Southern Image winner of the Barretts/CTBA Sunshine Millions Classic with Victor Espinoza up.
On Saturday, Magna Entertainment Corporation hosted the second annual Sunshine Millions, featuring eight stakes races for horses bred in California and Florida only. Despite the restricted nature of the stakes, the races were very competitive with some longshots lighting up the toteboard while some highly regarded favorites didn't do as well as expected. Like last year, the Florida Breds scored the most points to take home bragging rights with 45 points vs. 27 for the Cal-breds.
Santa Anita Races
Southern Image winning the Sunshine Millions Classic by 3 lengths.
The marquee event of the day was the Barretts/CTBA Sunshine Millions Classic, for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Santa Anita for a purse of $1 million. In this event, as expected Peace Rules was sent off as the even-money favorite in the field of twelve, while stablemate Midas Eyes was scratched. However, it appears he still hadn't recovered from his last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile, finishing a disappointing fourth having bobbled at the start, and then coming up empty in the stretch after a stalking trip. 3-1 second choice Southern Image, fresh off his win in the Malibu (G1) last time out, came on strong after stalking the pace in third earlier on to draw off to win by three lengths over the 7-1 second choice Excess Summer in a time of 1:47.67. It was another 1/2 length back to 44-1 longshot The Judge Sez Who, who caught Peace Rules in the final furlong for the third spot. Results Chart
Winning trainer Mike Machowsky.
Winning trainer Mike Machowsky said, "I'm in tears. This is my biggest win. The Grade 1 (Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26) was very nice but this is special, too. He was a little closer than I thought he'd be but I was a little worried he'd be rank today just routing first time in a while and only his second route race, but I couldn't be happier." Jockey Victor Espinoza added, "I am so pleased that my horse ran so focused and cooperated. I was just lucky that I had so much horse left at the end. I think we are going to have a good, and long future with this horse."
Jockey Jerry Bailey, aboard beaten favorite Peace Rules, said, "He was strong when I didn't want him to be strong. He absolutely turned the bridle loose turning up the backside and he never got back in it again. He very much resented trying to lay off the pace. They were rolling fast and the idea was to try and sit off them and he got very annoyed at it."
Valentine Dancer winning the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.
The John Deere Filly and Mare Turf featured older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the turf course at Santa Anita, for a purse of $500,000. The Bob Baffert-trained Atlantic Ocean was sent off as the lukewarm 2-1 favorite in the field of eleven despite being winless since last year's Sunshine Millions when she won the Oaks on the dirt. When the race got underway, she took the early lead and set a decent pace of 46.62 for the half and 1:10.35 before weakening in the stretch to an eventual 10th place finish. 9-2 third choice Valentine Dancer stalked Atlantic Ocean along the rail in fourth early, then, turning for home, split rivals and came on strong late to catch 4-1 second choice Moscow Burning to win by 3/4 length in 1:46.31 over the firm course. It was another length back to the longest shot on the board, 61-1 Bartok's Blithe, in third. Results Chart
Winning trainer Craig Lewis.
Winning jockey Jon Court said, "The owner and trainer gave me explicit and credible instructions of not only on how to ride the race, but how the horse likes to run. I just followed the directions to a "T". She is pretty much a push-button ride. There were no problems, no concerns, except that the pace was pretty leisurely and I thought everyone else would have a good punch on the end. I was just hoping I would be right there with them, the strongest at the end." Trainer Craig Lewis added, "It was a beautiful trip. Jon Court rode her as good as a horse could be ridden. Fabulous ride. It all worked out for us. We got the trip we anticipated, it went our way and it's in the history books."
Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr, aboard second place finisher Moscow Burning, said, "The horse ran huge and I am proud of what she has accomplished. She broke her maiden for $12,500 and now she is competing in a $500,000 race. I am not going to make excuses and say that the 11 hole hindered us, in fact, I think it fell right into our hands, helping us to save ground going into both turns. No complaints we just got beat. "
Mooji Moo winning the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.
The $300,000 Nextel Filly and Mare Sprint was also for older distaffers, sprinting six furlongs on the main track. The favorite in this event was Bear Fan, off a close second place finish in her last start. However, 17-1 longshot Mooji Moo got a dream trip under Corey Nakatani, getting down to the rail and leading the field from gate to wire, holding off the late charge of 50-1 shot Bold Roberta to win by 3/4 length in 1:09.34. It was a neck back to favored Bear Fan and 54-1 shot Channing Way, who dead-heated for the show spot. Results Chart
Winning jockey Corey Nakatani aboard Mooji Moo.
Bruce Brown, assistant to winning trainer Tim Hills, said, "She's pretty much one-dimensional. She's pretty much speed. You just have to kind of let her go, so I wasn't really expecting the other horses to let her go like that. If she has a chance to get a breather around the turn she's usually pretty tough." Winning jockey Corey Nakatani added, "She's a nice filly. All I had to was keep her out of trouble and get her around the racetrack, and that's what I did."
Jockey David Nuesch, aboard second place finisher Bold Roberta, said, "She ran a fantastic race. The pre-race strategy was to actually be farther back, but she just carried me to them on the backside. She was in a good stalking position. But the winner was able to shake loose and run us down.
Jerry Bailey, aboard beaten favorite and co-third place finisher Bear Fan, said, "I have watched all her films and see that whenever she runs up in a bunch she hangs. Her best races have been when she is able to set off the pace a couple lengths. Although she was a bit head strong, that's what I did, but she had no turn of foot on the turn, she refused to run until the stretch and when we did get room to run it was too late."
Saint Afleet (outside) just gets up over Cheiron to win the Sunshine Millions Dash.
The NATC Dash Stakes was a six-furlong sprint for three year olds, with a $250,000 purse. The prohibitive 4-5 favorite was Ice Wynnd Fire, trained by Bobby Frankel and with Jerry Bailey aboard. However, 7-2 second choice Saint Afleet turned the tables, stalking the brisk early pace early on and then prevailing in the stretch over 11-1 shot Cheiron, charging from eighth early on. The final time was 1:08.68. It was just a nose back to the favored Ice Wynnd Fire, who settled in fourth early but lacked room in the stretch and could only get up for third. Results Chart
Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard Saint Afleet.
Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "I wanted to be aggressive away from the gate to get a jump on the favorite because I thought he was the horse to beat. I kept an eye on him throughout the race and got the run on him when it counted the most." Trainer Craig Dollase added, "He broke great today and he just had to keep his task. They ran fast. He was excellent, actually, and he's game. He won't let anybody go by him, that's for sure. It was a great win."
Kristin Mulhall, trainer of runner-up Cheiron, said, "He ran good. He was game. He came on and ran a good race." Jockey Victor Espinoza added, "He went pretty good. He was trying as hard as he could. He will be ready for the next one. It's too bad because he runs too hard to get beat."
Trainer Bobby Frankel and jockey Jerry Bailey didn't have much luck at the Sunshine Millions, with a best finish of 3rd in the Dash.
Jerry Bailey, aboard beaten favorite Ice Wynnd Fire, said, "It was kind of a screwed up race. I couldn't get him to give me a solid eighth of a mile anywhere. He was up, he was back he was out. When I needed him he just wasn't there."