Watching on TV from the track kitchen in the Santa Anita barn area, trainer John Sadler wasn't that surprised Saturday when his Musique Toujours, a 70-1 shot, won the $1-million Sunshine Millions by a neck at Gulfstream Park.
Musique Toujours, ridden by Jorge Chavez, led virtually all the way in his first start in five months. The 5-year-old gelding hadn't run since a third-place finish in an allowance race at Del Mar on Aug. 29. His last win was on May 22 at Hollywood Park, where Sadler risked losing the horse for a $50,000 claiming price.
Musique Toujours, owned by Richard Glassman of Los Angeles and Lloyd DeBruycker, a Montana cattleman, had joined the Sadler barn after being claimed off trainer Barry Abrams for $40,000 in November 2003 at Hollywood Park.
"I have to give my assistant, Larry Benavidez, credit for the claim," Sadler said. "He liked the horse and went over to Hollywood that Friday night to put in the claim."
Glassman, a retired automobile sales manager, said that he also wanted to claim the horse. Before the claim, Musique Toujours had run against another horse owned by Glassman.
Sadler's main concern about the Gulfstream race was getting Musique Toujours into the 12-horse field.
"I thought that if we got in, we'd have a chance and could at least be among the first three," Sadler said. "Fortunately a horse ahead of us [on the preference list] came out. I talked to Chavez [on the phone] in the morning, and told him to get position, because if you're not up close on that track, you don't have much of a chance."
Sadler said that Santa Anita-based trainer Mark Glatt, who was running a horse in another race on the Gulfstream card, saddled Musique Toujours.
Musique Toujours, who paid $142.20, earned $550,000, more than three times what he had banked in 18 previous starts. This was his fifth win, along with six seconds and two thirds. For Sadler, Musique Toujours is 3-2-1 in nine tries.
Zakocity, at 25-1 shot, trailed in second place almost all the way around, and ran out of ground at the wire of the 1 1/8 -mile race, which was run in 1:49 over a fast track. Classic Endeavor finished third, Limehouse was fourth and Midas Eyes, the 2-1 favorite, ran ninth. The order of finish after Limehouse was Supah Blitz, Second Of June, Lava Man, El Don, Midas Eyes, Stockholder, Royal Place and Cozy Guy.
The $1 exacta paid $850.40 and the $1 trifecta was worth $6,857.50.
"Lloyd did all right," said Sadler, alluding to co-owner DeBruycker's involvement at the betting windows. "I'd say he broke all the pools back there."
The Classic was the last of eight Sunshine Millions races, valued at $3.6 million and restricted to horses bred in Florida or California, at Gulfstream and Santa Anita, both Magna Entertainment tracks. Musique Toujours was one of three California-breds to win. One of the others, Red Warrior, paid $97 for $2 in the Sprint at Santa Anita. The third Cal-bred winner, Valentine Dancer, won at Gulfstream, winning the Filly & Mare Turf for the second consecutive year.
Valentine Dancer, paying $19, was winless and had run only three times since her first Sunshine Millions win, which came at Santa Anita. Her trainer, Craig Lewis, was unable to make the trip to Florida because of a back ailment that hospitalized him for several days.
"She got a little tired last year," said Sandee Kirkwood, who bred and owns Valentine Dancer with her husband, Al. "We sent her home [to their farm in Washington state] to get some rest. We had some weanlings on the farm, and she got annoyed by them. We told her she had to go back and win the Sunshine Millions again or she was going to be called 'mommy.' "
The Florida-bred winners were Star Over The Bay in the Turf; Sweet Lips in the Distaff; Lost In The Fog in the Dash; Alix M in the Filly & Mare Sprint; and Hot Storm in the Oaks.
The unbeaten Lost In The Fog, ridden by Russell Baze, won by 4 1/2 lengths and now has three wins by a cumulative 26 3/4 lengths. He ran six furlongs in 1:09 4/5 . His trainer, Greg Gilchrist, has no delusions about running in the Kentucky Derby but might run him in the seven-furlong Swale at Gulfstream on March 5.
The Magna pick five, which included the Classic, two other Sunshine Millions races and one race each from Laurel Park in Maryland and Golden Gate Fields, resulted in a $406,985.80 payoff. The only ticket was sold at a satellite betting facility in Santa Maria.