and suddenly I had no horse. He must be tailing off because that wasn’t his race.”
In the paddock before Saturday’s fifth race, Gary Jones was somewhat concerned about Quiet American’s appearance.
“He’s a little bit light and his hair’s a little dull,” the trainer said.
Obviously, in this case, looks were deceiving. Two days before his fourth birthday, the son of Fappiano ran himself into the Charles H. Strub Stakes picture with an impressive victory over seven allowance rivals.
Winless in three starts in England earlier this year, Quiet American has found a home in the United States on the main track. He won his local debut Nov. 15 at Hollywood Park and had a series of sharp works in preparation for Saturday.
Cruising down the backstretch under Chris McCarron after being a bit rank early, Quiet American took over from pacesetter El Gran Sid into the stretch and drew away. The final margin was six and a half lengths and he completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 with a final sixteenth in a sparkling six seconds. He then galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.
“He’s the best horse I’ve had my hands on since Turkoman,” Jones said. “They sent him over here because he hadn’t shown anything. They wanted to get rid of him. He just didn’t like the grass, although I’m not saying he wouldn’t handle firm turf.
“We’ll have to see how he comes out of the race. The San Fernando (Jan. 14) would be the right prep (for the Feb. 4 Strub) because he needs the seasoning.”
Quiet American’s imposing win continued a promising week for McCarron. He had earlier won with a pair of talented, soon-to-be 3-year-olds--Tsu’s Dawning Thursday and Tarascon Friday.
“They all do have the potential to go on,” he said. “Quiet American won very easily. I only got after him in the last eighth of a mile and he finished out real well.
Horse Racing Notes
Prepping for his 4-year-old debut in the San Fernando, Prized worked six furlongs in 1:14 2/5 Saturday morning for Neil Drysdale. The son of Kris S. has been idle since winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf in his first start on the grass. Gorgeous, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up, also worked the distance for Drysdale, finishing in 1:14 1/5. She’ll make her 1990 bow in the $100,000 El Encino Handicap Jan. 15.
Champagne N Jules, the second-longest shot on the board locally, won the California Juvenile Stakes, which was simulcast from Bay Meadows. He paid $146.60 and combined with 25-1 shot Khal On The Irish for a $3,022.50 exacta. . . . Sunny Blossom paid $12.60 to win and earned $62,400 for owners Marty Bauer, Robert Estrin, Richard Kessler and Dan Kenny. . . . Payant will make his first start since winning the Del Mar Invitational Handicap against nine rivals in the $112,700 San Gabriel Handicap today. Others entered in the 1 1/8-mile grass race are Patchy Groundfog, In Extremis, Wretham, Delegant, Bosphorus, River Warden, Prince Ruffian, Just As Lucky and King Mab. . . . Gary Stevens’ other three Palos Verdes successes came with Bedside Promise, High Brite and On The Line.