From the East Coast to the Left Coast a slew of talented Thoroughbreds are lining up, ready to stamp themselves as the one to watch in their division. The big event for older males and females, this weekend, is the Sunshine Millions. Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park split the six races with Gulfstream Park taking the Classic, Filly and Mare Turf, and the Filly and Mare Sprint. Leaving Santa Anita with the Turf, Distaff, and Sprint.
Racing in the Sunshine Millions Classic is the well know First Dude. However, it is not for his devastating wins that he is know for, it is his streak of "almost wins." Last year the giant of a colt ran second and third in the Preakness and Belmont, then followed those efforts up with a pair of third place efforts in the Haskell Invitational and Travers Stakes and a second place in the PA Derby. His only off the board performance was in the Breeders Cup Classic, where he was eighth. Today First Dude and his band of loyal supporters hopes he can break from his bridesmaid shell to stamp himself as one of 2011's leading older males.
Two other very interesting races at Gulfstream Park are the Forward Gal and Holly Bull Stakes, the latter for 3yr old colts, the former for fillies. Both races are stacked miles high with talent, but it is yet again the race for fillies that features the most star power. The unbeaten Dancinginherdreams lines up against the ultra classy and consistent R Heat Lighting. The former, dominated in her only two starts as a juvenile winning her maiden in an explosive 5 lengths before showing the maturity of an old veteran in the Pocahontas Stakes, drawing clear by 5 1/4 length. R Heat Lighting burst onto the scene in a dramatic last to first win in the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, but after a troubled trip she had to settle for second in the Frizette, to AZ Warrior. She then battled with the eventual 2yr old Female champion, Awesome Feather, in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, before finally giving way to finish second.
In the Holly Bull has the potential to be a telling race, as it hosts many three year olds with the potential to do some real damage on the Triple Crown Trail. Among them in recent allowance winner Black N Beauty, explosive maiden winner Dialed In, Delta Jackpot victor Gourmet Dinner, and multiple stakes hero Sweet Ducky. One lesser known colt, Mucho Macho Man finished second twice to To Honor and Serve, a leading candidate for the Triple Crown.
If you thought the Sunshine State was starting to get hot, you might want to pack your sunscreen and plenty of Gatorade, because the Golden State is about to burst the thermometer. The Sunshine Millions Turf features some of 2010's most elite turf horses. Leading them are Caracortado, Precious Passion, and The Usual QT. Caracortado found a home on turf when dominating a turf allowance in his debut on the green. This will be his second turf start, but against much tougher competition. The Usual QT has shown himself to be a brilliant turf talent, but maybe not the luckiest. He was good enough to go to Dubai and run 4th in the Dubai Duty Free. Then after a bit of a rough start coming back to America, returned to form in the Eddie Read. The race would prove to be his last win, but he did run second in the Woodbine Mile, then back to back thirds in the Breeders Cup Mile and San Gabriel. Presious Passion is trying to rebound off a 4 race losing streak, and what better way for the 8 year old gelding to do that than to return to the sight of some of his most dynamic performances. In 2009, the chestnut fire ball lit up the Santa Antia Turf with scintillating win in the Hircsh Turf Championship, before nearly denying defending Breeders Cup Turf Champion, Conduit, his second Breeders Cup title.
Two other names that might be recognized are Evening Jewel and Switch. Both ultra tough fillies who finally came into there own last year, after just barely getting nicked by Champion 3yr old Filly Blind Luck. Switch tops the Santa Monica, run on Sunday, and will be looking for her second grade one win. The ever so versatile Evening Jewel makes a return to the dirt in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, and looks to be the class of the field.
So there you have it, two blazing coasts, packed together in one sizzling weekend of racing.