Turf runners take their turn in the Sunshine Millions spotlight

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Jen Caldwell

January 15th, 2016

Gulfstream Park’s Sunshine Millions program on Saturday features six stakes worth a total $1.05 million, and three of those contests will take place on the track’s turf course.

One race before the feature event of the day ($250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic), 12 grass runners will line up in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf going 1 1/16 miles.

The competitive group includes Fundamental, My Point Exactly, Old Time Hockey, Manchurian High and Reporting Star, just to name a few.

The lightly raced Fundamental shows just one start over the Gulfstream turf, making his debut on that green in March and rallying to finish fifth despite being checked twice. In his most recent efforts, the Chad Brown pupil was runner-up in the Commonwealth Derby (G2), fifth in the Bryan Station S. and just a length back in fourth in the Hollywood Derby (G1) last out on November 28.

“He had a bit of trouble that day (in the Hollywood Derby), but I think he’s a nice horse,” Brown said. “He’s been training very well. The distance might be a bit short for him, but it’s worth taking a shot for the money. He doesn’t have much early speed so he’ll have to run late.”

Old Time Hockey brings a two-race win streak into the race after taking an optional claimer by 19 lengths in September and posting a head score in the Millions Turf Preview last out on November 7 at Gulfstream Park West. The seven-year-old veteran runner just missed by a head in the 2014 running of the Sunshine Millions Turf, and will be looking to earn a stakes hat trick this time around.

Manchurian High already knows what it’s like to win the race, having done so in 2015 by 3 1/4 lengths over the returning Reporting Star. He’s scored one victory since, capturing an allowance at Keeneland in early October, and finished sixth in the 1 1/2-mile W.L. McKnight H. (G3) over the course in late December.

Reporting Star has done a bit better than that in six races since the 2015 Sunshine Millions Turf. The six-year-old gelding would go on to take both the Play the King S. (Can-G2) and El Prado S., the latter of which came in his most recent start on December 12. He also ran close fifths in the Woodbine Mile (Can-G1) and Canadian International (Can-G1), and was fourth by only a neck in the Millions Turf Preview.

The $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf will kick off the stakes action at Gulfstream on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile affair attracted a field of seven distaffers, including Unbridled Courage and Lori’s Store.

Unbridled Courage is still looking for her first stakes score after running third in the Battle of New Orleans S. and fourth in the South Beach S. in her past pair. The chestnut four-year-old’s only other black-type appearances resulted in another fourth in the Ladies Turf S. at Kentucky Downs in September and a ninth in the Pucker Up S. (G3) in August at Arlington.

That latter event was actually Unbridled Courage’s grass debut, so she’s also seeking a first win on the green Saturday with Javier Castellano taking the mount.

“She only got beat, what, a couple lengths? She came out really good,” trainer Peter Walder said in regards to the filly’s most recent effort. “She’s run against some nice horses and she’s got some talent herself. She ran at the Fair Grounds on a Saturday and she shipped down here the following Friday and literally ran a week later. Now that she’s been in the barn a while, she should be more settled in and I’m looking forward to the race.

“I think she might be a little bit better on the dirt, but her turf form is good,” Walder added. “It’s strictly a Florida-bred race and you’ve got the best rider in the country on her, so why not? Hopefully all things add up to a win.”

Lori’s Store got the better of Unbridled Courage in the South Beach S. last out, but also finished behind her when seventh in the Ladies Turf. The six-year-old gray mare already boasts a pair of state-bred stakes wins from last summer and gets John Velazquez in the irons.

Completing the turf stakes action on Saturday at Gulfstream will be the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf Sprint at five furlongs.

Twelve runners comprised of horses, geldings, a filly and a mare, and one-main track only runner, were entered.

The pair of distaffers in the race actually ran one-two in the Millions Turf Sprint Preview on November 7. Jewel of the Cat, who brings a two-race win streak into the Sunshine Millions, scored by three lengths over Katie’s Kiss. The latter miss returned to be a half-length second in the Lightning City S. at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer David Fawkes.

“She came out of the last race good and she’s been training good, and this time we don’t have to ship and run,” trainer David Fawkes said. “She’s doing good right now. We can be close or come from off of it. I’ll let the jockey ride his race. Everything’s good. She’s a nice filly. She really has grown up a lot. She’s got a lot of leg on her.”

Delta Bluesman and Noble Prince dead-heated just a head back of Katie’s Kiss in third in the Millions Turf Sprint Preview. They also squared off in their next race last out, with Delta Bluesman taking second in the Claiming Crown Canterbury while Noble Prince finished fifth.

Others of note in the Sunshine Millions Turf Sprint are Turf Monster H. (G3) victor Pure Sensation and Woodford S. (G3) hero Amelia’s Wild Ride.

Old Time Hockey photo courtesy of Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography
Lori’s Store photo courtesy of Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography
Jewel of a Cat photo courtesy of Leslie Martin/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