Monday, January 24, 2011

First Dude Returns in Sunshine Millions Classic Saturday

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Donald Dizney’s homebred colt First Dude became a familiar name on the national scene last season placing in the Preakness Stakes (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1) and other major 3-year-old events. Now the 4-year-old gets his 2011 campaign going as one of the choices in Saturday’s $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.

The 1 1/8 miles test is the richest of the three Sunshine Millions races to be run at Gulfstream while three others races in the Florida-bred vs. California-bred series will go that afternoon at Santa Anita. The other Gulfstream races will be the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles and the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at six furlongs.

First Dude drew post 1 in a field of 10 with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard for trainer Dale Roman. Florida-breds are assured of a sweep in the Classic as there are no California-breds entered. First Dude makes his first start since finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6 behind Blame and Horse of the Year Zenyatta.

A son of Stephen Got Even, First Dude had a productive but frustrating season for his connections as he placed in five straight Grade 1 stakes, including the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park and Travers (G1) at Saratoga following the Triple Crown events. He also lost a neck decision when second in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at Philadelphia Park in September prior to the Breeders’ Cup.

First Dude faces a number of highly-accomplished rivals in the Classic led by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong and partners’ Duke of Mischief, Eibar Coa; Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini, Javier Castellano and Oxbow Racing’s Birdrun, Rajiv Maragh.

Duke of Mischief has won two of three starts over the Gulfstream track for trainer David Fawkes, including a victory in the ‘off the turf’ Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G3) early last year. The 5-year-old son of Graeme Hall scored his biggest career victory in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in early April and then scored in the Philip H. Iselin Handicap (G3) at Monmouth in August.

Dry Martini is the veteran in the field as the 8-year-old gelding by Slew Gin Fizz will bid for a 10th victory in 36 career starts while posting earnings of over $1.3 million as he makes his first start since a close-up third-place finish in the Mad Hatter overnight stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 20. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Dry Martini scored his biggest career victory in the 2009 Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park.

Birdrun came to hand late last season for trainer Bill Mott, winning a ‘three other than’ allowance at Belmont in September and taking his game to another level winning the $150,000 Carl Rose Classic last out at Calder on Nov. 13 by 4 ½ lengths. The 5-year-old son of Birdstone ran twice over the Gulfstream track last year, finishing second and winning an allowance, both races going a mile.

Askbut I Won’ttell Likely Choice in Filly & Mare Turf

Team Block and Rich Ege’s 5-year-old mare Askbut I Won’ttell completed her 2010 season with victories in the Cardinal Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs in November and My Charmer Handicap (G3) at Calder in early December after arriving in South Florida for the winter season, and that form will likely send her out as the favorite in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf.

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan gets a return call on Askbut I Won’tte;ll for trainer Chris Block in the full field of 14 with one on the ‘also-eligible’ list. The daughter of Horse Chestnut was a regular traveler throughout the mid-west last season, winning an allowance at Fair Grounds early in the campaign, a small stakes at Arlington Park in mid-May and finishing a game second in a stakes at Woodbine in September.

Two others in the field that will attract solid support are Rosemont Stud’s 4-year-old filly Wild Mia with Jose Lezcano aboard for trainer Tom Proctor and Julien Leparoux named to ride Farnsworth Stables’ 4-year-old filly Speak Easy Gal for trainer Marty Wolfson, who also sends out Farnsworth’s 4-year-old filly Omega Cat in the race.

Amen Hallelujah & ‘Jessica’ Most Accomplished in Filly & Mare Sprint

IEAH Stables and Whizway Farm’s 4-year-old filly Amen Hallelujah and Carolyn Vogel’s 7-year-old mare Jessica Is Back each won major Graded stakes last year and look like the class of the field of 11 drawn for the Filly & Mare Sprint.

Jockey Julien Leparoux rides Amen Hallelujah for trainer Rick Dutrow as she makes her first start since losing a narrow half-length decision when second to Champagne d’Oro in the Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5. The daughter of Montbrook began the 2010 season winning the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita in January and came east to win the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) here by 6 ¼ lengths in late February.

Jessica Is Back scored the most important victory of her career winning the Princess Rooney Handicap (G1) in July at Calder before a third-place effort in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in late August. Trained by Marty Wolfson, the daughter of Put It Back had a very rough trip finishing ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Churchill on Nov. 5 in one more start last season for Farnsworth Stables.

Jessica Is Back was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Novmber sales two nights later, and although she did not meet her reserve in the ring, was sold privately to Carolyn Vogel for $475,000. She was sent back to Wolfson at Calder to prepare for a start or two before being bred in the spring, but will need to improve on her seventh-place effort in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) here on Jan. 15. Jockey Alex Solis will have the mount.

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