Marquee Stars Lead Cast in Florida Sunshine Millions Saturday
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Stronach Stable’s undefeated 4-year-old filly Awesome Feather, Pinnacle Racing and Bill Kaplan’s 2011 Eclipse champion filly or mare sprinter Musical Romance and Reeves Thoroughbreds and partners’ Mucho Macho Man are among the most accomplished of 48 Florida-breds entered Sunday to run in the six $1.3 million Florida Sunshine Millions Stakes to be run Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
“Florida Sunshine Millions Day is going to be a tremendous day of championship racing,” said Gulfstream Park’s Racing Secretary Dan Bork. “The public is going to see two champions racing at Gulfstream Park – Awesome Feather and Musical Romance – along with Mucho Macho Man, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Every race will feature graded-stakes winners and many of the top horses in the country.”
Jockey Ramon Dominguez rides Mucho Macho Man in the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at 1 1/18 miles, the richest of the six races worth a total of $1.3 million. Trained by Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man finished a good third behind Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last spring, but tailed off finishing sixth in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico and seventh in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Mucho Macho Man was sent to the sidelines after the Belmont for a good freshening and came back strong at Aqueduct on Nov. 9 with a very impressive 5 ¾ lengths victory in a one-mile allowance race. In his lone start here early last year he finished fourth behind Dialed In in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) before shipping to New Orleans to score in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.
A son of Macho Uno, Mucho Macho Man faces six rivals in the Classic with Robert Sahn and Stan Hough’s 4-year-old Adios Charlie and Alex and Joann Lieblong and partners’ 6-year-old Duke of Mischief among the leading contenders.
Adios Charlie has posted three wins and three second in as many starts career. He emerged as a player in the 3-year-old division last spring winning the Jerome Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in April by 2 ½ lengths and finished second in both the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) in mid-May and Dwyer Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on July 2.
A $400,000 OBS March 2-year-old purchase by Indian Charlie, Adios Charlie looked sharp winning a one-mile allowance race here on Dec. 16 by 3 ¼ lengths in his first start since the Dwyer. Leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano will have the return call.
Duke of Mischief is a handicap division veteran and finished second to Tackleberry in the Sunshine Millions Classic here last year for trainer David Fawkes. The chestnut son of Graeme Hall has posted earnings of nearly $1.7 million with victories in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), Philip H. Iselin Handicap (G3) at Monmouth Park and Charles Town Classic (G3) among the highlights. Jockey Joe Bravo has the mount.
Awesome Feather Puts Perfect Record on Line in Distaff
Stronach Stable’s Awesome Feather launches a 2012 campaign that her connections hope could lead to another Eclipse Award season in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at 1 1/8 miles as the likely heavy favorite in a field of six fillies and mares with regular jockey Jeffrey Sanchez aboard for trainer Chad Brown.
Awesome Feather won all six of her races as a 2-year-old in 2010 for breeder Jacks or Better Farm and trainer Stanley Gold, five at Calder and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs to seal and Eclipse Award campaign. Frank Stronach bought the daughter of Awesome of Course just days later at the Fasig-Tipton November sales for $2.3 million.
Awesome Feather’s career was put on hold for most of the 2011 season because of a tendon issue, but she picked up where she left off with two impressive victories for Brown in New York toward the end of the year, winning the Le Slew overnight stakes at Belmont by two lengths going seven furlongs on Oct. 8 and the Gazelle Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct on Nov. 26 by 5 ¼ lengths at 1 1/8 miles.
Awesome Feather’s rivals with the best chance to upset appear to be Buongiorno A. Tutti Stable’s 6-year-old Sweet Repent, winner of this race in 2010 and Manoel Cruz to ride for trainer Dave Braddy, and John Oxley’s 4-year-old Delightful Mary, third to Awesome Feather in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Jockey Luis Contreras rides her for trainer Mark Casse.
Musical Romance Begins Eclipse Title Defense in Filly & Mare Sprint
Musical Romance completed a busy campaign of 14 starts in 2012 posting a 20-to-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and then won the Eclipse vote over fellow division finalists Hilda’s Passion and Sassy Image.
Regular jockey Juan Leyva takes his regular place aboard Musical Romance for trainer and co-owner Bill Kaplan as she takes on six rivals in the $150,000 Sunshine Million Filly & Mare Sprint at six furlongs. The 5-year-old daughter of Concorde’s Tune ran well in this race finishing fourth early last year, but beaten only three-quarters of a length for it all.
Musical Romance is the champion but will face a strong challenge Saturday with Hardacre Farm’s 4-year-old filly Pomeroys Pistol lining up with jockey Javier Castellano to ride for owner-trainer Amy Tarrant. A daughter of Pomeroy, Pomeroys Pistol finished fourth behind Musical Romance in the Breeders’ Cup after bobbling at the start in a good effort and came back with sharp score here in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) on Dec. 10.
Little Mike the ‘Horse for Course’ in Turf
Priscilla Vaccarezza’s 5-year-old homebred gelding Little Mike was among the star performers of the Gulfstream meet last year when he swept to three Graded stakes victories on turf for trainer Dale Romans – the Fort Lauderdale (G3), Canadian Turf (G3) and Appleton (G3) -- punctuated by a close-up sixth in the Gulfstream Turf Handicap (G1).
A son of Spanish Steps, Little Mike went to the sidelines after the Apr. 3 Appleton, but signaled he was ready for another campaign over his favorite course winning a one-mile allowance race on Dec. 22 by a nose in a game effort. Regular rider Joe Bravo will be aboard Little Mike in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf in a field of 11.
Trip for A.J. Defends Title in Filly & Mare Turf
Peter Fuller’s 5-year-old homebred mare Trip for A.J. scored the biggest and richest of her 10 career victories from 26 starts winning the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf a year ago by a hard-fought half length over Team Block and Rich Ege’s 6-year-old Askbut I Won’ttell, and the rematch is set for Saturday’s edition of the $150,000 test at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
One difference from last year for the Trip for A.J. team is that owner-breeder Peter Fuller’s daughter Abigail Fuller has come out of retirement as a jockey and has ridden the daughter of Trippi in her last two starts for trainer Milt Wolfson, finishing game second by a neck in the My Charmer Handicap (G3) at Calder in November and a close-up third last out in the South Beach Stakes here on Dec. 11.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh rides Askbut I Won’ttell for trainer Chris Block as the daughter of Horse Chestnut bids to regain the form that saw her win the Cardinal Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs and My Charmer at Calder late in 2010, She will need to bounce back from a dull try when 11th last out in the South Beach over the course on Dec. 11.
Although the one-two from last year’s race will go to the post, two others in the field may end up the favorites in the field of nine with jockey Ramon Dominguez aboard Live Oak Plantation’s 5-year-old homebred Unbridled Humor for trainer Graham Motion and Paco Lopez up on Frank Calabrese’s 6-year-old Romacaca for trainer Nick Canani.
A daughter of Distorted Humor, Unbridled Humor makes her first start since a very good fourth-place try last out in the Matriarch Stakes (G1) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25, beaten 2 ¾ lengths for it all. She won the Noble Damsel Stakes (G3) and finished second in the Athenia (G3) at Belmont in her two previous starts.
Romacaca won five straight last year and has four from seven career starts over the Gulfstream course. She was claimed here in 2009 for $25,000 and gone on to push her career earnings over $600,000. The daughter of Running Stag won the Matchmaker Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park during her win streak last season and makes her first start since finishing a good third in the Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga on Aug. 27.
Apriority Gets Second Chance in Sunshine Millions Sprint
Donald Dizney’s 5-year-old homebred Apriority made an impressive stakes race debut a year ago for trainer David Fawkes shipping to California and finishing second by a head in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita behind Amazombie. The latter went on to seal an Eclipse championship campaign winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
Apriority rose quickly in the division last spring finishing a game second in the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct in April and second in the Churchill Downs Handicap (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day, but things did not work out as well the second half of the season, and the son of Grand Slam was obviously not at his best when sixth behind Amazombie in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
However, Apriority has come back strong since then to win the six-furlong Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) on Dec. 31 by a nose after stumbling badly at the start. That performance will likely make him the horse to beat and favorite in a field of eight drawn for Saturday’s renewal of the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at six furlongs with jockey Luis Saez in the saddle.