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Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Gulfstream Park: Gourmet Dinner tackles familiar foe in Sunshine Millions Classic

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The imposing presence of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man has scared away the majority of horses nominated for the $400,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic. But that didn’t stop Bill Terrill, a third-generation horseman and owner of Ebert Van Company, from sending one of his own trucks up to Maryland late last week to bring Gourmet Dinner to Gulfstream Park to take on Eclipse Award finalist Mucho Macho Man on Saturday.

Gourmet Dinner and Mucho Macho Man are no strangers to one another. The two launched their careers together in a maiden dash at Calder during the summer of their 2-year-old campaigns, with Gourmet Dinner winning by a length over Mucho Macho Man. Gourmet Dinner also came out on top when the pair met here the following winter in the Grade 3 Holy Bull, finishing third behind Dialed In with Mucho Macho Man three lengths farther back in fourth.

Gourmet Dinner dropped off the Derby trail and was sidelined for a year due to nagging injuries after finishing second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. He has won just twice since, but continues to remain competitive against allowance and lower-level stakes company, most recently finishing third over a muddy track in Laurel’s Broad Brush Stakes. Gourmet Dinner is currently trained by Robert Triola.

“Of course, we know it’s a tough assignment. Mucho Macho Man’s a freak, and I’ve been watching all his works and he looks great,” Terrill said. “But things happen in horse racing. It’s going to be a short field, and we’re certainly the only one in the race who can say they’ve already finished in front of Mucho Macho Man more than once. We breed in Florida and try to represent the Florida game, and where else can you run a Florida-bred for $400,000 right now?”

Terrill said Gourmet Dinner also is doing very well. He has a win and 3 thirds in his last 4 starts, with legitimate excuses in two of those three losses.

“He tried to get through on the inside and I felt he hung a little two starts back at Parx when beaten less than a length, and he should have won the [With Anticipation] stakes this fall at Delaware, but he blew the second turn,” Terrill said. “He’s had a different outlook on life since he’s been at Fair Hill, and he’s ready to run.

“Going up against Mucho Macho Man is one thing, but he’s got a big shot against those other horses in there Saturday, second money is still $80,000, and he definitely deserves a chance.”

The Sunshine Millions Classic drew a field of just six. The others are Bernie the Maestro, Rule Number Six, and the Barry Rose-trained pair of Decaf Again and Joshua’s Comprise.

Mucho Macho Man is one of three stakes mounts Gary Stevens will have, He also will ride Old Time Hockey in the Turf and Wishing Gate in the Filly and Mare Turf for trainer Tom Proctor.

Toasting tops Distaff

In the first of six Sunshine Millions races, seven older fillies and mares will go 1 1/8 miles in the $300,000 Distaff. Toasting, beaten a head by Wedding Toast in the Grade 3 Comely in her 2013 finale, tops a field with stablemates Devil’s Cave and My Pal Chrisy, Sweet N Discreet, Dreamlicious, Sky Skier, and Burning Truth. Sweet N Discreet and My Pal Chrisy were cross-entered in the $150,000 Filly and Mare Sprint.

The most competitive of the stakes could be the $150,000 Sprint, which lured a field of nine, led by Ribo Bobo, who won 10 of his last 11 starts. He will face Sunshine State winner Star Harbour, Apriority, Fort Loudon, Black Diamond Cat, Bear Tough Tiger, Close It Out, Happy My Way, and Grande Shores.

Wishing Gate, a multiple graded stakes winner, and Silsita should vie for favoritism in the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf. Old Time Hockey, Bad Debt, and Tune Me In are among the leading candidates in the $150,000 Turf.

Medal Count back to dirt

Trainer Dale Romans, whose barn has come alive here over the past week, said he will likely put Medal Count back on the main track despite his victory on the grass here last weekend. Medal Count, who finished 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, dead-heated with longshot Drover Road to clear his entry-level allowance condition in his turf debut Sunday.

“I’ll talk to the owners this weekend, but it’s likely he’ll go back to the dirt next time,” Romans said. “I’m not sure where that will be, although the Fountain of Youth will be one of the options we’ll discuss.”

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