Picks and Plays for Sunshine Millions Day

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 17th, 2019

The annual Sunshine Millions program at Gulfstream Park might not be quite what it was a decade or so ago, when there were more races and bigger purses, but the four races scheduled for Saturday are shaping up to be competitive events with some high-quality participants.

I’ve gone through the card and come up with a few spot plays totaling $100. Feel free to follow along from race to race, or pick and choose which races sound appealing to you. It should be a fun day!

Race 1: Maiden Special Weight for Florida-Breds

#6 Amnesty sold for $650,000 as a two-year-old in training and will race for the high-profile team of trainer Todd Pletcher and owners WinStar Farm and the China Horse Club. The son of Speightstown has posted some sharp workouts at Palm Beach Downs and will have Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle. Overall, this looks like a pretty easy spot, and if Amnesty has any sort of talent to match his purchase price he ought to win at a short price.

$20 to win on #6 Amnesty (or skip the win money and just single him in multi-race wagers?)

Race 4: Sunshine Millions Sprint

#1 X Y Jet is easily the best horse here on paper, but he’s seven years old now and his career has been interrupted on several occasions by ankle injuries, including a setback in October that kept him out of the Breeders’ Cup. Could he be vulnerable on Saturday while running for the first time since June?

I’ll take a shot against him with #6 Ray’swarrior. Some of his recent form has been muddied by efforts on turf, but Ray’swarrior has won his last two starts on dirt in gate-to-wire fashion with 101 BRIS speed figures, including a recent six-furlong claiming race at Gulfstream Park in which he set fractions of :21.78 and :43.86 before powering clear by 9 ¼ lengths. Trained by Jason Servis, who has done fantastic work with former claimers, Ray’swarrior will be ridden by Gulfstream’s leading jockey Luis Saez. If anyone can run with X Y Jet early on and survive the battle, I think it’s Ray’swarrior.

$15 to win on #6 Ray’swarrior $2.50 trifecta: 6 with 1,3,7 with 1,3,7 ($15)

Race 6: Sunshine Millions Turf

Like X Y Jet, #3 Big Changes is also seven years old, but he’s in easily the best form of his career with five wins and two seconds from his last seven starts, a streak that includes three stakes victories and a narrow miss in the River City Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. The 8.5-furlong distance of the Sunshine Millions Turf should fit him perfectly and it’s going to take a big run for anyone to beat him.

#1 Archer Road, who cuts back in distance off a ninth-place finish in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes, won a couple of stakes races over this course in 2018 and looms as another logical contender along with #4 Driven by Thunder, a Todd Pletcher trainee with a 4-for-6 record over the Gulfstream turf.

$20 to win on #3 Big Changes $5 exacta: 3 with 1,4 ($10)

Race 11: Sunshine Millions Classic

#4 Mr. Jordan won the Millions Classic Preview Stakes at Gulfstream Park West, but take note, he’s won that race three years in a row and is 5-for-5 at Gulfstream Park West. In contrast, he’s just 1-for-17 at Gulfstream Park and has been beaten in two previous renewals of the Sunshine Millions Classic, so I don’t want to take a short price on him this Saturday.

Instead, I’ll try to beat him with #8 Souper Tapit. A consistent runner who’s kept good company on both dirt and turf, Souper Tapit was the decisive nine-length winner of a one-mile off-the-turf allowance race at Gulfstream last month, earning a career-best 99 BRIS speed figure for his powerful performance. Some of his other recent runs on dirt resulted in runner-up efforts in competitive events at Belmont and Saratoga, so it’s not like his allowance win was a fluke. If Souper Tapit brings his A-game, I think he can upset Mr. Jordan.

$10 to win on #8 Souper Tapit $5 exacta: 4,8 with 4,8 ($10)

Good luck!