With the buzz from Zenzatta’s breathtaking triumph in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic still stirring the crowd of 58,854, The Usual Q. T. negotiated 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:44.48 in the race that closed out the two days of Oak Tree’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The Usual Q. T. tracked the early leaders while racing in fourth during the early running, gradually improved his position turning for home, took command in midstretch and gamely denied the bid by Battle of Hastings and jockey Tyler Baze. It was 1 ¾ lengths back to third-place No Inflated with Julien Leparoux in the irons.
The payoffs on the winner were $22.80, $8.20 and $5.80. Battle of Hastings returned $3.80 and $3.20. No Inflation paid $8.60 to show.
“He’s actually getting better and better,” said winning trainer James Cassidy. Said Espinoza, “He was a little keen with me the first quarter mile, but he’s an easy horse to ride. We swung outside turning for home, and he ran unbelievable.”
Winning owners Don Van Kempen, Michael Nentwig and George Saadeh were rewarded with a purse of $90,000 to boost The Usual Q. T.’s earnings to $276,670 from four wins and as many seconds in nine starts.
“The way to keep this horse like he is,” Cassidy said, “and I explained this to the owners earlier, is to space his races out pretty good. We’ve run him once a month, and some people (owners) might get a little aggressive, but he hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Cassidy said he would consider the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29 at Hollywood Park as the next start for The Usual Q. T.
In Oak Tree’s $100,000 Damascus Stakes for 3-year-olds that opened the day’s program, Smart Bid rallied smartly along the rail to defeat Supreme Summit by one-length and register a 13-1 upset in the seven-furlong event. M One Rifle, the 13-10 favorite, faded to third.
With Jeremy Rose in the saddle for Augustine Stable and trainer H. Graham Motion, Smart Bid was shortening up following four route races as Rose guided him from sixth in the field of eight to cross the wire in 1:21.53.
Smart Bid had raced twice previously at Santa Anita while winning once on turf, but Motion said he plans to keep the colt here and point to the Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, the Santa Anita winter/spring meet’s opening day. The Malibu is contested at seven furlongs over the track’s Pro-Ride surface, the same conditions as for the Damascus. “He’s a serious horse,” commented Motion.
“He did everything perfect,” said Rose, the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey of 2001 who is based on the mid-Atlantic racing circuit. “He broke good and got his ears up right away. I was able to get him back, no problem, and he ran great.”
Rose noted that he hadn’t ridden the Pennsylvania-bred son of Smart Strike since Dec. 8 at Philadelphia Park. “He showed huge improvement today,” said Rose. “He was just a big, playful baby, and we always knew he had a lot of talent, but his mind is catching up with his body. Now we see what he can do.” For Rose, it was his first stakes victory at Santa Anita.
As expected, the speedy M One Rifle soon took the lead under Mike Smith and set the pace before being collared by the winner in midstretch. Supreme Summit, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, passed M One Rifle in deep stretch to gain a head advantage at the wire.
Smart Bid’s upset was worth $29.80, $11.80 and $5.20. Supreme Summit paid $5.40 and $3.20. The show mutuel on M One Rifle was $2.40. The winning purse of $60,000 lifted the winner’s career earnings to $168,460 from a 3-1-2 record in seven starts.
The Oak Tree Racing Association concludes its 31-day meeting on Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12 noon. The card is highlighted by the 16th running of the $58,000 Cascapedia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. Kays and Jays is the 8-5 morning line favorite in a field of eight.