Edmund Gann’s It’s a Bird stalked the pace under Julien Leparoux, took over rounding the final turn and drew clear for a resounding, 5 1/4-length victory in the $1-million OBS Sunshine Millions Classic (VIDEO) Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park.
A 6-year-old Florida-bred son of Birdonthewire, It’s a Bird won the 1 1/8-mile main track event in a final time of 1:49.35 and gave Florida a clean sweep over California in the four Sunshine Millions races run at Gulfstream. The dark bay horse earned $550,000 for the victory, which was his fourth in seven tries since Marty Wolfson took over training duties from Todd Pletcher last summer.
Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini
recovered from a poor start under Edgar Prado to get up for second, finishing a nose ahead of 2-1 favorite Delightful Kiss
, who rallied from last to get show money.
Leparoux allowed It’s a Bird to settle nicely in second through the early stages of the Classic, pressing pacesetter Finallymadeit through reasonable splits of :23.78, :48.08 and 1:12.56. Macho Again, Medzendeekron and Hey Byrn were also up close in a tightly-bunched field.
As they hit the turn, It’s a Bird inched closer to Finallymadeit and once they straightened away he easily took over. It’s a Bird led by three lengths approaching the eighth-pole and was never challenged in the final furlong.
“We got the perfect race,” Leparoux said. “There was almost no traffic, so he followed the plan pretty good. He broke good. He gave extra at the quarter pole. All I did was try not to lose the No. 1 horse (Finallymadeit), because he got off good. We kept it nice for him, and he did the rest. He got stronger as the race went on. I took a look to make sure I was clear, but I knew we were in good shape.”
It’s a Bird, who was bred by White Cross Farm and is out of the Hooched mare Faithful City, entered the Classic off a sixth-place finish in his 2009 debut – the Jan. 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III). He won three times in 11 starts during 2008, including the grade III Spend a Buck Handicap at Calder Race Course in October. In 27 lifetime starts, It’s a Bird has produced a 9-4-1 record. He has now earned $817,885.
“I wanted Julien on the lead or close to it,” Wolfson said. “My horse has done that before and that’s his best race. He doesn’t like dirt in his face. When he opens up three or four lengths, he gets stronger. I’ve only had him six months, and he’s been wonderful for me. I don’t have any immediate plans for him.”
The winner paid $24, $9.60 and $5 as the fifth choice in a field of 12. The exacta (5-7) returned $131, while the $1 trifecta (5-7-12) was worth $183.70.
Delightful Kiss, a winner of three graded stakes since September, ran a solid race despite breaking a step slowly from undesirable post 12. He was more than 13 lengths back in last at one point down the backstretch before making a big run from the middle of the racetrack.
“He ran a great race from the 12-hole," jockey Calvin Borel said."He broke out a little bit at the start and was way wide on the (final) turn, which just gave him too much to do. He still just got beat for second.”
Dream Maestro finished fourth, followed by Finallymadeit, Medzendeekron, Macho Again, Atoned, Famous Patriot, Hey Byrn, Nima's Pad and Palladio.
Sunshine Million Handle Rises 10%
On-track handle at Gulfstream Park on Sunshine Millions Day reached $1,449,863, a 10% increase from the $1,319,197 handle recorded on Sunshine Millions Day in 2008.
The all-sources handle was also up 10% from a year ago, coming in at $13,602,677 this year compared with $12,368,226 in 2008.
"We had a beautiful day of racing and, in all truth, we sensed we were in for a big day," said Gulfstream Park President and General Manager Bill Murphy. "We knew the racing was going to be top quality, and we also believe that people are growing acclimated to the surroundings here, recognizing that this is a beautiful and exciting venue."