December 9, 2021

Starship Jubilee headlines Sunshine Millions; Ashleyluvssugar looks to roll back clock

Starship Jubilee wins the E.P. Taylor S. 2019
Starship Jubilee wins the E.P. Taylor S. 2019 (Michael Burns Photo)

Canadian Horse of the Year candidate Starship Jubilee is the star attraction on Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Day program at Gulfstream Park. Opting to go for a three-peat in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf, rather than accept her invitation to the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), the Kevin Attard mare rates as the 3-5 morning-line favorite.

Starship Jubilee, claimed here for a mere $16,000 three years ago, has gone on to become a two-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s champion turf female. The 7-year-old is expected to take home more hardware – at least another divisional award and possibly the Canadian Horse of the Year title – in light of her victory over an international cast in last fall’s E.P. Taylor (G1). In her only ensuing start, Starship Jubilee was second in the Cardinal (G3) on a Churchill Downs turf that she didn’t enjoy.

“The turf course was really soggy last time,” Attard told Gulfstream publicity, “and it seemed like she kind of struggled through it a little bit. It was a little disappointing off the big win at Woodbine, but we’re going to chalk it up to her just not handling the course as well. I don’t think she really appreciated it.

“There had been some discussions about retiring her and sending her to the breeding shed but at this point, from my point of view as the trainer, I can tell you she’s in good health, she loves her job, she enjoys what she’s doing. We’re just going to take it race by race and let her kind of determine her future.”

Attard noted that the prospect of keeping Starship Jubilee in training for an entire 2020 campaign influenced the decision to pass on the Pegasus Turf and stick to the familiar state-bred spot:

“Obviously, it’s an honor to be invited to a race like that. We definitely looked at the (past performances) and the horses she’d be up against in a race like that. There’s definitely a lot of thought put into it. She’s run really well on this turf course and I think that’s always a bonus.

“It’s against the boys, so we’d get a little bit of weight and the medication rules (no raceday medication), I wasn’t concerned about that with her. There was definitely a lot of thought put into it, but I think this race just seems to make a lot more sense for her to kind of start off her campaign if she’s going to continue to run as a 7-year-old.”

As if Starship Jubilee’s resume weren’t enough of a standout, her BRIS Prime Power (171.8) quantifies it as she towers over the rest by more than 28 points. Next in the Prime Power stats is comebacker Beautiful Lover (143.4), winner of last May’s Boiling Springs for Chad Brown. Una Luna, runner-up in both the Millions Filly & Mare Turf Preview and the Claiming Crown Tiara, sits third at 143.1. Among those at a big price, the 20-1 Vow to Recover is a course-and-distance stakes winner who was a close fifth in Saratoga’s Lake Placid (G2). The main-track-only Liza Star captured the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper in her latest.

Rest of Gulfstream’s Sunshine Millions

$150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf

March to the Arch captures the Wise Dan (c) Coady Photography/ Churchill Downs

Trainer Mark Casse is triple-handed in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf, with March to the Arch his clear pick on form. The winner of the 2019 Wise Dan (G2) has competed honorably in graded company throughout his career, most recently beaten just a length in fifth in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), and the Live Oak Plantation homebred looms large on the class drop. Stablemate Curlin’s Honor, multiple graded-placed at Woodbine, rolled from far back to land Aqueduct’s Artie Schiller, and $950,000 blueblood Souper Scat Daddy resumes from a 10-month vacation.

The Casse trio will have to deal with Muggsamatic, successful in the Claiming Crown Emerald first off the claim for Jason Servis; Galleon Mast, the 2018 Sunshine Millions Turf victor who warmed up with a tight repeat in the Millions Turf Preview; Second Mate, second in last year’s running and a fast-closing third in the Preview; Scraps making his first start for the hot barn of Saffie Joseph Jr.; and Jais’s Solitude, the Virginia Derby (G3) near-misser who was unplaced behind Mo Forza in the Twilight Derby (G2).

$200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic

The $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic likewise sports a Casse/Live Oak Plantation presence courtesy of homebreds Tap the Mojo and Salute with Honor. Tap the Mojo had been a disappointing son of Tapit and Grade 1 winner Pool Land, until waking up with a 4-length tally in an off-the-turf entry-level allowance for state-breds. Salute with Honor, fourth in Woodbine’s Autumn (G2), plied his trade on the synthetic of late but has won on the Gulfstream dirt in the past. If Tap the Mojo has upside, Salute with Honor has Tyler Gaffalione.

But both need to step up to beat Red Crescent, the Millions Classic Preview winner and respectable fourth in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) who picks up Irad Ortiz Jr. Other contenders include Jay’s Way, the 2018 Classic hero and runner-up a year ago; Noble Drama, a nephew of Big Drama and Sheer Drama who faces a stamina question over 1 1/8 miles; Super Dude first off the claim for Mike Maker; and Squeezadios, back on a week’s rest after chasing Godolphin’s well-regarded Endorsed.

$100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint

The $100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint features the streaking Lady’s Island and the versatile Extravagant Kid. Lady’s Island made it five straight when romping in the Sugar Swirl (G3) at this same track and 6-furlong trip, while Extravagant Kid prevailed in the off-the-turf Janus S. last out. Also coming off a local score is Royal Squeeze, hero of the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit. He Hate Me has placed in his last three, all stakes, including the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash (G2) and Millions Sprint Preview. Jackson rebounded from a debacle in the latter to dominate a Florida restricted stakes at Tampa.

Santa Anita: Sunshine Millions appetizer for Cal Cup Day

In a faint echo of the original Sunshine Millions format shared between Gulfstream and Santa Anita, the California track plays host to the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint. The 5 1/2-furlong Cal-restricted dash serves as a rematch between Just Grazed Me and Apache Princess, the top two from the course-and-distance Sen. Ken Maddy (G3), with speedy Stealthediamonds looking to break up a déjà vu exacta.

The four other restricted stakes on Santa Anita’s Saturday card are California Cup races.

Fashionably Fast, who handed Baja Sur his lone loss, is favored to confirm the form in the $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint on the main track. Lieutenant Dan, Oliver, and Bob Baffert’s Heck Yeah are also in the mix.

$200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic

The $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic could mark the swan song for millionaire Ashleyluvssugar. Now a 9-year-old, the multiple Grade 2 veteran captured this race in 2017 and finished second last year.

The Peter Eurton charge was just fifth in the Berkeley (G3) on the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta, an effort that his trainer believed was more due to the unfamiliar setting. Even so, Eurton knows that Ashleyluvssugar’s racing career is winding down.

“We’ll just play it by ear every race from here on out,” Eurton told Santa Anita publicity. “We expect him to run well Saturday, but if he doesn’t, he could be retired at any time.”

Ward n’ Jerry missed by a neck when third in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), but cuts back substantially to nine furlongs here. Ironically, his lone placing from three tries at this trip was a third to Ashleyluvssugar in the 2017 edition. Crystal Water winner The Hunted, by race honoree Unusual Heat, is of much more than merely sentimental interest as the 9-5 morning-line favorite. Accountability, an Unusual Heat grandson via Acclamation, would do well to replicate his third from last year.

$200,000 Cal Cup Derby and Oaks

The $200,000 Cal Cup Derby pits King Glorious hero Club Aspen and multiple Golden Gate stakes scorer Bettor Trip Nick. Not to be overlooked are Doug O’Neill’s Big Returns and Rookie Mistake. Both are stretching out from sprints to 1 1/16 miles, but Big Returns hasn’t been seen since receiving the Graduation S. via disqualification last August. Similarly, Fast Enough resurfaces after his debut win in May.

The $200,000 Cal Cup Oaks has a different character as a mile turf test, and the surface could help Warren’s Showtime regain the winning thread. A 35-1 upset winner over open company in the Surfer Girl, Warren’s Showtime was a troubled third to Been Studying Her and Smiling Shirlee in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies on dirt. Those two will try turf for the first time here, while Cholula Lips, coming off an 8-1 coup in the Soviet Problem, was only fifth in the Surfer Girl.

Peter Miller’s Bulletproof One is another entitled to be happier back on turf, and stablemate California Kook could improve with blinkers off. Others worth a look are Pike Place Dancer scorer Wise Rachel, dropping in class from a 10th in the Jimmy Durante (G3), and turf returnees Warrior’s Moon and Almost a Factor.