Florida Sunshine Millions
Slews Answer & Bad Debt in Turf Rematch
Live Oak Plantation’s 6-year-old gelding Slews Answer, a game second behind Eclipse Award finalist Little Mike in the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Turf last year for trainer Graham Motion, returns from seven-month layoff as one of the favorites in Saturday’s renewal of the 1 1/8 miles test with Alan Garcia aboard in a field of eight.
The Turf will be one of six stakes races for Florida-breds worth a total of $1.3 million on Saturday's program, highlighted by the $400,000 Classic featuring Mucho Macho Man, Ron the Greek and Fort Loudon.
A son of Ghostzapper, Slews Answer didn’t make his career debut until he was a 4-year-old here in early 2011, winning first out on turf and finishing second in an allowance race before scoring in the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs in his third start.
Following the Sunshine Millions last year he made only two more starts, finishing third defending his Turf Classic victory at Tampa Bay and a sixth-place finish last out in the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs on June 16.
Robert Leibner’s highly-consistent 6-year-old gelding Bad Debt ran a good third in the Turf a year ago and gets another try with jockey Kevin Caramouche flying to ride for trainer Michael Trombetta.
“He had a little trouble at the start in the race last year, but nobody was going to beat Little Mike that day,” said trainer Trombetta. “He’s been a very reliable horse and fun to have over the past few years.” A son of Grand Reward, Bad Debt finished sixth last out in a bulky field of 13 behind Nikki’s Sandcastle in the one-mile El Prado Stakes here on Dec. 22, although beaten only 3 ½ lengths for it all.
The El Prado broke a streak of 19 consecutive races in which Bad Debt had finished one-two-three going back to November of 2010. Trombetta claimed Bad Debt for his Washington D.C. owner at Monmouth Park on June 18 for $35,000. His two biggest victories have both come in the $125,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup at Calder in 2011 defeating Picou and again last November by a neck over Speak Easy Gal.
The solid favorite in the Turf will likely be WinStar Farm’s 6-year-old Doubles Partner with jockey Javier Castellano to ride for trainer Todd Pletcher as he makes his first start since a good third-place effort in the Citation Handicap (G2) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 23.
A son of Rock Hard Ten, Doubles Partner won the Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) over the Gulfstream course in early March in his first start since a strong third behind Get Storm in the Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day the year before. Following the Canadian Turf he turned in another good effort when third in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland in April won by Data Link.
Completing the field are Shivmangal Racing Stable’s Shkspeare Shaliyah, John Eaton and Steve Laymon’s Picou, Resolute Group Stable’s Teaks North, Dennis Manning’s Roman Tiger and Alex and JoAnn Lieblong and partners’ Duke of Mischief.
Successful Song Favorite in Distaff
Charlotte Weber’s high-powered Live Oak Plantation and trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. will hope that 6-year-old homebred Successful Song can end her racing career on a high note as she will be favored in a field of seven fillies and mares drawn for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff Saturday.
Jockey Joel Rosario gets a return call on Successful Song after they teamed up to win the $100,000 Ocala Stakes going one mile here on Dec. 30 by a half-length, a race that might have been her last as plans call for her to be bred in the spring.
“As well as she ran to win the Ocala we just thought there was no reason not to run her this one more time in Saturday’s race,” said trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. “That (Ocala) was actually the first two-turn race she’s ever won. Her biggest successes have come in two-turn races.”
A daughter of Successful Appeal, Successful Song has been a steady stakes performer for several seasons while posting a 26-7-5-5 record for earnings of $417,000 with career highlighted including four stakes victories.
She placed in a pair of Graded stakes when second in the Rampart Handicap (G3) here in 2011 behind Awesome Maria with Unrivaled Belle third and another good runner-up effort in the Molly Pitcher Handicap (G2) at Monmouth Park last summer.
Successful Song’s nemesis in several stakes at Calder over the last couple of seasons was Tony’s Investments’ 5-year-old My Pal Chrisy, a well-beaten third last out in the Ocala as the favorite for owner-trainer Padarath ‘Tony’ Lutchman. The daughter of Alex’s Pal was a 7 ¼ lengths winner of the $150,000 Elmer Huebeck Distaff Handicap at Calder in November with Successful Song third.
Jockey Luca Panici rides My Pal Chrisy, who had missed the board in all three previous tries over the Gulfstream track before the Ocala and may simply not be as effective as she is over the Calder surface. My Pal Chrisy had also won the Elmer Huebeck in 2011. She finished a well-beaten fourth behind then undefeated Awesome Feather in this race early last year.
Completing the field for the Distaff are Alfonso Miranda’s Delray Lady, Winning move Stable’s Score Boyera, Farnsworth Stable’s Speak Easy Gal, Hardacre Farm’s Tale of Peach and Michael Dubb and Bethelehem Stable’s Mud Honey.
Romacaca & Hooh Why in Filly & Mare Turf Rematch
Mark Hoffman and Earl J. Trostrud, Jr.’s Hooh Why posted a 17-to-1 upset winning the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf last year with Frank Calabrese’s 3-to-2 favorite Romacaca second. The two 7-year-old mares will meet again in Saturday’s renewal of the 1 1/8 miles turf course test.
Hooh Why and Romacaca met again here last out in the $100,000 South Beach Stakes going 7 ½ furlongs on Dec. 9 and Romacaca was the winner with Hooh Why third, beaten a length for it all after shipping down from her winter base at Tampa Bay Downs. Jockey Ron Allen Jr. gets a return call on Hooh Why and Francisco Torres retains the mount on Romacaca in the field of seve
“We might have run her back too close in her last couple of starts,” said co-owner and sometime trainer Mark Hoffman of Hooh Why. Hoffman has hauled the widely-traveled mare to stakes engagements throughout the east, mid-west and to Woodbine in Canada over several seasons. “This time she’ll have 40 days since her last race and we’re coming with a full tank.”
A daughter of Cloud Hopping, Hooh Why first burst on the national stage as a 3-year-old in the spring of 2009 when she first came to Gulfstream to finish second by a head in the Sunshine Millions Oaks (discontinued). She was then shipped to California to finish third, beaten a head for it all by Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) before scoring the biggest victory of her career in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
The South Beach marked Hooh Why’s 12th start of the year and 47th of her career in which she has posted 11 wins, 11 seconds and nine thirds for earnings of more than $1.1 million. Naturally with her record Hooh Why will have a future as a broodmare.
“That’s the plan this spring,” said Hoffman. “After this race we’ll breed her and bring her back to run a couple of more times in foal. I wouldn’t consider doing it if she wasn’t so sound.” Hooh Why will run Saturday with Gulfstream-based Nicholas Gonzalez as trainer as she did in the South Beach.
It has been nearly four years since Frank Calabrese claimed now 7-year-old Romacaca at Gulfstream Park for $25,000 out of her fourth career start, and a victory on Saturday would push her career earnings past the $1 million mark
“She’s never been better and hasn’t lost a step,” said trainer Danny Miller, who guided the daughter of Running Stag through most of her 3-year-old season after the claim and got her back in his barn last summer at Arlington Park. “She may even be better with age as she relaxes more in her races than she did when she was younger. We’ve been pointing for this race since we got down here.
“She’s at an age where you would consider breeding her with what she has accomplished, but we haven’t talked about that as yet. Frank (Calabrese) loves to race. She’s very sound and there is no reason she can’t continue to perform at the top level. Naturally, I’d like to keep her in training.”
Romacaca won her first three starts after the claim for Miller, including the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington and has been a consistently high-class turf stakes performer throughout her career of 16 victories from 32 starts. Other career highlights including victory in the Matchmaker Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park in 2011 and the Modesty Handicap (G3) at Arlington in her first start back with Miller last summer.
Completing the field for the Filly & Mare Turf are Farnsworth Stable’s Speak Easy Gal (cross-entered in Distaff), Brinker Hill Farm’s Millenia, Peter Vegso’s Refining and Gary Aiken’s Callmethesqueeze.
Emma’s Encore Makes Season Debut in Filly & Mare Sprint
Brenda Mercer and Peter Berglar’s 4-year-old filly Emma’s Encore, a Grade 1 winner and most accomplished of seven fillies and mares entered in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint Saturday, makes her highly-anticipated season debut as the likely favorite in the six-furlong dash with jockey Junior Alvarado aboard for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.
“She worked good on Sunday morning and has trained pretty much on schedule since we got here (November),” said Jerkens. “We couldn’t make the first one ($100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) on Dec. 8), but I think she’s ready now. We’ll see where we go from there.”
A daughter of Congrats, Emma’s Encore worked a sharp five furlongs in 59 4/5 at Gulfstream Sunday as she is poised to make her first start since finishing eighth behind Groupie Doll in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) run on Polytrack at Keeneland on Oct. 6.
Originally purchased for $2,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales, Emma’s Encore came to Jerkens here last winter as a maiden after three starts as a 2-year-old and ran four times at the meet, finishing third and winning twice sprinting before tiring to eighth trying two turns behind Grace Hall in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) before shipping to Belmont.
After a runner-up effort in an allowance at Belmont in mid-May, she hit her best stride and won the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont in early July and the Prioress Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in early August. She appeared to tail off after that when sixth in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) at Belmont in September before her trip to Kentucky for the Keeneland race.
While Emma’s Encore comes into Saturday race off the layoff, Farnsworth Stable’s 7-year-old mare Golden Mystery has already run twice at the meet, beginning with a good runner-up try in the Sugar Swirl behind heavy favorite and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G2) runner-up Dust and Diamonds and second to Successful Song in the one-mile Ocala Stakes after setting all the pace.
Jockey Luis Saez rides Golden Mystery for trainer Marty Wolfson as her racing career is winding down. “She and Speak Easy Gal (entered in Distaff) are both seven (years old) and are consigned to a Fasig-Tipton sale in February (11th),” said the trainer. “Farnsworth's program now is to sell the older mares and replace them with younger fillies to race.”
A daughter of Awesome Again, Golden Mystery goes into Saturday’s race with a 36-7-7-4 record for earnings of $360,000.
Completing the field for the Filly & Mare Sprint are E. Paul Robsham Stable’s R Holiday Mood, Michael Dubb’s Isn’t She Grand, Teresa and and David Palmer’s What About Tiffany, Upand Downs Racing’s Becausei’mworthit and James Miller’s Honey Chile.
Bahamian Squall Solid Choice in Sprint
Donald Dizney’s 4-year-old homebred Bahamian Squall was very impressive winning the Sunshine State Stakes here by 3 ½ lengths over Fort Loudon going six furlongs on Dec. 2 for trainer David Fawkes and will likely be the favorite to add Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint to his growing resume.
“I think Bahamian Squall might end up the favorite in the Sprint. He couldn’t be doing any better," said Fawkes. "We talked about maybe bringing him back in the Mr. Prospector (G3) after he won the Sunshine State so impressively, but decided to give him the extra time after running such a big race.
“I really think he’ll be as good if not better than Apriority, but we decided to take the opportunity to keep him with the Florida-breds while we can. I’m pretty sure he’ll do well in open, Graded stakes and there are plenty of opportunities for him to do that ahead."
A homebred son of Gone West out of Midway Squall, by Storm Bird, Bahamian Squall has three wins and three seconds in eight starts and hit his best stride last out winning Sunshine State over Indiano, who came back to win the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes impressively on Dec. 29.
Bahamian Squall’s 6-year-old half-brother Apriority, by Grand Slam, lost a head decision when second to emerging champion sprinter Amazombie in the 2011 Sunshine Million Sprint here before a track record allowance score going 6 ½ furlongs in his next start.
Apriority would go on to finish second in the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct and lost another tough nose decision when second in the Churchill Downs Sprint (G2). Apriority came back to win the Mr. Prospector here last winter and lost another tough one finishing second by a half-length in the Count Fleet Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park last April.
Jockey Luis Saez rides Bahamian Squall in a full field of 12 that also includes County Gun, Star Harbour, Quiz Whiz, Hello Prince, close It Out, Little Drama, Shockemeagain, Off the Jak, Black Diamond Cat, Cajun Breeze and Bernie the Maestro.