December 27, 2009

A Most Unusual Turf Talent

Move over Zenyatta, better beware Gio Ponti. There is a new star in California and he is also a new player on the national turf scene. If you do not follow racing in California, this might not be a horse you are familiar with yet, but you should be. I am here to tell you: The Usual Q.T. is the real deal. In a short time the gelded, California bred has become one of the best turf horses in the country. Yesterday, he did it again. The Usual Q.T. won his sixth consecutive start yesterday in the Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita’s opening day. Ridden with complete confidence by rider, Victor Espinoza, the bay son of Unusual Heat waited until the top of the lane to pounce. Given only slight urging, The Usual Q.T. ambled to the front and easily held sway his overmatched opponents. Dropping down to a mile from a 10 furlong race can give many horses trouble, but not so for this grass star. The grade 3 win was actually a step down from his sharp win in the Grade 1 win in the Hollywood Derby.

It was the Hollywood Derby that really pointed out just how good this horse was. Contested over Thanksgiving weekend, it was the race of the year for three-year-olds on the lawn. Most of the best of the division were in the race, including The Battle of Hastings, Take the Points, Al Khali, Black Bear Island, Sal the Barber, and Straight Story. No other turf race this year for his age group had near the depth of class as the Hollywood Derby, and The Usual Q.T. won. He won easy. The margin was 1 ½ lengths over the stellar field. The Hollywood Derby win also verified his victory in the Oak Tree Derby over the horse who had been the most consistent in the division this year, The Battle of Hastings. With the wins over him and multiple grade 1 winner Take the Points, it is clear, in my mind at least, that this is the best grass horse in his age group and he is fully ready to take on the best of the older turfers. The Usual Q.T. has made an astounding climb up the division from where he was less than five short months ago.

The Usual Q.T. did not break his maiden for trainer James Cassidy until August 5 of this year. It was his second try on the grass and it was an easy score. Before his first win, he had been unsuccessful in five tries. The most promising of those losses, was his first race on the turf, in which he fell one jump short of getting up at the wire. After his impressive maiden win he moved right up the class ladder, first winning an allowance race in fast time. He then took the California Cup Mile, before stepping up to the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby. In his first race against top-notch competition, he held off The Battle of Hastings by a head. That was the only time in this six race winning streak that a horse got close to him at the wire. He now sports a grass record of six wins in seven starts, with only that narrow loss keeping him from a perfect record on the green. All of the wins have featured fast times and are especially impressive considering he was just a maiden in August. While he may not yet be a household name, I think that the days of him lacking in national respect are numbered.

I find it surprising that so few people seem to be talking about this one, maybe it is because he is a Cal bred who has not yet left the state. This lack of respect should change soon though, as he continues to beat up on good grass horses. What’s next you ask? The Usual Q.T. will most likely pointed for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf in five weeks time. The 9 furlong affair is especially designed for California and Florida breds and the Turf will be run at Gulfstream Park, which will be his first start outside the state of California. I am looking forward to seeing what this turf sensation can do away from the friendly confines of Southern California. My guess is, more of the same.


NetworkEmpowerment said...

Next years turf division is pretty stacked, it should be one of the best divisions, along with older horses, and three year olds(shall they keep their two year old form.) I watched a replay of The Usual Q.T.'s race yesterday, and was extremely impressed. He won as he pleased, by a very deceptively short margin of 1 length, when he could've blown them away by 5. I can't wait to see him tearing up the turf next year as an older horse.

Brian Zipse said...

Yes Dani, as I wrote I am looking forward to the Sunshine Millions and seeing his first race outside of California. I believe The Usual Q.T. may become the future of American grass racing.

NetworkEmpowerment said...

He could very well be Brian. From the grass division there are two things I want to see next year, a race between Gio, PP, and Q.T., before the BC preferrably. Then after that I want to seem them kick the Euro's butts in the Classic! Go red white and blue!