Gulfstream Park featured the Sunshine Stakes program on Saturday, offering four stakes restricted to Florida-breds.
Sunshine Turf S.
Venezuelan Hug looks poised to return to the graded ranks, opening his 4-year-old season with a victory in the $75,000 Turf. Luis Saez guided the gray Constitution colt, who scored by nearly a length as the 5-2 favorite, and Venezuelan Hug completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.02 on the firm turf.
The Danny Gargan trainee has won five of his last seven starts, the lone setbacks coming in the Belmont Derby (G1) and Pennine Ridge S. (G2), and Venezuelan Hug increased his bankroll to $178,430 from a 9-5-0-1 record.
After rating in seventh during the early stages, Venezuelan Hug advanced into contention while wide on the far turn, and he closed determinedly to strike the lead in midstretch. Shamrocket rallied on the far outside to be second at 34-10, and it was nearly a length back to 6-1 Monforte in third.
Over the Channel, pacesetter Proven Strategies, Second Mate, Clear Destination, Max K. O., and Galleon Mast came next under the wire.
Venezuelan Hug, who is owned by Spedale Family Racing and R.A. Hill Stable, was claimed for $40,000 from his second start. He is the first winner out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Downtown Diva.
Sunshine Sprint S.
Cajun Brother ran down 3-2 favorite Extravagant Kid in the final strides of the $100,000 Sprint, recording a 14-1 upset in the 6-furlong event. The 4-year-old gelding had been unplaced in his first two stakes attempts, finishing third most recently in a Dec. 13 allowance at Gulfstream, but he stepped forward with a strong showing for owner/breeder Shadybrook Farm and trainer Michael Yates.
With Miguel Vasquez at the reins, Cajun Brother stalked in fourth behind the front-running Extravagant Kid, who was making a title defense after scoring by 2 3/4 lengths last year. The versatile 8-year-old gelding had finished a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) two starts back, and Extravagant Kid led by a couple of lengths in upper stretch Saturday, but he could not hold off the winner in the latter stages.
Cajun Brother prevailed by a neck, stopping the teletimer in 1:10.97 on the fast main track, he’s now bankrolled $163,005 from an 8-4-0-1 ledger. The chestnut is by Cajun Breeze.
Extravagant Kid wound up 1 1/4 lengths better than third-placer With Verve, who was followed by Souper Stonehenge, Legal Deal, Inter Miami, Jackson, and Old Time Revival.
Sunshine Classic S.
Last Judgment emphatically earned his first stakes win in the $75,000 Classic, rolling unopposed a 6 1/2-length decision with Jose Ortiz. The 5-year-old was claimed for $62,500 two starts previously, and Mike Maker conditions the Congrats gelding.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Steve Hornstock, Bethlehem Stable, and Nice Guys Stable, Last Judgment reeled off splits in :23.84, :47.57, and 1:12.07 before drawing off in the stretch, and 28-10 second choice completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.76.
Noble Drama, who was making a title defense as the 17-10 favorite, rallied belated for second, a neck better than 34-10 third choice Roman Empire. Quenane, Red Crescent, and Kaufy Bean rounded out the order.
Bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Last Judgment sold for $300,000 as a 2-year-old in training. He was haltered twice last year, claimed for $40,000 at Saratoga before being taken by his current connections from a win at Belmont Park in late October, and the bay was exiting an unplaced effort in the Dec. 19 Mr. Prospector S. (G3) at Gulfstream.
Last Judgment upped his bankroll to $273,165 from a 14-6-0-1 line.
Sunshine Filly and Mare Turf S.
Bienville Street kicked off the stakes action with an 8-1 upset in the $75,000 Filly and Mare Turf, edging Mo of the West by a neck on the wire in a blanket finish. Cam Gambolati trains the 6-year-old for CJ Thoroughbreds, and Paco Lopez was up.
After stalking the pace in fourth, Bienville Street rallied three wide into contention on the far turn. Mo of the West chased pacesetter and 17-10 favorite Sugar Fix in second, and the duo was joined by Bienville Street in midstretch.
Mo of the West edged 19-10 second choice Sun Summers by a neck for second. It was another neck to Lovely Luvy in fourth. Sugar Fix, Lookinlikeaqueen, and Kelsey’s Cross followed.
The winner gamely prevailed to notch her first stakes victory, completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:41.50. Bienville Street is by Street Boss, and the chestnut was bred by Double W Thoroughbred Racing. She’s now won two straight, upsetting a Dec. 18 conditioned allowance over the course at 11-1, and Bienville Street has earned $233,485 from a 32-5-3-7 record.