Wasting no time as the best horse in the race, Starship Jubilee seized command early in Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf en route to dominant three-peat at Gulfstream Park. The 2-5 favorite thus became the first ever three-time winner in Sunshine Millions history.
The honor roll of two-time Sunshine Millions winners includes such notables as Lava Man (2006 Classic and 2007 Turf), Mucho Macho Man (Classic in 2012 and 2014), and ill-fated X Y Jet (Sprint in 2016 and 2018 Sprint). The others are Manchurian High (2015-2016 Turf) and Valentine Dancer, the trailblazer as a repeat heroine of the 2004-05 Filly & Mare Turf.
Starship Jubilee’s best exploits lie north of the border, as a multiple Sovereign Award winner who put herself in the Canadian Horse of the Year discussion with an E.P. Taylor (G1) score. None of her rivals back in the Florida-bred ranks can claim that level of form, and with Starship Jubilee also the controlling speed, the outcome was predictable.
Under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, the Kevin Attard mare posted leisurely fractions of :25.63 and :50.77 on the firm turf, began to pick it up through six furlongs in 1:14.66, and put the race away with a decisive injection of speed in the stretch. Her fourth quarter in :22.17 and last sixteenth in :5.74 made her uncatchable. Starship Jubilee widened her advantage to 3 1/4 lengths while finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.57.
The 2-1 second choice, Beautiful Lover, edged 12-1 third pick Vow to Remember for runner-up honors. Rounding out the superfecta was Sweet Hitch Hiker at 32-1.
“It was easy. I don’t know why I’m sweating,” Castellano told Gulfstream publicity. “Maybe nerves? Nah. She’s a special filly. You look at the form and see she’s hooked up with the best horses in the world. When you win the E. P. Taylor, the horses come from different places. She always hooks up with the best horses. Today, nothing against the other horse and not taking anything away from the other horses, but I think on a class level, she’s much the best.”
Blue Heaven Farm’s Starship Jubilee has now amassed $1,261,597 in earnings from a 33-15-5-3 line. The Indy Wind mare, claimed for just $16,000 here in Feb. 2017, earned her first Sovereign that season when taking the Nassau (G2) and Dance Smartly (G2). She repeated as Canada’s champion turf mare in 2018, and should win the accolade again after successfully defending her Canadian (G2) title and adding the Oct. 12 E.P. Taylor.
Starship Jubilee was second as the 1-2 favorite in the Nov. 28 Cardinal (G3) on a yielding Churchill Downs, which was apparently harder to cope with than similarly labeled footing at Woodbine. But a return to Gulfstream brought her back to the winner’s circle, and plans call for the 7-year-old to keep racing in 2020.
The rest of the Sunshine Millions events were more competitive.
The $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf went down the wire, where March to the Arch headed fellow 5-2 chance Muggsamatic in the final stride. Trained by Mark Casse and piloted by Tyler Gaffalione, the Live Oak Plantation homebred clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.75. Galleon Mast checked in third, a neck up on Casse’s 2-1 favorite, Curlin’s Honor.
“I was concerned at all points in time,” Casse said. “I was even concerned after the finish.”
March to the Arch, whose signature win came in last summer’s Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill, was coming off a close fifth in Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) Oct. 5. The son of Arch and Grade 2 winner Daveron sports a record of 18-6-2-1, $592,294, reflecting scores in the 2018 Toronto Cup and 2019 Florida Cup Turf Classic along with a third in the Saranac (G3).
“He ran a hell of a race in the Shadwell,” Casse said. “Tyler came back and said, ‘I maybe should have won it.’
“We flirted with the idea of running him in the Breeders’ Cup, but then we said if we’re not going to do that let’s stop now and aim for the Sunshine Millions to get him back going. It’s what we did with Got Stormy. We give those horses some time. We did it with World Approval. It’s not easy to run Jason (Servis) down; that was good.”
Gaffalione also guided DARRS Inc.’s Extravagant Kid to victory in the $100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint. The 5-2 second choice let 3-2 favorite Lady’s Island speed ahead early, then crept up on the turn and readily passed the filly down the lane. Extravagant Kid drew away by 2 3/4 lengths and clocked six furlongs in 1:10.04 on a fast main track. Lady’s Island held second by a half-length from the closing Jackson.
“The race set up pretty much like we thought it would,” Gaffalione said. “(Lady’s Island) went to the lead and set nice fractions for us. I was able to ride off her flank. Coming into the stretch she stopped a little quicker than I thought she would. I was trying not to make the lead too early because he tends to wait around. But he had his mind on business today. All the credit goes to (trainer) Brendan (Walsh) and the team.”
Extravagant Kid boosted his bankroll to $787,354 from a 40-13-11-6 record. The 7-year-old by Kiss the Kid has won or placed in 15 black-type stakes on dirt, turf, and synthetic, most significantly his seconds in last year’s Highlander (G1) and Kennedy Road (G2) at Woodbine.
The $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic produced a thrilling battle between Harold Queen’s homebred Noble Drama and 8-5 favorite Red Crescent. Rallying out wide with Emisael Jaramillo, the 4-1 second choice prevailed by a head in 1:50.78 for 1 1/8 miles. Squeezadios was also in the hunt in third, another three-quarters of a length astern.
“Harold did a wonderful job of getting this horse ready,” trainer David Fawkes said. “When he sent him back to me, I literally led him over here and he won (a Dec. 22 allowance in open company), and he ran a huge race. He gained a bunch of weight on the farm, and the horse came back and ran huge.”
Noble Drama’s third Florida-restricted stakes victory improved his scorecard to 16-5-3-2, $402,922. The Gone Astray gelding is out of the stakes-winning Queen Roma, a full sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Sheer Drama and a half to champion Big Drama, all Queen homebreds trained by Fawkes.