Comma to the Top wires off-the-turf Daytona
As Comma to the Top reached the half-mile mark in :44, Ain't No Other was again trying his best to challenge, but he could not keep up. Comma to the Top began to open up down the stretch, despite drifting out on his left lead. Although the 14-1 Clubhouse Ride rallied along the inside, and gradually overtook Ain't No Other, the longtime leader was still safely 1 3/4 lengths clear at the wire.
Comma to the Top, who clocked six furlongs in 1:08 1/5, completed the 6 1/2-furlong dash in 1:14 2/5. The 8-5 second choice returned $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80.
"With the speed scratching, we felt we would go for the lead, and it worked out good," Maldonado said. "I felt I had a ton of horse under me at the end. The horse drifted out late, but the middle of the track was the hardest part of the track. I am most appreciative of (trainer) Peter Miller for giving me the opportunity."
"It looked like all the winners were coming in the middle of the track," Miller noted, "so I told him (Maldonaro) to try and keep the horse in the center part of the track, and he did that. This has been an unbelievable year, but there's no rest for the weary. We've just got to try and keep on winning, you know."
Clubhouse Ride edged Ain't No Other by a head for runner-up honors. Capital Account closed mildly on the outside and got up for fourth, relegating Wilkinson to last in the quintet.
"The pace was fast, they just never slowed down in front of us," jockey David Flores said of his trip aboard Capital Account.
In addition to Great Mills, the other withdrawals were Red Sun, Tale of a Champion, Starspangled Heat, Circa'sgoldengear, Guest Star and Byrama, who was an early scratch.
With this sixth career stakes score to his credit, Comma to the Top now boasts $1,027,696 in earnings from his 25-11-2-1 line. The gelding earned three stakes victories as a juvenile in 2010 -- the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, Grade 3 Generous and the Real Quiet.
A gallant runner-up in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in 2011, Comma to the Top took a swing at the Kentucky Derby, but trailed home last and exited the race with an ankle injury that required surgery. He returned to action in the fall of 2011, but won only one of three starts.
Sidelined until this summer, Comma to the Top made a winning four-year-old debut in a turf sprint allowance at Golden Gate Fields, and followed up with a third in the Robert K. Kerlan Memorial at Hollywood Park. He has since added stakes wins in the Pirate's Bounty over Del Mar's Polytrack, and the Big Bear Handicap at Santa Anita, along with fourths in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, Grade 3 Eddie D. and the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood last out on December 2.
"Words can't describe a horse like this," Miller said. "He's gone through so much, but he wants to beat you. He's just an iron horse. He's a $22,000 gelding and you wish you had a barnful of them. He makes training easy. He's a pleasure to work around. He tries every time. He just wants to please you. The owners deserve this. They're great guys and I'm really happy for them.
"We'll probably keep him sprinting," the trainer added of upcoming targets. "I think he just might be a little better sprinting right now than he is going long, and probably keep him on the main track."
Comma to the Top was bred by Richard Thompson and Linda Thompson in Florida, and first sold for just $5,000 as an OBS October weanling. At the same venue as a two-year-old in training in April 2010, the bay was purchased by Miller for $22,000.
The son of Bwana Charlie was produced by the Stormy Atlantic mare Maggie's Storm, who is herself a half-sister to stakes winner Yes He's a Pistol. Comma to the Top's second dam is Grade 3 victress Maggies Pistol.
In the next race at Santa Anita, Majestic Racing Stable and Rap Racing's Avare took advantage of a scratch-depleted field in the $77,500, off-the-turf Eddie Logan Stakes to romp by 4 1/4 lengths. The two-year-old went gate-to-wire in 1:36 1/5 in the one-mile contest with Rafael Bejarano to post his first stakes victory. The Doug O'Neill trainee was exiting a disappointing last-place finish in the November 10 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park after breaking his maiden over the Santa Anita turf in October.
"He's not a real big colt, but he's always shown a lot of talent and had everything go his way today," O'Neill said. "Rafael (Bejarano) has worked him, they really seem to get along and it showed today. He's got the pedigree, he's sound, and he's been showing us a lot in the mornings. The late two-year-old, early three-year-old picture changes so much so we're keeping all our options open. It's still just a five horse field victory but this game is part dreaming, so we'll dream a little bit."
Saturday's stakes win boosted the Johannesburg colt's bankroll to $78,900, and he now sports a 4-2-0-0 short career mark.
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