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On Saturday, Magna Entertainment Corporation hosted the fourth annual Sunshine Millions, featuring eight stakes races for horses bred in California and Florida only with total purses of $3.6 million. Despite the restricted nature of the stakes, the races were very competitive with full fields for most. Unlike the first two years, the Florida-breds did not dominate as the California-breds won 5 of the 8 races, including the Classic at Santa Anita. The final score was 37 points for the Florida-breds with 35 for the Cal-breds, despite there being more Florida horses entered.
The main event of the Sunshine Millions is the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. 11-1 shot Proud Tower Too battled with 8-1 Trickey Trevor down the backstretch through a half in 44.84 and 3/4 in 1:08.69. Turning for home, 3-1 second choice Lava Man, who had stalked the pace in fourth the whole way, came out three wide and took the lead inside the 3/16 pole. Through the lane, he drew clear and easily held off the late charge of 12-1 shot Whos Crying Now to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:49.98. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to 11-1 shot Texcess, who was 2 lengths ahead of 2-1 favorite Buzzards Bay in fourth.
Winning jockey Corey Nakatani said, "Our game plan was to come out running, make them commit, and that's what happened. It almost turned out like we drew it up. We wanted to make them run, make them commit to go by you, get to the outside and then put in a very nice run and that's exactly what happened." Trainer Doug O'Neill said that Lava Man would go next in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 4.
Winning trainer James Cassidy said, "David (Flores) had me scared to death. I thought we were going to get trapped big time (down the backstretch). I think this is as good a race as she could have ever run, as much as she had to do, go wide and give away all that space. To be honest with you, I wasn't sure she was going to get up. This is fantastic, to have a mare like this. If she never ran again, this would be perfect."
Winning jockey David Flores said, "She broke well and I was expecting a lot more speed from the outside, but when my filly took the lead, she started looking around and nobody else was sending, so I was very comfortable. I was very pleased the first half-mile. On the middle of the turn I hit her just a little bit on the shoulder and she went right back on. I was very pleased. She's a very nice filly."
Winning jockey Victor Espinoza said, "I thought it was going to be a little difficult because I had the one hole and there was a lot of speed in the race, but it set up quite well for me. I got lucky. I wanted him to break as sharp as he could but he kind of bobbled coming out of the gate, just a little bit, one or two jumps, he kind of lost his balance. After that it was no problem." Trainer Bob Baffert added, "He really trained well into this race. I was a little worried about (drawing) number one. He did stumble a bit out of the gate, but he's so athletic he recovered. About the 5/8 pole I knew we were in good shape. This colt's got some serious gears. He's really fast. He's the quickest Cal-bred I've ever trained."
On to the Gulfstream Park races
2005 Sunshine Millions
2004 Sunshine Millions
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