Our Way Returns to Defend Title in Sunshine Millions Turf
Jan 17, 2018
Multiple G2 Winner Starship Jubliee Heads Filly & Mare Turf
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
– William Clifton’s multiple stakes winner Our Way will end a 5 ½-month stretch between races when he returns as the defending champion in Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park.
The Turf for 4-year-olds and up and the $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf for females 4 and older, both at 1 1/16 miles, are among four Florida-bred stakes worth $600,000 in purses on the xx-race Sunshine Millions Day program.
Our Way, trained by Jim Bond, went winless in three starts following his mild upset in last year’s Turf, where he came with a steady drive down the stretch to win by a neck over subsequent multiple graded-stakes winner Enterprising.
Third in the Appleton (G3) and fourth in the Miami Mile (G3), beaten less than two lengths each time, Our Way lost his footing at the start of the 1 1/16-mile Lure Stakes last August at Saratoga and wound up eighth in what would be his 4-year-old finale.
“We kind of put him away after Saratoga. He kind of took a misstep in the Saratoga race and we thought we’d just give him time. He’s been good to us and sometimes you’ve just got to take care of these older horses a little bit more,” Bond said. “I talked with Mr. Clifton and we decided to give him a bit of a break and freshened him up pointing to this race here. It worked out good last year, so we’re hoping to do the same this year. He’s been looking really good.”
Our Way won last year’s Turf off a three-month layoff, after taking the 2016 Better Talk Now Stakes at Saratoga. The son of multiple Grade 1 winner Tizway, also trained by Bond, has prepped for his return with a steady string of works at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
“So far he hasn’t missed a jump. He’s been right on his game and his works kind of show it. He blew out really good the other day so we’re cautiously optimistic,” Bond said. “He’s a game-player. He’s a lot like his daddy. They like to fight and they like to play. They like to perform for you. He’s been training, knock on wood, very good so we’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll show up again on Saturday.”
Jose Ortiz, who owns two wins on Our Way including the Better Talk Now, has the mount from Post 1 of eight at 119 pounds.
Enterprising went on to win the Fair Grounds Handicap (G3) and Mervin Muniz Handicap (G2) in back-to-back starts following last year’s Turf but failed to reach the winner’s circle again until taking the Turf Preview Nov. 11 at Gulfstream Park West, his most recent start. He is one of two Mike Maker-trained horses in the Turf along with Swagger Jagger, making his first start since being claimed for $35,000 Dec. 6 at Gulfstream.
Manchurian High won successive editions of the Turf in 2015 and 2016 for owner-trainer Lilli Kurtinecz but was unable to make last year’s race. The 10-year-old The Daddy gelding returns to the flat following a pair of races over jumps in Virginia and South Carolina, the latter his maiden steeplechase triumph Nov. 12 at Charleston.
Anne Scott’s Galleon Mast, second in the Turf Preview last fall, will also kick off his season in the Turf. The gelded 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast reeled off three straight stakes wins over Gulfstream’s turf in the summer and fall, all as the favorite.
“I just wanted to give him a break in between. He ran a good race last time at GP West so I expect him to run good,” trainer David Fawkes said. “He’s just one of those horses. You barely know he’s in the barn. Easy keeper, trains great every day, just goes out and does his job. The only thing on him is he has a tendency where he likes to make the lead and wait for his friends.”
Tyler Gaffalione, up for the last four starts including all three stakes wins, returns to ride from Post 5 at co-topweight of 121 pounds.
“He’s been great to us, and Tyler has done a great job every time he’s ridden him. I think he’ll be sharper for being off for a bit but he’s very ratable. He’ll do whatever you ask,” Fawkes said. “He seems to like this course. I didn’t think he’d win three stakes in a row, no. He’s just an easy-going, quiet horse who’s great to have around.”
Also entered are Charlie Mops, third in the Turf Preview racing first time off the claim for trainer Peter Walder; Spring Up, 2017 Mecke Stakes winner at Gulfstream; and stakes-placed Second Mate.
Multiple G2 Winner Starship Jubliee Heads Filly & Mare Turf
Starship Jubilee, third as the favorite for Canadian-based trainer and co-owner Kevin Attard in the Claiming Crown Tiara last out, returns to her favorite track in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Also owned by Soli Mehta, Starship Jubilee has earned six of her eight career wins from 12 starts over turf course at Gulfstream, where she was claimed for $16,000 out of a runner-up finish last February. She took a two-length lead into the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile Tiara Dec. 2 before being outrun late to lose by a length.
“She’s obviously run really well over the course. Coming into the Claiming Crown I think the turf had little bit more give than she’s normally used to and she had been off a little bit,” Attard said. “We had missed a race at Woodbine that came off the turf and I think that kind of threw things off for her a little bit. She made the lead at the top of the stretch and looked like she was going to kick on like she usually does and just kind of faltered.
“She’s training really well. She’s had a couple of really good breezes since then,” he added. “We’ve been a little bit more aggressive with her training for this race. This is something we’ve been kind of pointing toward. She had a great blowout the other day and she seems to be coming up to the race in good shape.”
Starship Jubilee won three more starts before leaving South Florida as part of a five-race win streak capped by successive Grade 2 victories in the one-mile Nassau and 1 ¼-mile Dance Smartly, the latter in a dead heat with Rainha Da Bateria. She went into the Tiara off a third-place effort in the Canadian (G2), run at about 1 1/8 miles.
“Ideally I think she’s probably a true mile horse. She has been going further but I think she was in her prime at that time. I think a mile and a sixteenth is within her grasp,” Attard said. “When we claimed her she looked like a horse that kind of wanted to stretch out a little bit. She had been running five-eighths the majority of her races, had a couple going 7 ½ and she was successful going a little longer. It just seemed like she would appreciate going a little further.
“Obviously, she surpassed any kind of expectations that we had,” he added. “I think her confidence just got good. She came up to Woodbine and we figured we had nothing to lose so we gave her a shot in the stake and, sure enough, she put two solid performances back-to-back and I think that kind of proved to everybody that she was legit.”
Jose Lezcano will ride Starship Jubilee from Post 4 of 10 at highweight of 123 pounds.
William Rainbow’s homebred Surprise Wedding returns to Gulfstream off an impressive effort Dec. 16 in the City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, where she rated off the pace and came with a four-wide rally to win by 2 ¼ lengths.
The 4-year-old High Cotton filly made her only two turf starts last fall, finishing sixth in the Nov. 4 Cellars Shiraz at Gulfstream Park West after being beaten a nose in the 5 ½-furlong Miss Gracie Stakes Sept. 16 at Gulfstream. She beat older horses in a second-level optional claiming allowance going seven furlongs over Gulfstream’s main track last August.
“She ran huge last time. It was a big, big race. She’s doing great,” Fawkes said. “She had an excellent work the other day and she ran really well over this turf course and I expect her to run really well. There’s a couple horses in there that have beaten her, but she’s also beaten them.
“She’s a horse we’ve always liked and she’s run well for us,” he added. “She’s training really, really good. She came out of the last race good. She went into the last race great, so I expect her to run a big race. We’ll see what happens.”
Surprise Wedding will carry 121 pounds including jockey Jesus Rios, up in the City of Orlando, from Post 8.
Completing the field are Bonita, winner of the 2017 Wasted Tears at Gulfstream; Daddy’s Boo, a 15-time career winner unraced since Oct. 22 trained by Larry Rivelli; 2016 Panama City winner Josdesnaimaux; Katina, who edged Surprise Wedding in the Miss Gracie; Bitacora, Elizabeth Aurora, Eva London, Graceful Heart.