Sr. Quisqueyano, Saraguaro star in Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream
The centerpiece event is the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic, which will be followed by the 45th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony Saturday evening in Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Theater.
Ten were entered in the Florida-bred restricted event, including last year’s winner, Sr. Quisqueyano, and Mr. Jordan, who returns from just a week break after finishing fifth in last Saturday’s Hal’s Hope S. (G3).
Sr. Quisqueyano attempts a return to the winner’s circle while making his six-year-old bow in this spot. The bay horse competed six times last year but his only win came at 20-1 in the Sunshine Millions Classic in his 2015 opener. It was also his first start for new trainer Peter Walder after being claimed a month earlier
“First off the claim and he won. That was pretty exciting,” Walder said. “I’ve kind of been pointing to this race all year. It’s his time to wake up.”
Sr. Quisqueyano was last seen fading to fifth in a New Year’s Eve optional claimer at Gulfstream that read more like a stakes race.
“He came back good. It’s not often when you run fifth and you’re kind of happy, but we got what we were looking for,” Walder said. “That was a ridiculous allowance race that was more like a Grade 2. I thought I could train him fit. Obviously, I couldn’t, so I’m going to run him fit (in the Classic).”
Edgard Zayas – aboard for that effort, last year’s Sunshine Millions Classic win and a neck second in the Skip Away S. (G3) two races later – retains the mount.
Walder will also saddle Runs With Bulls in the race. The seven-year-old gelding exits a win in the Claiming Crown Iron Horse.
“I keep on teasing everybody, saying he’s going to beat (Sr. Quisqueyano). The boys in the barn have a bet going on,” Walder grinned. “He ran awesome in the Claiming Crown. He looks like he’ll run all day. His numbers are good. Why not? Running two at them is better than one.”
Mr. Jordan is hoping luck is on his side this time after being bumped and impeded at the start of last Saturday’s Hal’s Hope. The Ed Plesa Jr. trainee captured the Tarpon S. at Gulfstream in April, then was given some time off and reappeared at Monmouth Park to take the Pegasus S. (G3) in late June. The gray colt closed out his sophomore campaign with a third-placing in the Harlan’s Holiday S. prior to making his seasonal bow on January 9.
Also of note in the Sunshine Millions Classic is Saraguaro, who seeks his third straight stakes victory. The four-year-old chestnut captured the Foolish Pleasure division of the Florida Sire S. series before adding a 1 1/4-length victory in the Millions Classic Preview to his resume.
Saraguaro didn’t really get going in 2015 until the summer, having closed out his juvenile campaign by tripping over a fallen horse on December 23, 2014. Though he appeared to have escaped injury, he was sent to the sidelines following a runner-up effort behind eventual Blue Grass (G1) second and Kentucky Derby (G1) fifth-placer Danzig Moon in a maiden last February.
“He trained good after he fell and finished second to Danzig Moon, but after that he just wasn’t right. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Nothing showed up,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “We decided to back off on him, and it’s paying off now. After the fall, he just wasn’t traveling right for a while. Now he’s traveling perfect.”
Saraguaro broke his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths in his first race back last July at Gulfstream. He dropped his next two starts at seven furlongs and a mile before stretching out to take the Foolish Pleasure and Millions Classic Preview, both at 1 1/16 miles.
“I think distance is the key,” Joseph said. “I think the mile and an eighth (of Saturday’s race) is going to be even better for him.”
A couple races earlier on the Sunshine Millions program, 10 fillies and mares will line up in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at seven furlongs.
Flutterby was third in last year’s edition of the race, and will be looking to get back on the winning track after a third-placing in the Millions Distaff Preview interrupted a two-stakes win streak. Prior to that pair of wins she was second in the Princess Rooney H. (G2) on July 5.
The five-year-old chestnut is a source of pride for 95-year-old Jerry Bozzo, who bred, owns and trains the mare.
“I’ve been breeding horses from the first, since I got into the game,” Bozzo said. “Flutterby is a fourth generation. She’s not a freak. She’s a product of my breeding. So I take double the claim there.
“She means everything, really. She's what I’ve been in the game for 99 years for,” chuckled Bozzo, a Carnegie Mellon and MIT grad, retired civil engineer, glass bottle manufacturer, World War II veteran, and aspiring novelist.
“Actually, I am 95 now, you know. I had a birthday.”
The top two from the Millions Distaff Preview are back as well on Saturday. Legal Laura took that November 7 event prior to finishing sixth in the Rampart (G3) on December 12. My Miss Venezuela followed her runner-up effort with a third in the Orleans S. and a fourth-placing in the Tiffany Lass S.
Also entered Saturday are Grade 3 heroine Dogwood Trail, fourth in the Sugar Swirl S. (G3) last out on December 26, and Moment of Delight, who filled the fourth spot in both the Millions Distaff Preview and Rampart in her last two.
Rounding out the main track stakes on the Sunshine Millions program is the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint featuring an eight-strong field that includes Wildcat Red, X Y Jet and C. Zee.
Wildcat Red was a contender on the 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, taking both the Hutcheson S. (G3) and Fountain of Youth S. (G2) before just missing by a neck in the Florida Derby (G1). The Jose Garoffalo trainee never really had a chance in the Kentucky Derby, though, after bobbling at the start, being bumped, steadied and shuffled back to last. The bay eventually finished 18th and would score just once more during his sophomore campaign.
Wildcat Red opened his four-year-old season with a fifth-placing in the Sunshine Millions Classic but wouldn’t be seen again until running third in the Smile Sprint S. (G2) and scoring in the Teddy Drone S. over the summer. He closed out 2015 with a fourth in the August 29 Forego S. (G1) and a fifth-placing in the Vosburgh Invitational (G1) on September 26.
“I just gave him a layoff. He had a tough summer, so we decided to give him a couple months off and that’s what we did,” Garoffalo said. “He came back full of himself and he’s back again. We have to run a good race and then we’ll see where we go. We’ll start from here.
“Every time he comes back it’s very important for us because we’re always waiting for his comeback all the time. He’s very good now. We gave him the time he needed. We are ready to run. He is more focused than before and stronger, which is good for him. He grew up a lot and put on some weight. He’s a bigger horse,” Garoffalo continued.
“He’s coming back in a good spot for him because it’s a Florida-bred stake, but there is a tough horse which is X Y Jet. We have to run the race. That horse ran good the other day and he won impressively, but my horse has run with better horses. We have to see in the race.”
X Y Jet also ran in the Hutcheson, albeit last year’s edition, and just missed by a half-length in the seven-furlong contest. Trainer Jorge Navarro kept the gray gelding in the sprinting ranks and X Y Jet really came on in the fall after being off all summer, racking up wins in a pair of optional claimers as well as a 9 1/4-length victory in the Mr. Prospector S. (G3) last out in mid-December.
“The horse is doing excellent. I can’t ask for more. He’s ready,” Navarro said. “He’s more mature now. I can’t wait for the race.”
X Y Jet put in his first work of the New Year on January 7, breezing three-quarters in 1:13.60 at Navarro’s Gulfstream Park West base.
“Before, you had to take him out to the pole to work. Now he does everything himself. He worked (five furlongs) in a minute flat, just on cruise control. He wasn’t doing anything. He switched leads perfectly and came home good,” Navarro said.
“He’s been good, really good. Probably a week before the workout he wanted to do something already. I like to keep him fresh, that’s the way I’ve been training him, but he’s showing me he’s ready. He’s getting better and better.”
Finishing well back in third in the Mr. Prospector was C. Zee, who is currently 4-3-1 from nine starts at Gulfstream. The Stanley Gold-trained five-year-old is another Hutcheson graduate, running second behind Wildcat Red in 2014. He also boasts a win in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) last February and a runner-up effort in Keeneland’s Commonwealth S. (G3).
Sr. Quisqueyano photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography
Flutterby photo courtesy of Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography
X Y Jet photo courtesy of Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography
Gulfstream Sunshine Millions Show 6: With 6 stakes, and over $1 Million on the line, you don’t want to miss the Sunshine Millions this Saturday at Gulfstream Park.Complete details may be found at http://www.twinspires.com/gulfstream-sunshine-millions-show-6.