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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM


Intriguing Matchups...Wagers For Everyone

On Saturday Gulfstream Park hosts their annual SUNSHINE MILLIONS SERIES for Florida Breds.

This time of year prime contenders facing each other is a scarce commodity so even if the series doesn’t bring out absolute top of the line runners, purse money that runs from $150,000 for four of the races to $300,000 for the Distaff to $400,000 for the Classic has drawn more than a handful of capable contenders that should make at least 5 of the 6 races very competitive. And competitive makes for fair value.

What is also enticing about this series is the number of wagers that are available.

On the 11 race program the 6 Sunshine Millions Races are carded as the 5th through the 10th. There is of course exotic wagering on each and there are running daily doubles through the 11th (non Sunshine Millions Race.) The Pick 3’s also run in sequence beginning with Races 5-7 and continues through Races 9-11. There is also a 20 cent Rainbow Pick 6 from Races 6-11, a 50 cent Pick 5 from Races 7-11 and the 50 cent Pick 4 that runs from Races 8-11. It is also worth noting that Gulfstream also allows bettors to play a 50 cent Trifecta on all races.

So with all those wagering opportunities and with the minimum bet amount allowing every level of player to get involved...even in the Pick 6...let’s take a look at the races.

RACE 5 - SUNSHINE MILLIONS DISTAFF - F&M 4-Years Old & Up...1 1/8 Miles
What this field might lack in numbers of entrants (7 signed on) it more than makes up for in competitiveness. Three of the key runners exit the December 29 Ocala Stakes, a restricted $100,000 mile test that served as the prep for this.

My Pal Chrissy was sent off as the odds-on favorite in that race but could at best manage a third place finish behind Devil’s Cave and Sweet N Discreet, each of whom she’ll meet again today. Now bettors will be asked not only to determine if My Pal Chrissy can turn the tables on the other two but how all of the three will deal with adding yet another furlong to their resumes seeing that she was closing ground late in the race while the other two ran in tandem on the front end but have never been further than the mile they raced in the Ocala.

For her part, Sweet N Discreet, despite giving up the lead late in the Ocala to Devil’s Cave appears better suited to the addition of ground. The daughter of Discreet Cat out of a Gone West mare was facing stakes rivals for the first time, stretched out from 6 furlongs in her prior and may have moved a bit too soon. Regular rider Joe Bravo remains aboard and she should save ground from the rail.

The Martin Wolfson trained Devil’s Cave also went beyond 6 ½ furlongs for the first time in her career in winning the Ocala but will have to prove she can relax a bit more if she is to both contend on the front end and hold off My Pal Chrissy who has already been 9 furlongs three times in her career.

The filly that might benefit most from the speed duel and also have a bit of a class edge is the Tom Albertrani trained Toasting. After a bit of a faltering vs some good rivals during the summer on the NY circuit the daughter of Congrats appears to have regained her best form with a win in the $100K Dream Rush Stakes in October at Belmont and a sharp second in the Grade III Comely at Aqueduct at the end of November. She has worked well for her return and if she runs back to previous on-the-board finishes vs the likes of Fiftyshaadesofhay, Dreaming Of Julia and My happy face she could be very tough.

The field is completed by Dreamlicious, who did show signs of life vs lesser allowance foes in her last but will have to improve much more than her 12 lengths beaten 4th behind My Pal Chrissy in the Sunshine Distaff Prevue here in November, the lightly raced Sky Skier, who did well in winning an allowance race here in her first race beyond 6 furlongs in her last and Burning Truth, another who has never been the distance and has had all of her win success vs lesser foes and on turf or over a sloppy course.

RACE 6 - SUNSHINE MILLIONS F&M TURF - 4-Years Old & Up...1 1/8 Miles
There are 8 fillies and mares signed on for this event and the veteran turf runners have combined to race 102 times over various grass courses.
Let’s take a look at the field from the Rail out.

Parranda - The English Channel mare is a horse for the course with 4 wins from 9 tries over the GP sod. She finished won her second straight over the grass when she claimed top honors in the Sunshine F&M Prevue in early November and in her last was beaten less than two lengths in the Grade III My Charmer at Calder 6 weeks ago. Stamina is not an issue and she gets the services of turf ace Jose Lezcano.

Sharapova Slams - The Cowtown filly will once again be asked to compete with rivals that might be a tad above her level. She tried non-graded stakes foes in her last two and was well-beaten at long odds. She does have a pair of wins over the surface but her latest was against NW2L $25K claimers. She’ll have to improve significantly to be a factor.

Wishing Gate - It is hard to argue that she hasn’t faced the best in her recent tries and although she checked in 6th in the Grade I Matriarch in her most recenbt6b she was beaten less than 2 lengths for it all and has won 3 of her last 5, including the Grade III Autumn Mist and the Grade II San Clemente. She is ultra consistent as a closer and rarely finds herself in trouble. The distance suits Gary Stevens makes the trip east with her...which must be considered a big plus.

Nicki Starshine - Trainer William White has kept her busy in the morning since her failure at 64-1 in the 100K South Beach here in mid-December. If that were her only recent bad race she could be forgiven but after a string of promising turf efforts vs decent company at Calder she has failed to hit the board and dropped three straight by a combined 24 lengths. She does have back form to indicate she can compete on her best but will have to discover it to do so on Saturday.

Silista - The Macho Uno filly has not raced since checking in second behind Parranda in the Sunshine F&M Prevue in early November but has shown enough flashes to indicate that she could be  a factor for at least a piece of this. In addition, the layoff shouldn’t be a big hurdle as she has worked forwardly and trainer Todd Pletcher usually has them fit off the break. The conditioner’s main man Javier Castellano takes the mount.

Creative License - This is another in a closely matched group of contenders who are usually around for a piece but usually settle for the minor awards. The daughter of Showing Up checked in a close up 4th behind three rivals who are back in here today when she competed in the Sunshine F&M Turf Prevue and was 3rd behind Parranda and Millenia on the Our Dear Peg stakes here in late September. She could reverse those but only for a lesser award.

Millenia - The veteran race mare feeds right into what we’ve said about a number of the others in here. She is more often the bridesmaid than the bride. The David Fawkes trained daughter of Milwaukee Brew was up the track vs better in the Grade III My Charmer last out but prior to that had a win a second and a third against this level. When putting together exotics she can’t be overlooked.

E. B Ryder - Trainer Martin Wolfson has won 23% of his starts at the meet so anything he sends out deserves a careful look. That being said, this filly has turned in a pair of real clunkers in her last three, getting beat 12 lengths in the Grade II Miss Revere at CD in her last and 11 lengths in the Ta Wee here three back. That being said, she has been freshened by the conditioner, has a habit of running a good one every other race of late and drew the services of Julien Leparoux.

From a betting standpoint the interesting aspect of this race is that even if you cede the win to Wishing Gate, any of the other seven could jump up and claim minor honors in any given order.

RACE 6 - SUNSHINE MILLIONS F&M SPRINT - 4-Years Old & Up...6 Furlongs
As of press time there were 7 ladies entered for this test but two of them, My Pal Chrissy and Sweet N Discreet were also cross-entered in the Distaff (see preview above.)

Of that pair, given the speed showed in the mile Ocala by Sweet N Discreet, just turning back in distance off that stamina builder might suit her better as a front runner than it would My Pal Chrissy, who is more of a tracker and closer. That being said, there is more than enough speed in here to present early pace problems for the former and a fast battle up front for the latter to close into. Of the two options, My Pal Chrissy appears much better suited, however, as she has won 5 of 9 at the distance, including the 100K Musical Romance and 100K Paseana Stakes over this surface in mid-August and mid-September.

If either or both enters and races at their best, they will still be challenged by the currently sharp twosome of Ullapool and R Free Roll.

Ullapool has won three straight sprints in unchallenged fashion and copped 4 of 6 since being claimed by current conditioner Eddie Kenneally at Belmont last May. There is little secret to her game, she goes right to the front and plays "catch me." She has had the lead at first and second call in her last seven races, five of which were wins and has turned in a series of sharp works at Palm Meadows since winning the Garland Of Roses at Aqueduct on 12/7.

R Free Roll has also proved battle tested and consistent with 4 wins, 3 second and a third in her last 10 starts, 8 of which have been at various stakes levels. Her racing style says she’ll be among the pace setters and like the others of her ilk might need to find a lot late given the projected contentious pace, but she does have the best BRIS speed figure at the distance and is a tough one to toss.

The remaining three runners might get the least mutuel support on Saturday, but none are an easy toss.

Salamera, the lightly raced Successful Appeal filly will be making just her 6th career start and second since November 17. The Radolfo Garcia trainee was third behind Sweet N Discreet in a second level allowance over this surface in her most recent and could still have room for improvement. Although her career has been interrupted by issues she was still good enough to win the JJ’s Dream Stakes at Calder in her second lifetime start and then finish second to the well regarded Kauai Katie in the Grade II Adirondack during her juvenile campaign. She could be a developing sleeper.

Rounding out the field are Ladyfromhavana who steps up off an impressive daylight victory over entry level allowance rivals and Classic Point, who hasn’t been beaten badly in her most recent tries, including a third behind Ullapool three back and an even fourth behind R Free Roll in the Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes here 5 weeks ago.

This is a tricky race to gauge given the contentious pace potentials and the question of which race the two cross-entered runners will choose.

RACE 8 - SUNSHINE MILLIONS TURF - 4-Years Old & Up...1 1/8 Miles

By far the deepest and most equally balanced race of the six the Turf has drawn a total of 10 runners. Let’s take a look at each from the rail out.

Tiz Gianni - The Giacomo horse got his first win in 10 tries vs 30K claimers in his last and was haltered out of the race by Bruce Brown. Prior to that win he’d been grabbing minor awards in second level allowance/optional claimers for a long time so stepping back up here indicates that is the best he could hope for unless Brown is a miracle worker.

Spring Up - The 4-year old son of Spring At Last improved considerably after being claimed by John Sadler for 20K at Del mar in July. Whether he is ready to continue improving remains to be seen but on the west coast he did win at an 80K claiming tab two back and beat entry level allowance foes in his last and Sadler is not one to ship for the heck of it.

Blameshifter - He is one of many in the race who is very difficult to envision in the winner’s circle but wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he claims a minor piece. He shipped to Tampa for his last and was beaten ¾ of a length vs Optional 100K claimers after running evenly in the 125K Claiming Crown Emerald here two back and finishing an even 6th (beaten 3 ¾ lengths) in the Millions Turf Preview here on November 9.

Hobbs - The 5-year old Put It Back gelding will go second off the layoff after getting bumped at the start and steadied in the 100K El Prado here on 12/28. He has shown an ability to find the winner’s circle with 6 wins from 19 career turf starts but 4 of his last 5 have left much to be desired so he’ll have to regain his best prior form to have a say. At least those who believe he might will get a price.

Star Channel - The Eddie Kenneally trainee makes his first start since early November following a series of useful works. The conditioner usually brings them back fit so the question for this guy isn’t whether he has shown he can compete with this kind...he can. The question is which side of his on again-off again form will be on display. Tough to leave out...understandable to toss.

Tune Me In - Another running off a layoff for a good layoff trainer. The Christophe Clement trained son of Concorde’s Tune has only 2 wins from 13 tries the last two years and has not won a race since the Grade III Cliff Hanger at Monmouth in September of 2012. But his recent races were run vs Graded rivals under the tutelage of Bruce Alexander and Clement has turned around more than one struggling runner over his career. He might surprise.

Bad Debt - With so many horses in this race exhibiting just good enough to cash a check attributes this guy might be the one runner you can build an exotic around from the bottom up. The Michael Trombetta trained son of Grand Reward has proven himself as reliable as the come with a career 32-12-10-10 turf mark, a record of 21-4-5-8 the last two years and a Gulfstream mark of 12-3-3-3. In fact he has either won or been beaten 3 ½ lengths or less for it all in his last 15 races. He is not one to ignore.

Bim Bam - One of the few in here that appear in a bit deep the Ron Moquett shipper did win his first race since 2011 when he beat 25K claimers on the turf at Remington. He did try tough graded foes last spring at Fair Grounds and CD but was soundly beaten and may not have recovered from the experience. This is his first since the Remington race in early November and he will need to step up big time to factor.

Racing Aptitude - This will be the first start since May for the David Fawkes 6-year old gelding. Based on the works and running style it is likely that the son of Aptitude will be on the muscle and part of if not the pace setter. Based on his lack of success anywhere but on the Del mar turf of late it would be reasonable to think that the early run ends somewhere on the far turn. Even though speed sometimes kills on this turf course he is tough to back.

Old Time Hockey - If there were ever a horse with a 7-0-0-1 mark over the course of the last year that you might have to consider, this would be the one. There is no argument that he has cumulatively faced the best company. And despite the subpar resume he has not often been disgraced while 6 of his last 10 races have been vs Grade II rivals. His works at Santa Anita before shipping east yesterday are sterling and trainer Tom Proctor has enlisted the services of Gary Stevens. He is not a toss.

RACE 9 - SUNSHINE MILLIONS SPRINT - 4-Years Old & Up...6 Furlongs

More often than not the claiming game turns craps rather than gold. But for the connections of Ribo Bobo, the very likely Sunshine Millions Sprint post time favorite, the $6,259 claim back in March of 2013 has turned into Fort Knox.

Following the claim he won six of his next seven as he steadily climbed the class ladder and made a winning return to the Florida scene of the claim last out as the odds-on favorite in the Claiming Crown Express Stakes Dec. 7.

Another fortuitous claim who will be challenging Ribo Bobo in the sprint is Star Harbour. The 6-year old Indian Charlie horse was claimed by the Marco Thoroughbred club for 35K in late August at Saratoga and followed the halter with a good third in the Duck Dance Stakes at Belmont before beating Grade Stakes winners Jackson Bend and Bahamian Squall in the Sunshine Stakes here in early December. In his last he once again showed resilient speed when he tried to make all the pace in the Grade III Mr. Prospector and weekend late behind Singanothersong and Fort Louden, the latter of whom he’ll meet again on Saturday.

Fort Louden is one of two entered by trainer Stanley Gold. It is probably safe to say that Fort Louden, who finished second in the Mr. Prospector in his most recent, is a better fit than Grande Shores who exits an optional allowance/10K claimer in his most recent. However, Fort Louden had shown very little prior to the Mr. Prospector while Grande Shores has hit the board in his last 8 while carefully placed in conditioned allowance races, including a few in which he chased closely behind Black Diamond Cat and Close It Out, each of whom is entered in this race.

Black Diamond Cat won both the Housebuster and Montbrook, a pair of 100K stakes races her in August and September before dropping the Kenny Noe Stakes at Calder and rallying much too late in the Mr. Prospector (4th) in his last. His biggest challenge is getting up in time at 6 furlongs as the Housebuster and Montbrook were at 7 furlongs and a mile respectively and his 6 panel record shows only 3 wins from 25 tries. However, he usually fires so one can be forgiven for using him underneath in the exotics.

Close It Out is another that should be seriously considered for the exotics. He has a solid 13-4-2-4 mark at 6 furlongs and enters here off a sharp second in the Kenny Noe last out.

Trainer Joe Orseno has entered Happy My Way following a dominant win over second level allowance/optional 62.5K claimers 5 weeks ago. The son of Wilko is 2 for 2 over the Gulfstream Surface and 2 for 3 overall at the distance. His sharp allowance win, when going turf to dirt has been followed by a series of sharp drills since, with the last being over the grass with the hopes of perhaps repeating the formula. He should be considered.

Wrapping up the field are Bear Tough Tiger, another who can’t be overlooked. He has won 3 of his last 5, all vs upper level allowance/optional $62.5K claimers, with his two losses coming in the Grade I Neartic on the turf at Woodbine and the Grade II Kennedy Road on the Woodbine synthetic. He has won 11 of 20 in his career and is 7 for 9 at 6 furlongs over all different surfaces. He is a very interesting prospect.

Last of all is Apriority. For the most part he has fallen on hard times of late, finishing well off the board in 4 of his last 5, beaten an average of 8 lengths since moving from the barn of Bob Baffert to that of David Fawkes. Yet his lone win was by 5 ½ lengths in 1:09 2/5 over this race track with a BRIS speed figure of 102.

This is yet another of those mix and match deep as you want to go contests that figures to pay off well.

The final race of the Sunshine Millions Six doesn’t figure to fall into the same category.

RACE 9 - SUNSHINE MILLIONS CLASSIC - 4-Years Old & Up...1 1/8 Miles
On paper it appears as though this six horse field will be dominated by return-to-the-races BC Classic winner Mucho Mach Man.

How good must it be to be in a position to have the first race of a new campaign, a get back into form test, if you will that guarantees you at least a $240,000 payday.

Of course they don’t run the races on paper but if all goes according to Hoyle the Classic should be a case of Mucho Macho Man first under the wire and every other horse battling for the spoils.

There can be no questioning the doggedness and consistency of the 6-year old son of Macho Uno and his works in preparation are those usually reserved for a brilliant colt just turning 4-years old. Gary Stevens, who rode him to victory in the BC Classic is aboard and even if only 90% ready it is his race to lose.
Chasing behind him are...

Decaf Again - Claimed for 6.25K four back by Barry Rose, the best he could do since is a third vs open 16K claimers three back. Desperately overmatched.

Joshua’s Comprise - Has been beaten double digits in 4 of his last 6 with a distant third in the Quality Road and a lackluster 4th in the Grade III Hooper at Calder two back. Could plod onto the board by default.

Rule Number Six - Beaten double digits vs mid-level allowance/optional claimers in 3 of his last 4 (three of those on grass) and a late run 4th at 33-1 in the Claiming Crown Stakes here two back.

Bernie The Maestro - Another who has been facing mid-level allowance optional claimers and starter allowances in his recent forays but at least he has shown good speed and form and actually found the winner’s circle 4 times in 7 tries and hit the board in another.

Gourmet Dinner - The Laurel shipper has a win and 4 thirds in his last six and has done that against relatively solid rivals compared to the rest in here. He has a third in the With Anticipation Stakes at Delaware among those races and among the five afterthoughts to Mucho Macho Man has the kind of late kick that should have him get the closest look, along with Bernie The Maestro, of the BC Classic winner’s rump as the approach the finish line.

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