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.
While prohibitive favorite Protective Shield was the easiest of winners in taking the $35,000 Arizona Juvenile Fillies, Arizona Moon rallied from last to post a mild upset in the $35,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes Saturday at Turf Paradise
Arizona Juvenile Fillies
The 3-5 favorite Protective Shield, with Martin Bourdieu up, passed duo pace setters Zenita and Malibu Kash (which finished sixth and fifth respectively) at the head of the lane and then cruised effortlessly to a seven length victory in the Juvenile Fillies’ division, with 24-1 longshot Grindstone Shine and 15-1 Union Girl completing the trifecta in the field of six 2-year-old fillies.
Owned by Tom Grether Farms and trained by Robert Lawrence, Protective Shield ($3.40) who was making only her second start following her maiden win, covered the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:19.13. The daughter of Lookin At Lucky now has earnings of $28,691.
Lost in the Fog Juvenile
Arizona Moon ($13.00) went from last to first to win the colts and geldings juvenile division by 1 ¼ lengths with Ronald Richard aboard for owner John Campo, III. Senator Robert finished second and Ready Intaglio third among the ten 2-year-olds.
Trained by Stacy Campo, Arizona Moon raced the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:18.15. The son of Macho Uno, who was purchased for $55,000 last year at Keeneland’s September sale, now has won two out of five efforts for $29,913 in earnings.
Trainer Diodoro Goes for Hat Trick in Lost in the Fog Juvenile
Since all thoroughbreds share the same birthday – January 1 of each New Year - two-year-olds looking to get a stakes win on their resumes before turning three, will be featured in double stakes Saturday at Turf Paradise.
Saturday marks the return of live racing following a two-day Holiday hiatus. It’s also the traditional opening day of Santa Anita. Live race post time will be 12:40 pm.
The $35,000 Arizona Juvenile Fillies drew seven entrants while the $35,000 Lost in the Fog Juvenile attracted a field of 10. Both stakes will be run at 6 ½ furlongs.
Also on Saturday’s card are double first divisions of the marathon series at 1 1/16 miles with each division attracting full fields of 12 horses. Qualifiers will move forward with the finale being run at 1 ¼ miles.
Arizona Juvenile Fillies
The Robertino Diodoro-trained Star of Munster and the Dan McFarlane-conditioned Heidi’s in Charge appear formidable, given that both have won three races.
Star of Munster will be making her Turf debut, having campaigned in southern California. The daughter of prodigious sire Tribal Rule won at first asking and then followed with two optional claiming wins.
Heidi’s in Charge won her last three efforts, including victories in the ATBA Stakes and Az Breeders’ Futurity. The daughter of multiple stakes winner Ez Dreamer, registered all three of her wins locally.
Two others worth a look are Protective Shield, who won her maiden outing Dec. 8, recording a 74 Beyer, the best of any entrant.
The other is Zenita, with a two wins in four starts record, that was claimed from her nearly 11-length maiden victory for $10,000 and then immediately followed with a 5 ¼ length allowance win.
Lost in the Fog Juvenile
Named after the star-crossed, stakes winning sprinter, who set and holds the track record for the distance of 1:13.55, in winning this race in 2004.
Of the 10 entrants, the Diodoro-trained Law Master will attract attention, given that the son of Ready’s Image has not been out of the money in five starts and due to the fact the trainer has won this race the last two years.
Shipping in from Golden Gate is the Jose Silva-trained Senator Robert, winner of two of six starts.
Ready Intaglio, conditioned by Eurico Martens, just missed by a nose in his Turf debut on the grass on Dec. 9, earning a 70 Beyer, the best of the field. Prior to that, Ready Intaglio raced competitively at Northland Park and Assiniboia Downs in Canada.
Calendar Alert: Mark it down: Saturday, January 16, Turf Paradise celebrates its 60th Birthday with Free cake, Umbrella give-a-way and Kids Fun Park. Turf racing returns following a 30-day reseeding with the $75,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile and $35,000 Glendale Handicap.