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Gulfstream gears up for stakes-packed weekend

Gulfstream Park has a jam-packed weekend scheduled as it plays host to the $400,000 Holy Bull S. (G3), the first major prep on the road to the Triple Crown, and the $200,000 Forward Gal S. (G2) for three-year-old fillies on Sunday. Prior to that, though, Florida- and California-breds will get their chance to shine in the ninth edition of the $1.8 million Sunshine Millions set for Saturday.

First Dude is still seeking his first stakes win (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

Donald Dizney's homebred colt FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even) became a familiar name on the national scene last season when placing in the Preakness S. (G1), Belmont S. (G1) and other major three-year-old events. Now the four-year-old gets his 2011 campaign going as one of the choices in Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream.

The 1 1/8-mile 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 Romans. Florida-breds are assured of a sweep in the Classic as there are no California-breds entered. First Dude will be making his first start since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on November 6 behind Blame and Horse of the Year Zenyatta.

The bay colt put together 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 Oaklawn H. (G2) hero DUKE OF MISCHIEF (Graeme Hall), DRY MARTINI (Slew Gin Fizz) and BIRDRUN (Birdstone).

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 Ft. Lauderdale S. (G3) early last year. The five-year-old scored his biggest career victory in the Oaklawn 'Cap in early April and went on to capture the Philip H. Iselin H. (G3) at Monmouth Park in August. He'll have Eibar Coa aboard in the Classic.

Dry Martini is the veteran in the field, and the eight-year-old gelding will bid for a 10th victory in 36 career starts. Currently sporting earnings of more than $1.3 million, the dark bay will be making his first start since a close-up third in the Mad Hatter overnight stakes at Aqueduct on November 20. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Dry Martini scored his biggest career victory in the 2009 Suburban H. (G2) at Belmont Park. Javier Castellano was aboard when Dry Martini ran second in last year's Donn H. (G1) and takes back the mount for this one.

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 with a 4 1/2-length victory in the November 13 Carl Rose Classic at Calder last out. The five-year-old ran twice over the Gulfstream track last year, finishing second and winning an allowance, both races going a mile. Rajiv Maragh, in the saddle for the Carl G. Rose, will try to make it two stakes wins in a row.

Askbut I Won'ttell is seeking a hat trick of stakes in the Filly & Mare Turf (Jim Lisa Photos)

ASKBUT I WON'TTELL (Horse Chestnut [SAf]) completed her 2010 season with victories in the Cardinal H. (G3) at Churchill Downs in November and My Charmer H. (G3) at Calder in early December after arriving in South Florida for the winter season. That form will likely send her out as the favorite in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf.

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan gets the return call on Askbut I Won'ttell for trainer Chris Block in the full field of 14 with one on the also-eligible list. The five-year-old mare was a regular traveler throughout the Midwest last season, winning an allowance at Fair Grounds early in her campaign and a stakes at Arlington Park in mid-May. She also finished a game second in the Belle Mahone S. at Woodbine in August.

DYNASLEW (Dyanformer), who won the Ballston Spa H. (G2) and Beaugay S. (G3) last season, will make her first start since a modest sixth in the First Lady S. (G1) in October. The Live Oak homebred ran strongly in two other major stakes in 2010, finishing second in the All Along S. (G3) and a neck fourth in the Diana S. (G1) behind multiple Grade 1 winner Proviso (GB).

Two others in the field likely to attract solid support are WILD MIA (Wildcat Heir), with Jose Lezcano aboard for trainer Tom Proctor, and SPEAK EASY GAL (West Acre), on whom trainer Marty Wolfson will give jockey Julien Leparoux a leg up. Wild Mia closed out 2010 with a runner-up effort in the Mrs. Revere S. (G2) at Churchill Downs and was just 2 1/4 lengths behind in sixth in the Marshua's River S. (G3) last out in her four-year-old bow. Speak Easy Gal racked up four straight wins over Gulfstream's turf during the early part of last season, including the Orchid S. (G3)

Wolfson also sends out stakes-placed OMEGA CAT (Omega Code) in the race.

AMEN HALLELUJAH (Montbrook) and JESSICA IS BACK (Put It Back) each won major graded events last year and look like the class of the 11-distaffer field drawn for the Filly & Mare Sprint.

Amen Hallelujah is returning from a near eight-month layoff in the Filly & Mare Sprint (Benoit Photos)

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 (Medaglia d'Oro) in the Acorn S. (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5. The dark bay miss began the 2010 season winning the Santa Ynez S. (G2) at Santa Anita in January before heading to the Atlantic Coast to add Gulfstream's Davona Dale S. (G2) to her resume by 6 1/4 lengths in late February. Prior to her Acorn second, Amen Hallelujah was sixth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Jessica is Back scored the most important victory of her career when capturing the Princess Rooney H. (G1) in July at Calder before a third-place effort in the Ballerina S. (G1) at Saratoga in late August. The Wolfson trainee had a very rough trip finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Churchill on November 5 in her last start of the 2010.

The seven-year-old mare was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton November sale 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 needs to improve on her recent seventh-place effort in the January 15 Sugar Swirl S. (G3). Jockey Alex Solis has the call.

Those attending the races at Gulfstream on Saturday will receive a Sunshine Millions cap when purchasing any seat in the Silks Simulcast room or second-floor outdoor grandstand. Fans will also have a chance that day to win DVD and posters of the Disney movie "Secretariat." Otto Thorwarth, who played jockey Ron Turcotte in the movie, and Kate Chenery Tweedy, author of "Secretariat's Meadow," will be on hand to greet race goers and promote the film.

The first 100 fans to pay for breakfast at Breakfast at Gulfstream will receive a free Secretariat movie poster. Breakfast at Gulfstream runs every Saturday from 7-10 a.m. (ET).

Post time for the first race at Gulfstream is 12:55 p.m.


 


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