From publicity releases:
Man From Wicklow, who won last year's Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I), is currently training at Palm Meadows for a scheduled start in the Sunshine Millions Franks Farm Turf on Jan. 24.
The Sunshine Millions Turf offers a $500,000 purse, with a $275,000 share to the winner.
Man From Wicklow has been idle since a runner-up finish in Keeneland's grade III Elkhorn in April.
"He got hurt at Keeneland in that race," said owner/trainer Richard Violette Jr. "He strained a bunch of ligaments and we were lucky to be able to get him back to the races. Basically, we had to start all over with him. But he's been doing well since we put him back in training, and we are very pleased with his progress. He never does anything fast. That half the other day (:49 breezing at Palm Meadows Jan. 9) was rapid for him. We'll continue to do things the same way to get him ready.
Cellars Shiraz has raced just once in the past nine months and that one race wasn't very pretty. Trainer Bill Cesare said the fillies and mares in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Ocala Breeders' Sales Distaff will be surprised if they think she's not back to her classy old self.
The 5-year-old mare is a multiple stakes winner with 10 victories from 28 starts, but all those great performances were concentrated into a short amount of time. As a reward for all her hard work, Cesare decided to give her a vacation.
"She had been on the track for something like two straight years without a break," said Cesare. "I wanted to give her a breather and freshen her up. I'm hoping she comes back now as strong as she ever was."
The daughter of Kissin Kris showed her best strength over a stretch from the summer of 2002 through to May of last year where she almost never missed the board while racing exclusively in stakes. In that time she registered a victory over the Gulfstream dirt in the Paulson Stakes last February, She also won twice on the turf in stakes races at Calder.
When Cellars Shiraz returned to the races in December in the Stage Door Betty Handicap it ended up being her worst performance in a long time, but Cesare is frank about why his mare checked in last.
"She just wasn't ready or fit enough for that race," said Cesare. "We knew we would be aiming for (Sunshine Millions), but we rushed her back to try and get a race into her and she just wasn't ready for it. That's okay, because this race coming up is important and she's definitely more prepared for this one."
A knee chip suffered by Love That Moon will keep the seven-time winner out of the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Padua Stables Sprint, so owner Robert Bakerman and trainer Ross Wolfendale will send out the lesser regarded Love My Mountain instead.
Love My Mountain gets the start despite finishing last in an allowance race in his most recent start on dirt. His last victory was a wire-to-wire score in a second-level allowance race at Calder last May.
Love That Moon will be laid up for about six months before returning to training.