Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

The Sunshine Millions: From Gulfstream to Santa Anita

Posted by Brian Appleton on January 28, 2011

Last year’s tough-luck, hard-knocking 3-year-old colt, First Dude is set to make his 4-year-old debut in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park Saturday. After a high profile, if somewhat frustrating campaign in 2010 that saw him place in multiple Grade 1 stakes, First Dude is poised to start his 4-year-old season with a bang if he wins the Classic. The talented colt enters off an 8th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November and will run without blinkers for the first time since the Haskell Invitational.

Duke of Mischief and Birdrun will lineup against First Dude in the Classic as well as the 8-year-old veteran Dry Martini. Duke of Mischief had a turbulent campaign last year, winning 3 graded stakes and finishing the year off with two consecutive losses, the last coming after disqualification in the Clark Handicap (gr.1).

Birdrun posted a 4 ½ length upset over Duke of Mischief in the Carl Rose, 13 days before the Clark Handicap, and then earned a 105 Beyer at Belmont Park after winning a third-level optional claiming race.

Dry Martini hasn’t won since the Surburban in 2009 but he placed second behind Quality Road in that one’s powerful Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

First Dude was one of my favorite runners last year and I really hope he’ll be able to break out with a well deserved win in the Classic. A win here would set First Dude up nicely for a powerful 4-year-old campaign.

It’s now or never for Evening Jewel in the Sunshine Millions Distaff. According to trainer Jim Cassidy Evening Jewel, a 2010 Eclipse Award finalist for Champion 3 Year Old Filly, may be retired if she does not run well on Saturday.

In 2010 Evening Jewel was one of the nation’s premier sophomore fillies after winning the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, finishing second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks by a nose and winning three consecutive graded turf stakes including the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. In her last start Evening Jewel finished a disappointing 5th in the Monrovia Handicap (gr.3), a performance that did not surprise Cassidy who said bad weather had forced the filly to miss crucial training.

Stakes winner Briecat should provide the biggest challenge to Evening Jewel as well as stakes placed runners Amazing and All Due Respect. If Evening Jewel is anything like the Evening Jewel of 2010 she should run away with an easy win in the Distaff on Saturday.

Amen Hallelujah is back after more than 7 months away from the races as the favorite in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint. One of the top 3-year-old fillies of 2010 after wins in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez and Davona Dale, Amen Hallelujah has been recuperating from ankle issues that cropped up after her second place finish in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes.

Facing Amen Hallelujah is a field that includes Grade 1 winner Jessica Is Back. Jessica Is Back enters the Filly and Mare Sprint off two consecutive unplaced efforts, a 9th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and a 7th place finish in the Sugar Swirl Stakes last out.

Amen Hallelujah and Jessica Is Back may be the class of the field but it is by no means a two horse race with stakes winners Belle of the Hall, My Irish Girl and Wildcat Heiress. If her works are any indication, Amen Hallelujah should be in tip top shape for her return to action.

Presious Passion

The Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita has come up as one of the strongest turf races of the year so far and it’s no wonder. Entered in the sparkling event are Graded Stakes winners Jeranimo, The Usual Q. T. and Caracortado as well as multiple Grade 1 winner Presious Passion and the talented Soul Candy.

The Usual Q. T. has lost his last four starts including a 3rd in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes behind Jeranimo and a 3rd place finish behind Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Jeranimo along with The Usual Q. T. shares an advantage of already having run, and won, over Santa Anita’s turf. He won multiple graded stakes on both synthetic and turf last year and enters the Turf in excellent form.

Presious Passion is perhaps best remembered as the horse who almost won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf after setting blazing fractions and opening up daylight on the field only to lose by a neck to defending champion Conduit. The 8-year-old’s form has been declining of late and he has only 1 win in 7 starts since his Breeder’s Cup performance.

Caracortado enters the Turf off a 3rd place finish behind Twirling Candy and Smiling Tiger in the Malibu Stakes after encountering some traffic problems. Trainer Mike Machowsky has been touting his horse ever since the Malibu, expressing confidence in his abilities ever since the Malibu and stating that he expects a very good effort from the 4-year-old gelding.

My personal favorite in this race is Presious Passion and although he doesn’t seem to be quite his old self in recent months I never pick against the old veteran. It’s a very strong field and will no doubt set the tone for much of the turf division going into the rest of the year. Soul Candy is the most intriguing runner in the field and could prove to be a wild card.

Check back tomorrow night for a review of the Holy Bull, Forward Gal and Santa Monica Stakes. Enjoy your Saturday races until then and may all your horses win!


3 Responses to “The Sunshine Millions: From Gulfstream to Santa Anita”

  1. NJ Derek said

    It would be great to see Precious Passion get back in the winner’s circle and I’m with you on Soul Candy. I think he’s very intriguing at a nice price. The Classic is a tough one, Gulfstream’s speed bias certainly favors the dude, and he gets a much needed class break. Just not sure he’s that keen on winning races.

    Good luck this weekend.

    • Thanks Derek,
      It seems as though Presious Passion may need a class break for awhile.
      Soul Candy performed pretty well for third, he will probably improve of this effort.

      I think you’re right about First Dude, he completely shut down after he was taken farther off the pace than usual.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brian Appleton, Brian Appleton. Brian Appleton said: The Sunshine Millions: From Gulfstream to Santa Anita: http://wp.me/pFvCN-gR […]

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