Wildman Jack and jockey Mike Smith, outside, outleg Sparky Ville (Geovanni Franco), inside (orange cap), and Stubbins (Umberto Rispoli), inside, to win the $100,000 Dayton Stakes, Saturday, May 23, 2020 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.  © BENOIT PHOTO

There are some sporting events you circle and say “yes sir that’s going to be a good one”. The May 23 Daytona Stakes was certainly one of those and it certainly lived up to the advanced billing.

A five and a half furlong dash over the Santa Anita grass, this grade 3 event had seven highly qualified speedsters lining up. Stakes winners Cistron, Texas Wedge, Stubbins, and Wildman Jack were confronted with veteran grass runners like Murad Khan, Blameitonthelaw, and Sparky Ville. A coin flip race for sure, if you figured it would be close at the end, you were right.

Breaking alertly, Cistron guided a tightly bunch group through a freakishly fast opening quarter mile (21.07). At the top of the stretch the veteran gave way and long shot Sparky Ville (70-1) stuck a head in front. Under extreme pressure, Sparky continued to fight on. On the outside Wildman Jack kicked in the turbo under jockey Mike Smith and got involved. Stubbins began rolling and Texas Wedge was right there too. As the wire drew ever closer, the race was as expected.

In the end the Wildman got up by a flaring nostril over Sparky Ville. Stubbins was right behid them followed by Texas Wedge. The difference between first and third was a half length. WOW!

The turf sprint race can absolutely be some of the most exciting in the game and yes the Daytona Stakes was certainly all that!