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Gomez shines on Sunshine Millions Day

Tiz Flirtatious skipped to victory in the Valentine Dancer (Benoit Photos)

Tiz A Minister came flying from the back of a 10-horse pack to capture Saturday's $300,500 California Breeders Champion Stakes for three-year-olds at Santa Anita Park. The Paul Aguirre trainee ran down the 4-5 favorite and Omega Star in the stretch to come away with a 1 3/4-length victory. The dark bay colt stopped the clock in 1:36 2/5 going one mile over the wet-fast main track with Garrett Gomez in the irons.

"I told him, 'All the other jocks have let him creep a little bit; he just wants to make one run.' I thought he was crazy where he put him, but Garrett, he's really a genius on the back of a horse," Aguirre said. "Nobody else can get a horse to run like that. If you hold this horse and make one run, he'll run every time, and he'd run once a week if you'd let him. Nothing seems to bug him. He's right back in the feed tub and ready to run again."

Bred in California by Dahlberg Farms, Tiz A Minister was exiting a second-place finish in a one-mile turf allowance just two weeks ago. The son of Minister's Wildcat paid $21.40, $6.20 and $4.60 to his backers for his first stakes victory and improved his record to 9-2-4-1, $246,780.

In the companion race for three-year-old fillies, Curt and Lila Lanning's Qiaona pulled off the upset in the $300,750 California Breeders' Champion Stakes. The daughter of Wilko had to overcome an eight-length deficit in the stretch to claim her first stakes win. With Gomez in the saddle, the Ed Moger Jr. trainee stopped the teletimer in 1:37 3/5 for a mile.

"The race actually just kind of fell apart," Gomez said. "My horse just kept going at the same speed and when I turned for home, I told her to go and I picked off a couple of horses. Then all of a sudden, I started to pick them off left and right, but she never really accelerated much. She just kept doing what she was doing and the horses up front...I just kind of tried to pull out whatever tricks I had up my sleeve to try and accomplish what we got done."

John Scott gutted out the win in the Crystal Water (Benoit Photos)

Qiaona paid a healthy $48.60, $17 and $9.40 to her supporters. The chestnut was exiting a maiden win at Hollywood Park on December 6 and now has a career line that reads 8-2-2-2, $228,010.

Earlier on the card, Pamela Ziebarth's Tiz Flirtatious proved best in the $100,500 Valentine Dancer Stakes as the 4-5 favorite. The Martin Jones trainee gained the lead in late stretch and drew clear by 1 3/4 lengths. The five-year-old mare covered one mile on the good turf in 1:35 with Rafael Bejarano.

"They were going slow the first part, so she was tugging a little bit," Jones said. "When she switches off and relaxes, she's really got a great kick. Hopefully we can get back into graded stakes after this."

The daughter of Tizbud had posted a pair of back-to-back runner-up finishes in her previous two starts, the Grade 1 Matriarch on November 25 and the Grade 3 Robert J Frankel on December 30. Tiz Flirtatious recorded her third stakes victory Saturday and now sports a career record of 8-5-2-1, $246,780.

In the Sunshine Millions finale, Harris Farm's John Scott narrowly proved best in the $100,750 Crystal Water, holding on to win by a nose. Trained by Carla Gaines, the six-year-old gelding negotiated 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47 with Martin Garcia. The son of Bertrando was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and third in the Grade 3 San Pasqual in his last two starts. With Saturday's stakes victory, John Scott added his third stakes win to his resume and now has a career mark of 12-6-1-2, $460,304.

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