In a head and head thriller, trainer Peter Miller’s C Z Rocket prevailed by a hard-fought head over John Sadler’s Flagstaff in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., final prep to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland on Nov. 7. Ridden for the first time by Luis Saez, C Z Rocket, who is now unbeaten in five starts with Miller since being claimed for $40,000 last April at Oaklawn Park, covered six furlongs in 1:09.14.
Breaking sharply from his number four post position in a field of five 3-year-olds and up, C Z Rocket was immediately into contention and while under restraint, sat three quarters of a length off Flagstaff as they left the half mile pole.
Turning for home, Flagstaff, with Victor Espinoza up, drifted out a bit, carrying C Z Rocket into the three path and from there, it was game on in the run to the wire, with neither horse giving an inch in great stretch duel.
“I didn’t expect to be that close, but he broke so sharp and he took me there,” said the eastern-based Saez. “I decided to let him settle and keep him happy. When I pulled the trigger turning for home, he took off. I love this horse, now he’s ready for the real deal.”
A winner of the G2 Pat O’Brien Stakes going seven furlongs on Aug. 29 at Del Mar, C Z Rocket, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding by City Zip, was off as the 7-5 favorite and paid $4.80, $2.80 and $2.10.
“There were a lot of things involved in this,” said Miller, who is off to a tremendous start at Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet, winning his third stakes dating back to Friday and his fourth overall, good for a tie with Bob Baffert for the lead in the trainer standings. “We recently sold a part of him to Gary Barber and Sol Kumin and I really wanted to win for those two gentlemen. Flavien (Prat) took off him (to ride third place finisher Collusion Illusion) and I wanted to prove that he made the wrong move.
“I just wanted to win this race … It was the owner, Tom Kagele, who picked this horse (to claim on April 30). I wouldn’t have picked him, his form was too bad to claim him, but I did like that he had run some fast races in the past … We’re definitely leaning toward the Sprint, he’s won the last (five) going one turn. We’re going to keep him one turn.”
With his second consecutive graded stakes win in-hand, C Z Rocket, who is out of the Successful Appeal mare Successful Sarah, is now 22-9-1-2 and with the winner’s share of $120,000, he has earnings of $551,641.
Flagstaff, who ran too good to lose, was off as the third choice in the wagering and paid $3.00 and $2.10.
Ridden by Prat and off at 9-5, Collusion Illusion, who broke from the rail, couldn’t go with the top two late and finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Flagstaff while paying $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.33, 45.27 and 57.13.
The Santa Anita Sprint Championship is a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth to the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.
This entry was posted in Breeders’ Cup, NL List and tagged Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, breeders’ cup sprint, Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In, C Z Rocket, Collusion Illusion, Flagstaff, Luis Saez, Peter Miller, santa anita sprint championship, Victor Espinoza by Mike Willman/Santa Anita. Bookmark the permalink.