by Dustin Fabian
November 7, 2019
Saturday is Sunshine Millions Preview Day at Gulfstream Park West, showcasing Florida-bred runners in nine stakes races worth a combined $675,000.
The Sunshine Millions, a concept in existence since 2002, was originally a California vs Florida showcase of the top Florida and California-bred animals, with races held at Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park. I remember watching the races on NBC a few times. Pretty big deal.
The series has changed significantly in the last decade, but it remains an important player on the Gulfstream Park stakes schedule. Between this Saturday’s Preview event at Gulfstream Park West and the Sunshine Millions ‘main event’ at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 18, $1.275 million in purses will be doled out to Florida-bred horses.
And with so many solid stakes performers on one card this Saturday, it’s going to be hard to for handicappers like me to pass things up. Couple that with a $575,659 Jackpot Pick 6 Carryover (heading into Thursday’s races) and this is a card I’ll be playing.
Here are my top 5 plays on the card:
Race 1 (12:00PM ET) – Millions Turf Preview Stakes
#7 Galleon Mast (5/2)
The stakes action kicks off early on Saturday – Race 1 in fact – with the Sunshine Millions Turf Preview Stakes. Any my eyes are on GALLEON MAST, who won this race last year by a nose and seems to be rounding back into form for David Fawkes. He was beaten last out at 9/5 odds by DRIVEN BY THUNDER, but he was extremely pace compromised that day. It’s just hard to close from last when they go :25 4/5, :51 1/5 and 1:14 3/5 in a 1 1/16-mile race. That’s just too slow. I expect SWAGGER JAGGER and FREEDOM MATTERS to put a little pressure on DRIVEN BY THUNDER early, which would set this up just right for GALLEON MAST, who also gets a positive jockey upgrade to Paco Lopez (the top jock at GP West), who was aboard him last year for his win in this race.
Race 4 (1:26PM ET) – Millions Classic Preview Stakes
#4 Art G is Back (2/1)
The day’s ‘biggest’ race – at least in the sense that the Classic is the premier division – is the Classic Preview Stakes, which goes as Race 4 on the card, probably to keep it out of the Late Pick 4 and Rainbow 6 due to a small field size. Only five horses have entered this, but one of those is the extremely well-regarded MR. JORDAN. He’s a perfect 5-for-5 at Gulfstream Park West and leaned on all of his class to win this race by a nose last year. Unfortunately, he’s 0-for-7 in ’19 and it seems Father Time has caught up with him. The heir apparent to this throne would be ART G IS BACK. He’s a 3YO facing older which gives me significant pause, but he’s beaten older horses twice at Gulfstream and once of those was by 13-lengths in an off-turf allowance. If the chips break the right way, this is the horse trending way up in this division.
My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, made this race his Xpressbet Race of the Week. Here’s how he’s betting it.
Race 6 (2:26PM ET) – Millions Sprint Preview Stakes
#6 He Hate Me (9/5)
HE HATE ME has developed into a sharp allowance sprinter, having won races at Gulfstream and Saratoga in the last year, and looks like a good bet in this field. JACKSON is a solid runner but he’s a 3YO facing older horses and FRONT LOADED hasn’t won on a fast track since July 2018 (he’s 2-for-2 in the slop since then, though). HE HATE ME has the versatility to adapt to any pace scenario and he’s easily the class of the field.
Race 7 (2:56PM ET) – Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes
#7 Our Little Jewel (3/1)
Another race and another Paco Lopez-ridden top pick. Might just be a trend. OUR LITTLE JEWEL debuted in New York for Mike Trombetta and while she wasn’t quite good enough to win races on the NYRA circuit (she finished 7th, 2nd and 5th in turf races at Saratoga and Belmont), a trip down the highway to Maryland was enough for her to get her first win. She scored on the Laurel turf with a big closing kick despite a wide trip. She’s going to need some pace and racing luck, but her ceiling appears to be the highest of anyone in this field.
Race 9 (3:56PM ET) – Millions Filly & Mare Turf Preview Stakes
#6 Bienville Street (8/1)
This is strictly a pace play but this year’s Filly & Mare Turf Preview Stakes is loaded with speed and horses like DADDY’S BOO, MISS DEPLORABLE, PICARA (defending champion) and SOUPER ESCAPE are all most comfortable when put into the race early. And with that much speed signed on, I’ll take a closer with a penchant for winning and a top jock (Paco Lopez) on her back. She’s won three of her last eight starts after beginning her career 0-for-11 and she placed in a pair of stakes race in September at Gulfstream.