On Saturday January 28, Gulfstream Park in South Florida will present its "Florida Sunshine Millions" racing program. The program features six stake races restricted to Florida-bred horses.
Sunshine Millions this year will be different from prior years. Prior years would feature Florida-breds and California-breds against each other, in stakes that alternated between in venue between Gulfstream and Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles. This year, Gulfstream has a Florida-bred centered program and Santa Anita has a California-bred centered program.
In a new twist this year, races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream will be mixed together into a one-time wager called the "Luck Pick Six". This wager carries a one dollar base, a mandatory payout (no carryover), and a minimum pool of $250K. The wager is a cross-promotional tool between the two festivals and also celebrates the beginning of HBO's racing-centered series "Luck".
The Author will look only at the Gulfstream portion. For a look at the Santa Anita portion, please visit Chris Hernandez's "Giving My Ten Cents" blog and read his Sunshine Millions thoughts here.
Illinois-based horses pepper the Florida Sunshine Millions Program. Here's a quick rundown:
- In the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint, Arlington training mainstay Wayne Catalano starts HONEY CHILE. Local fans may recall her finishing fourth in the 2010 G3 Arlington-Washington Lassie.
- In the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf, this race gathers a trio of familiar names. G3 Modesty runnerup ROMIN ROBIN, Illinois Owners' Stake winner HOOH WHY, and Illinois Owners' Stake runner-up ASKBUT I WONTTELL, all will square off.
- In the Sunshine Millions Turf, BELL BY THE RIDGE (who won an N2X allowance on Illinois Festival Day in October at Hawthorne) will see the starter.
Below, you'll find some ponderings and picks for the six-race Sunshine Millions festival at Gulfstream Park. The Author gives 1-2-3 picks with a longshot when appropriate. Odds given are morning line odds published by the track. (Higher odds tend to lead to higher payoffs, but at a higher risk.)
Race 5 -- Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff S. -- 1 1/8 miles -- Post tlime 2:35 EDT
Going for an upset right off the bat. DELIGHTFUL MARY has only one bad race on her resume, when sent wide last spring in the G1 Ashland at Keeneland. Last time out in a single-turn mile over this course she sat off respectable speed and won. Jockey/trainer team dominated in Canada, but have been quite capable in South Florida. AWESOME FEATHER will be the hype horse. The 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner starts for the first time since Thanksgiving. She's certainly capable on paper but I am using her defensively. But I think my top pick offers equivalent risk and a better payout. SWEET REPENT fits at this minor stakes level, having won a number of them at Calder, South Florida's other track. Gets a rider upgrade today, but in her last starts has finished behind fellow entrants MY PAL CHRISY and our top pick.
#3 DELIGHTFUL MARY (5/1)
#4 AWESOME FEAT (4/5)
#6 SWEET REPENT (6/1)
Longshot: Wait a minute....where are we?!. What are these strange trees? And where are the Illinois-breds? And where's the Metra or the 54B bus? Well, give me a race to get my bearings. I got nothing.
Race 6 -- Florida Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint S. -- 3/4 miles (6 furlongs) -- Post time 3:05 EDT
Today's race, like all the other Florida Sunshine Millions races, does not carry a grade, and graded races tend to be of higher quality. That said, POMEROY'S PISTOL won the G3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream last time at today's six furlong distance. Has never been worse than third in her career at Gulfstream and enters off two sharp workouts upstate. IT'S ME MOM had a stellar 2011, banking over $200K, with the only blemish coming from a bad break four back in Erie. Here, she's the speed of the speed and Gulfstream has been known in the past to play kindly to front running speed. BC Filly & Mare Sprint winner MUSICAL ROMANCE makes her first start from the mothballs. She had a solid season at Calder, and appeared on the radar when second in the prestigious Princess Rooney. Duplicating her best last year would top these.
#5 POMEROY'S PISTOL (3/1)
#1 IT'S ME MOM (4/1)
#6 MUSICAL ROMANCE (5/2)
Longshot: #7 BEAT THE BLUES (6/1) has won fifty percent of her races in her career, but if you look only at starts on fast dirt, she has eleven starts, seven wins, two seconds, and a third. I think she hated the faux dirt surface three back against fellow entrant MUSICAL ROMANCE, and she'll make the third start off the shelf for solid New Orleans-based human connections.
Race 7 -- Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint S. -- 3/4 miles (6 furlongs). -- 1 1/8 miles -- Post time 3:35 EDT
The one-two finishers of the Mr. Prospector Stakes, run at six furlongs overll this same course, return. I think they'll finish that way again. APRIORITY closed to nail ZERO RATE POLICY on the line last time, and the winner has kept company with some good foes. Toss the effort in the slop at Belmont three back, and over a quirky moisture-retaining Churchill surface two back and his dry track efforts are good enough to take this. ZERO RATE POLICY has never finished worse than fourth in his career, and has eight top two finishes (and five wins) in ten lifetime tries. Never worse than second over the local dirt. ROYAL CURRIER has been competitive in age-minor stakes in the Mid-Atlantic and ships south, getting a rider upgrade to Dominguez. Never out of the trifecta in ten tries at today's distance.
#7 APRIORITY (2/1)
#6 ZERO RATE POLICY (3/1)
#1 ROYAL CURRIER (6/1)b
Longshot: Third to ZERO RATE POLICY two back, #5 IT'S NEVER TOO LATE (12/1) could have been yours four starts back at Delaware for the low low price of $50K. Prior to throwing a clunker at Tampa, he had a stellar 2011 (six wins, $165K earnings). He's won over the Gulfstream dirt before (five times, to be precise), and if ZERO RATE POLICY gets softened on the front end he'll have a puncher's chance.
Race 8 -- (Leg #1 of "Luck Pick Six") -- Florida Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf S. -- 1 1/8 miles (Turf)-- Post time 4:10 EDT
The portable rail will be, at publish time, set to 36 feet. G3 winner ROMACACA returns from a somewhat long layoff (a 29% win proposition) for Calabrese/Canini. Last time before the trip to cold storage, she pressed a solid pace and was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths at Saratoga against a field far and away better than these. She can win stalking, and she was classy enough and quick enough to grab a minor check in the prestigious Beverly D in 2010. Another G3 winner, UNBRIDLED HUMOR, returns since the Matriarch on Thanksgiving weekend. Trainer Motion (of Animal Kingdom fame) isn't a frequent shipper, and she was in the same zip code as Never Retreat, last year's best horse on the Arlington grounds and a solid female turfer. Defending champion TRIP FOR A.J. sees the starter here. With eleven money finishes in thirteen turf tries, many of them at similar state-bred conditions, she'll be in the mix. Her up-close style will also be an asset given the rail position.
#5 ROMACACA (3/1)
#4 UNBRIDLED HUMOR (5/2)
#7 TRIP FOR A.J. (5/1)
Longshot: One for the home team with the honest mare #9 ROMIN ROBIN (8/1). She may like the grass in Chicago more, but she's got six money finishes in twelve tries over the Gulfstream grass. I know she hasn't won since the spring at Arlington, but she missed by inches against fellow entrant ASKBUT I WONTTELL, was overmmatched in the Beverly D. Goes second start off the layoff.
Race 9 -- (Leg #3 of "Luck Pick Six") -- Florida Sunshine Millions Turf S. -- 1 1/8 miles (Turf) -- Post time 4:50 EDT
The portable rail will be, at publish time, set to 96 feet. TEAKS NORTH won two grade one (G1) races last year, the prestigious United Nations and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, last year. The latter is at the same distance and course as today's event. Goes second start off the layoff, which the trainer has done eight times in the past year, winning twice with two additional money finishers and a an ROI of $9.22. BAD DEBT won against fellow statebreds two back at Calder. Been in the top two all four career starts on the Gulfstream sod, and brought to you by a 20% trainer. ALLIE'S EVENT spent most of last year cashing checks in upper level allowances and stakes like the River City. The rail position, and presence of LITTLE MIKE giving pace, means this one-run closer will have something to attack. Enters off a sharp workout upstate at Tampa Bay Downs.
#10 TEAKS NORTH (3/1)
#3 BAD DEBT (6/1)
#7 ALLIE'S EVENT (12/1)
Longshot: #6 BECKHAM BEND (15/1) will be up close to the pace, and if the closers don't come around this one can attack the leaders. Toss out the dismal effort going three turns in the Pan American and he's hit the top two more than half the time. Was in the same zip code as a graded stakes-bound horse last time upstate at Tampa.
Race 10 -- (Leg #5 of "Luck Pick Six") -- Florida Sunshine Millions Classic S. -- 1 1/8 miles -- Post time 5:25 EDT
RON THE GREEK only beat four others, but he did it with aplomb last time in New York and has been working steadily since relocating to Florida. Sharp connections abound as he rides a two-race win streak, winning two races back at today's distance. TURBO COMPRESSOR demolished Florida-breds across town last time and he faces state-breds again. Team has seven top two finishes in their last thirteen starts and he's won over this course. DUKE OF MISCHIEF hasn't been to the winners' circle since beating Game On Dude (Horse of the Year finalist) and Tizway (double G1 winner) in West Virginia. He's been facing a lot of big names, and none of them will be in the gate for this race, suggesting a drop in class. Trainer is 20% in listed stakes (like today's).
#7 RON THE GREEK (5/1)
#5 TURBO COMPRESSOR (2/1)
#1 DUKE OF MISCHIEF (6/1)
Longshot: Give me #4 DECAF AGAIN at 30-1. This is a mess of a race where everyone has questions or flaws. Can 'DUKE close off an honest pace? Can 'TURBO get the lead? Can MUCHO MACHO MAN live up to hype? Can ADIOS CHARLIE go two turns? Is 'RON for real? Toss out the last two turf races (we're not on the turf today), and if our 1-2 picks decide to go at each other and commit suicide, DECAF AGAIN could come from the parking lot to pick up the pieces.
(As a note, legs 2, 4, and 6 correspond to the 4th, 5th, and 6th races at Santa Anita. For more info, see "Giving my Ten Cents".)
Good luck this weekend!