Four Florida-bred stakes worth $600,000 in purses share the spotlight Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The $200,000 headliner is the Sunshine Millions Classic at 1-1/8 miles on the main track. The Sunshine Millions series was inaugurated in 2003 and has taken on various forms over its history. But one thing it's never had is a back-to-back winner of the Classic. Could that change Saturday?
Last year's Sunshine Millions Classic 1-2 finishers, JAY'S WAY and MR. JORDAN, re-match. There's not a lot of graded stakes success in recent form among the challengers, but DALMORE was a G3 victor in 2016 and SOUPER TAPIT a G3 winner in 2017. From a class standpoint, DALMORE has taken on the toughest challenges over the past few seasons.
JAY'S WAY wired this race a year ago and has one way of going -- to the front. DALMORE wants to be forward, and Irad Ortiz likely will be aggressive early with a rail draw. The rest want to find position with similar pressing to midpack styles as there are no dead-pan closers in this field.
JAY'S WAY can join the great Mucho Macho Man (2012, 2014) as the only 2-time winners of the Sunshine Millions Classic. But his form since winning this race a year ago has fallen apart. He's 0-for-4 since and hasn't been within 6 lengths of a score during that span. Leading jockey Luis Saez has been on fire of late even by his standards, but it's hard to see an obvious pivot back to top form for JAY'S WAY. If the price were to balloon, you could argue he's back on his favorite track perhaps.
MR. JORDAN, second in this race not only in 2018, but also in 2016, has one of the more startling statistical lines I can recall. He's an admirable 10-for-34 lifetime, but a baffling 1-for-17 at Gulfstream Park. When you think of this 7-year-old veteran, you just assume he's done more at GP than the single victory. But he brings the effort almost every time and has given solid showings over the 1-1/8 miles trip. Trainer Eddie Plesa makes a move to jockey Jose Ortiz, which can't hurt.
DALMORE was a G3 winner in SoCal as a sophomore, but he's now 6 and looking for his first victory since leaving the Keith Desormeaux barn last March. The former closer has found a new early pace style, but has yet to finish the deal. With JAY'S WAY likely breathing on him or making him chase on Saturday, DALMORE will have to work for it. But his running lines vs. Promises Fulfilled, Whitmore, Diversify, Mind Your Biscuits, Hoppertunity et al won't be approached in this spot. He's run some good races over the distance and figures to factor.
With winter bases in Arkansas and Louisiana, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen sightings at Gulfstream Park are fewer than Sasquatch. In fact, the Betmix database shows Asmussen with just 2 starters at GP since 2013, both coming last year on Pegasus World Cup Day when he saddled the marquee winner Gun Runner. But FOREVAMO makes the Asmussen appearance in Saturday's Classic via his Fair Grounds winter home. It's a $200K spot for a Florida-bred, after all, and note Asmussen just started training this now-6YO heading into last summer. He was a good second at Remington Park to stablemate Hence in the Governor's Cup, then a determined winner of the Zia Park Championship in November. That score snapped a 13-race losing streak that dated back to a June 2016 allowance. This Uncle Mo gelding doesn't win often (3-for-23), but is an 8-time runner-up who most often tries.
NOBLE DRAMA stretches out for the longest test of his career. He's been consistent over the Gulfstream Park main track as a closing sprinter. That makes sense as his dam is half-sister to Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Big Drama. Trainer David Fawkes will try to squeeze 9 furlongs out of this one, but note that he's run around 2 turns 3 times in his career and got highly commendable 99 BRIS late pace figures in all 3 of those varying assignments (GP West dirt, GP turf, Tam dirt). NOBLE DRAMA has split decisions in recent starts with MR. JORDAN, so that should put him in the class discussion just fine with these.
SOUPER TAPIT has long hinted talent, but fallen short of expectations. The Mark Cassse trainee has a regal pedigree by Tapit out of G1 Mother Goose winner Zo Impressive. SOUPER TAPIT won Woodbine's G3 Marine on synthetic in 2017, but has been an allowance player over the past few seasons. His dominant, 9-length score at Gulfstream in December may signal a breakout for the oft-nibbling sort. The distance will be fine for him on form and pedigree, even if stretching out from the 1-turn mile last time. He's performed up to 1-1/2 miles on turf with some promise. HIs mama Zo Impressive won 2 of 3 starts over the Gulfstream Park dirt, so maybe he's brewing a horse-for-course angle after that last win -- which was his first attempt on the GP main. John Velazquez sticks aboard to ride.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: SOUPER TAPIT has 7 straight trifecta finishes and is coming into the Sunshine Millions Classic off his best effort in some time. He's moving the right way.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: NOBLE DRAMA scored a 14-1 upset the last time he was on the Gulfstream dirt and figures to be overlooked some on the tote once again vs. more 'name' competitors.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $50 win NOBLE DRAMA. $20 exacta box SOUPER TAPIT and NOBLE DRAMA ($40). $5 exactas DALMORE and FOREVAMO over NOBLE DRAMA ($10).