Living up to his name Absolutely Cool turned on the afterburners in the last eighth of a mile and cruised to victory in the $35,000 Hank Mills, Sr. Stakes Saturday at Turf Paradise.
A generous 5-2 favorite, Absolutely Cool ($7.00), who is now a perfect three-for-three this season in stakes wins, was ridden patiently by Jake Barton, passing seven rivals with ease to win by three-quarters of a length. The Robertino Diodoro-trained duo of Storm Power and Omar finished second and third respectively in the field of eight older horses.
As is Absolutely Cool’s custom, he trailed the field until the eighth pole and then accelerated and lengthened his stride, winning with ears pricked, covering the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:02.37.
The Valorie Lund-trained Absolutely Cool previously won opening day’s Bienvenidos Stakes and then followed with a victory in the Luke Kruytbosch Stakes. Absolutely Cool next start will be the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup, Feb. 13, a race he’s won the past two years.
Absolutely Cool has now won 11 of 42 career efforts, with nine of those victories coming at Turf and has amassed earnings of $366,391 for owner Karl Krieg.
Sprinters with their eyes on next month’s Phoenix Gold Cup will test their fitness in the $35,000 Hank Mills Sr., Handicap Saturday at Turf Paradise.
The 5 ½ furlongs Mills, the traditional prep for the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup (Feb. 13), attracted a field of eight, including local sprint ace Absolutely Cool.
Absolutely Cool, who’s won the Phoenix Gold Cup the last two years, is undefeated in two starts this season, delivering as the favorite in both the Bienvenido and Luke Kruytbosch stakes. To say the now 9-year-old has a fondness for the local course would be understatement, having won eight of 26 starts locally with seven seconds and seven thirds. Trained by Valorie Lund, Absolutely Cool sports a bankroll of $345,342.
Also lining up are Rockin Home and Omar, which finished second and third respectively in last year’s Mills stakes.
Rockin Home finished fifth in the Kruytbosch after battling for the lead until the eighth pole. Trained by David Van Winkle, the Arizona bred Rockin Home won at Canterbury Park in an optional claiming race, Aug. 14. Another with an affinity for the local strip, Rocking Home has won 5 of his 6 lifetime starts locally.
Omar, one of two entered by leading trainer Robertino Diodoro, finished third in this race last year when known as the Swift Stakes. The 7-year-old son of Bertrando has won six of his 13 career wins locally.
Storm Power, the other Diodoro entrant, is coming off an optional claiming win, Jan. 3.
The ultra-consistent Jamaican Memories, who has finished in the money in 11 of his last 12 efforts, is also trained by Van Winkle. The 8-year-old’s local record of 39-4-7-15, has helped produce earnings of $244,364.
The lone shipper is the Jeff Metz-trained Kaabraaj, a lightly raced 4-year-old who has won three of nine starts, primarily at Emerald Downs and Golden Gate.
Also entered are: J P Rocker and Swiss Idol.
The Californians did a double stakes sweep, winning the $75,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons mile with Somethings Unusual and with With a Twist in the $35,000 Glendale Handicap as the track celebrated its 60th birthday Saturday at Turf Paradise.
The moderately priced Somethings Unusual (8-1) rallied from next to last to eke out a head victory over a determined Az Ridge with Perfectly Majestic 1 ¾ lengths back in the field of nine older horses.
Ridden by Ignacio Puglisi for owner Bruce Treitman and trainer Michael McCarthy, the west coast invader Somethings Unusual ($19.80) covered the one mile over firm turf in 1:37.01.
The 8-year-old Somethings Unusual has now won four of 28 career efforts for earnings of $303,644.
JoAnn Fitzsimmons, Cotton’s widow, presented the winning trophy.
The favorite With a Twist ($4.00) slid through along the rail at the head of the lane to engage My Blue Sky and then prevail in a stretch drive over that one by a neck with Peppy Miller third in the field of eight fillies and mares.
Ridden by Brice Blanc for California-based Bob Hess and owners Jerry McClanhan and Ernest Marchosky, With a Twist covered the 1 1/16 miles over the turf in 1:45.56 and now has earnings of $268,423 from10 lifetime victories.
A field of nine is expected to go postward in the $75,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile as the track celebrates its 60th birthday Saturday at Turf Paradise.
The ‘Fitzsimmons Mile’, named after the late coach and executive of the Phoenix Suns, will be run at one mile on the turf course. Cotton’s widow, JoAnn Fitzsimmons, joined by many of her husband’s friends and former Suns players, will present the winner’s trophy.
The supporting feature will be the $35,000 Glendale Handicap for fillies and mares, at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
As in previous runnings, this year’s edition of the Fitzsimmons Mile pits California shippers against local grass aces.
The three southern California-based imports are Somethings Unusual, Perfectly Majestic and Big Cazanova (ARG),
Prior to Somethings Unusual dismal performance in the Grade 3 Daytona, the 8-year-old turned in two wins and three runnerups in seven outings at Del Mar and Santa Anita. Trained by Michael McCarthy, Somethings Unusual will be ridden by Iggy Puglisi.
Perfectly Majestic turned in a banner 3-year-old year by being in the money in nine of 10 efforts for $172,308 in earnings. Trained by Bob Hess, who won this race in 1995, Perfectly Majestic will be ridden by Brice Blanc.
The Peter Miller-trained Big Cazanova (ARG) is the most accomplished of the invaders, having competed against graded stakes horses such as Tonalist in the 2014 Jockey Gold Cup (G1), and in 2015 against Hoppertunity in the San Pasqual and Dortmund in the Native Diver.
What the locals may lack in resume of graded stakes competition, they make up for in familiarity with the local turf course.
Heading the hometown group of six is Az Ridge, with five of 15 lifetime wins coming over the local greensward. Az Ridge, who won the Walter Cluer Memorial Nov. 28, is one of two horses entered by Dan McFarlane; the other trainee is Red Zeus, winner of six of 20 local turf efforts. Red Zeus finished second in last year’s running of the Fitzsimmons Mile.
Ride Hard Kowboy, winner of the Jack Coady, Sr. stakes Nov. 2, has won four of five local turf efforts, with all four at the mile distance.
Empire Knight, conditioned by leading trainer Robertino Diodoro, is coming off a third place finish in the Walter Cluer.
Gentle as a Breeze has won eight turf starts at the distance including five of them locally for trainer David Van Winkle.
Number Five, who has won two of six over the local green, is being sent forth by Carl O’Callaghan
The Glendale Handicap
A field of 10 fillies and mares are scheduled to face the starter, with Cal shipper and Hess-trained With a Twist heading a lineup of locals that includes SUM Racer, Hip Ninety Three, Four Times Lucjy and Enlightened.