Horse Racing: Closer Looks at the 2014 Sunshine Millions Classic & 2014 LeComte Stakes

With two key races being run this weekend in the sport of Horse Racing, I couldn’t decide which one to breakdown. So I said the heck with it and did both. Therefore this week we will be taking a closer look at both the 2014 Lecomte Stakes for three year olds at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, where the unbeaten Gold Hawk has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite against eight others, and the 2014 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park for older horses where Mucho Macho Man will take on just five others and is listed at the heavy 2-5 morning line favorite.

This weekend actually has several key races aside from the two I picked here.

One of those races includes the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita. The Strub, which has been won in the past by the likes of Round Table, Gun Bow, 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, the great Spectacular Bid, the grand looking Alysheba, the speedy Precisionist, fan favorite Best Pal, the enormous Rock Hard Ten and more recently the talented Twirling Candy, drew a field of 8 that includes Malibu Stakes upset winner Shakin it Up, 2013 Sunland Park Derby winner Govenor Charlie, the late running Zeewat and my choice, Hear The Ghost, who will be making his third start since chipping a bone in his knee this past spring.

1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed won the 1979 Strub Stakes

1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed won the 1979 Strub Stakes

A quick look at some of the other races around the country this weekend that bear watching are $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes (on the Lecomte under-card) for three year old fillies. Previously known as the Tiffany Lass Stakes, and renamed in 2012 to honor the great, gray filly, is run at a mile and 70 yards and drew a field of just 6. The Silverbulletday should have some impact for possible runners in the Kentucky Oaks which is run the day before the Kentucky Derby.

I will break down the Sunshine Millions Classic below but the entire day (Saturday) at GulfstreamPark is a big one. It’s known as the Sunshine Florida Millions Day as they will run five races before the Millions Classic including a Filly and Mare Sprint for 4-year-olds and up going six furlongs for $150,000, the $300,000 Distaff for 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares going 1 1/8th miles, the $150,000 Turf for 4-year-olds and up going  1 1/8th miles and $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf, 4-year-olds and up also going  1 1/8th miles…did get you all that? Because I’m not sure I did. Anyway, it should be a fun filled, action packed day at the Hallandale, Fla. track so be sure to catch it.


Fair Grounds – Saturday, January 18, 2014

Race 9 – 4:23 PM    

LeComte Stakes. (Grade: 3)

Purse $200,000. For Three Year Olds

One Mile And Seventy Yards











1 1 Roman Unbridled 3/C L K J Smith 122 C Cook


2 2 Rainbow Trip 3/G L C Landeros 116 D Pish


3 3 Got Shades 3/C   R Albarado 122 D Pish


4 4 Gold Hawk 3/C L S Bridgmohan 118 S M Asmussen


5 5 Smarty’s Echo 3/C L J Graham 116 A P Smith


6 6 Albano 3/C L K D Clark 120 J L Jones


7 7 Vicar’s in Trouble 3/C L R Napravnik 116 M J Maker


8 8 Silent Ruler 3/C L M Guidry 116 J K Desormeaux


9 9 Plug Catcher 3/C L M Mena 116 W B Calhoun





1) Gold Hawk– has been very impressive during his brief 2 race (unbeaten) career as both races were carbon copies of one another.

He broke his maiden at first asking (after throwing his rider in the post parade) at Churchill Downs on Nov 30 while coming from behind to win “going away” by 2 ¼ lengths against a big field (11 others).

The superbly bred (Empire Maker out of 2000 two year old filly champion and BC winner Caressing by Honour N’ Glory) then came back about a month later (Dec.27) against $50,000 optional claimers (over this very track) and, after laying towards the back of the pack early, then being forced 5 wide on the turn for home and being bumped hard, he once again was “pulling away” at the end to win by 3 ½.

He obviously takes a big step up in class but has one of the best trainers in the country (Steve Asmussen) in his corner, a very capable rider (Shaun Brigmohan) at the helm and the oh-so-important race over the track all going for him.


2) Roman Unbridled– appears to be Gold Hawk’s main rival on paper.

I really focused on his last three races out of the seven that he’s run being it appears his previous four races he was still kind of getting his act together.

What I found was in the Oct 26 Jean Laffitte Stakes, he was last of nine early and, albeit it he did rally past several in that race to finish fourth, he was still beaten some 16 lengths.

Next up was the Nov 23 Jackpot Millions at Delta Downs where he once again started slow and encountered serious traffic issues beginning from about the three-eighths pole. He really didn’t break free of them until mid-stretch and even then his rider had to pull him out to the four path in order to get some running room. …bottom line is he had a horrendous trip and came home fourth, beaten 8 lengths at almost 90-1 odds.

That brings us to his last race and in his first race of 2014, which was the Big Drama Stakes on Jan 4.

He drew  the one hole (and goes off at about 7-2 odds….from 90-1 to 7-2 in just one race? You don’t see that very often) and with that his connections really had no choice but to send him to the lead from the start and that’s exactly what happened

He broke running and just kept right on going. The field of six he faced that day got no closer than within three lengths of him as he led by three after the first quarter, five on the turn for home and cruised home eight in front all while recording a hefty speed figure as well.

He draws the rail again on Saturday afternoon so I expect them to “send” him once again and play catch me if you can….and there is a chance they won’t.


3) Got Shades– this stretch runner by Pollard’s Vision is already a multiple stakes winner, albeit on the turf, but if he can convert that turf form to dirt? Look out!

He had a solid 2013 campaign (5-2-0-2 record) including a not so terrible, late running fifth in the BC Juvenile Turf.

I’m really not a big “good turf horse trying the dirt for the first time” type of guy but by looking at those last 3 workouts (Jan. 14- 4F- :47.4, Jan 3- 5F- :59.3, and Dec 27- 5F- :1:00.3), this guy might be an exception to the rule….I won’t be the least bit surprise if this horse is charging hard in deep stretch.

Honorable Mentions:

Albano finished third in his debut at Churchill Downs, but broke his maiden and won a $60,000 Stakes race since being brought here (to the Fair Grounds) so he obviously like the surface….could easily better this rating. Smarty’s Echo will probably take some money at the windows based off his strong second in the Grade: 1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland two races back and the fact that his last race (although horrible) was in the 2013 BC Juvenile…so you have the “class drop” angel going for you should you play him. I’ll shy away from him, but he might run well in this race. Vicar’s in Trouble broke his maiden by a colossal margin in his last vs. state bred maidens (much weaker foes). So he’ll be stepping up in class and stretching out in distance which is usually a deadly (negative) combination but he did record a strong speed figure in that blow-out race just FYI…one that is high enough to make him a contender vs. these should he run back to that effort.




Gulfstream ParkSaturday, January 18, 2014

Race 10 – 5:03 PM    

Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes

Purse $400,000.

For Four Year Olds and Upward Registered Florida Breds

One And One Eighth Miles











1 1 Decaf Again 8/G L C Olivero 117 B R Rose


2 2 Joshua’s Comprise 4/C L F Z Maysonett 117 B R Rose


3 3 Rule Number Six 5/H L M Rispoli 117 R Gaffney


4 4 Mucho Macho Man 6/H L G L Stevens 123 K Ritvo


5 5 Bernie the Maestro 7/G L J Rosario 117 M J Maker


6 6 Gourmet Dinner 6/H L J Castellano 117 R Triola





1) Mucho Macho Man- obviously towers over this field in ability as well as money won.

The 2013 Breeders Cup winner and Horse of the Year candidate makes his six year old debut in the same spot he made his five year racing debut in, except his connections hope this year’s effort will be better that last year’s.

In 2013, this enormous chestnut, after looming boldly thru out the entire race, began to drop back on the turn for home before being pulled up completely down the stretch. The poor effort was blamed on the sloppy going.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s like last year’s Sunshine Classic never happened,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “But we did find out he doesn’t care for a wet racetrack, and better to have learned that lesson early in the year than later.”

He followed that up with two more third place finishes and caught a virus in between. For most of the year, I thought maybe his best days (like myself) were behind him but evidently not.

Rivto then sent him back out to Santa Anita and I’m still not sure if he a) finally rounded back into form or b) he just plain old loves the Santa Anita surface (probably a little of both) but he completely turned his season around once he arrived there.

The Macho Uno horse started out by winning the Grade:1 Awesome Again stakes which, in turn, set him up perfectly for the BCC.

This horse stayed at Santa Anita all winter and rested before getting it cranked up again for this race. He has looked dynamite while preparing for this race and that last work had some zip on it.

He worked four furlongs (towards the middle of the track) in :47 4/5 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00 2/5

“He worked great. It was nice to see him off the fence. It was a little deeper there,” said Ritvo. “He’s a smart horse. He knows what he’s doing. My job is easy.”

“Fortunately, everything has gone smoothly for him since he’s returned from California,” Ritvo added. “He’s training well over a racetrack he really knows and likes. Our main goal at the moment is to get him back to the Breeders’ Cup as sharp as he was going into the race last year.”

Easy and logical choice on Saturday….


2) Gourmet Dinner– was once a Triple Crown prospect (in 2011) but his form has taken a downward spiral over the past two years.

2013 was an especially tough year for this now six year old horse by Trippi as he went just 1 for 11.

That being said, he did finish on the board in 5 of those 11 starts and I did like the way he finished out the year with that good, late running third in a stakes race at Laurel (Dec13).

He should be coming late once again on Saturday afternoon, I’m just not too confident it’ll be enough to overhaul the top pick in deep stretch.


3) Bernie the Maestro– is tough old bird for sure.

This now seven year old gelding by Bernstein (Storm Cat) will be making his 58th appearance this weekend while winning a solid 17 of them.

He had a very good 2013 as well while batting .500 (5 for 10) and banking almost $180,000.

Lastly, he comes from a winning owner and gets the services of jockey Javier Castellano, who also enjoy a big year in 2013…..looks best of the rest.


2014 Record: 1-2 = 50%

2013 Record: 20-59 = 34%

To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form


Little Bets N’ Pieces

**** Top 2013 three year old Revolutionary returned to the races for the first time in seven months (the 2013 Belmont Stakes). The regally bred, good looking colt won a Gulfstream Park allowance race last Saturday by a half length over a game Falling Sky while getting a mile distance in 1:35 flat.  

Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed the Feb. 9 Donn Handicap as the next target for Revolutionary.


Revolutionary is back!

Revolutionary is back!


**** Rising three year old superstar Shared Belief missed a scheduled workout last Sunday but is still on course for his 3-year-old debut in the Feb. 8 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, according to the assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Dan Ward.

“An abscess busted out on his right front foot,” said Ward

“As soon as the area is dry, when he’s 100 percent, we’ll work him,” Ward added. “The Lewis is four weeks away. We should be fine.”

Rising three year old superstar Shared Belief hit a minor speed bump

Rising three year old superstar Shared Belief hit a minor speed bump


**** The immensely talented Cairo Prince, who is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park, worked five furlongs in :59.4 last Sunday at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.

It was the fourth published work for the handsome colt, who was dead game in running second to Honor Code in the Nov 30 Remsen Stakes.
“I wasn’t looking for 59-and-4 again, but he’s just doing great,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He had company, but he hooked into a horse that was in front of him a little bit. It kind of made him work a little faster than we needed, but he’s doing that well. No worries, no negatives; he worked great.”

McLaughlin said he will give Cairo Prince one more work leading into the 1 1/16th miles Holy Bull.

“We’ll work again next Saturday or Sunday, a half-mile probably on his own now, hopefully in something like 49,” McLaughlin said. “When you ask a horse to go a little slower and they end up going fast, that’s a good sign that he’s doing extremely well. He’s happy, and we’re happy.”

Cairo Prince (left) makes his three year old debut in the Jan. 25 Holy Bull Stakes

Cairo Prince (left) makes his three year old debut in the Jan. 25 Holy Bull Stakes


**** Groupie Doll, who was nothing short of spectacular while winning her second straight Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2013, breezed a half-mile for what could be the final start of her career (The Hurricane Bertie Stakes on Feb. 9?) last Sunday at Gulfstream Park

“It was kind of neat that she and Mucho Macho Man were standing out there together before they trained,” trainer Buff Bradley said. “Then he took off and she went right after him.”

The now 6-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band breezed four furlongs in :49 4/5 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 under exercise rider Jada Schlenk.

“She went really good. I told Jada to go between :49 and :50,” Bradley said. “She said she had a ton of horse and telling her, ‘Whoa,’ the whole way. She went easy and galloped out good. She’s got a pretty good fitness level under her. She was at GoldMark (Farm) and they kept her going there, so that helped. We’ve got three more works, so we’re good.”

 “This was a let’s-find-out-where-she-is work. I was pleased with her fitness level and she galloped out really strong and galloped probably another three-eighths of a mile,” Bradley said. 

Will Champion Groupie Doll's next race be her last?

Will Champion Groupie Doll’s next race be her last?

**** Old Friends retirement home in Georgetown, Ky. continues to emotionally struggle as the 22-year-old mare Dancin’ Renee lost a long battle with laminitis and was euthanized on January 11 by Dr. Brian Fraley.

“It’s been a tough month,” said Old Friends president and founder, Michael Blowen. “We lost Patton and Sunshine Forever in the last week, and now Renee. I mourn the losses but thank all of their fans for their support-particularly the thoughtfulness of Jeanne Mirabito of Our Mims for sending a colorful bouquet of flowers in memory of Sunshine Forever”.

Former New York Horse of the Year Dancin' Renee died recently

Former New York Horse of the Year Dancin’ Renee died recently