Under confident handling from Edgar Prado, Benny the Bull, a 5-year-old son of Lucky Lionel, made his decisive move rounding the turn, slipped through traffic at the rail to take over at the top of the lane, and coasted home by 4 1/2 lengths as the even-money favorite. His final time of 1:08.48 was just 2/100ths off the six-furlong track record.
Also closing on the rail was 49-1 longshot Santana Strings, who was three-quarters of a lengths in front of Mach Ride for second. Tropic Storm was fourth.
The Sprint was the first of four Sunshine Millions events at Gulfstream, which tested Florida and California-breds against one another. There were also four Sunshine Millions stakes at Santa Anita.
Benny the Bull, bred in Florida by Tomoka Farms, entered the Sprint off a 1 1/4-length score in the De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) Nov. 24 at Laurel Park. Prior to that, he was fourth after a troubled trip in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. Trained by Rick Dutrow, Jr., the dark bay horse captured his fourth victory in his last seven starts. There was no doubt about this one.
“We didn’t plan on him being up as close as he was today," Dutrow said. "I was a little worried for a bit, but I guess his style is just changing. It’s not that we’ve trained him any different.
"I don’t think he’s ever run any better than he did today. I’m thinking that the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct might be his next start. That would give him plenty of time. It’s a grade I, and the seven-eighths isn’t really an issue with me. I’m sure the people from Dubai will be calling, but that’s a decision for the owners to decide.”
Harris Farms homebred High Standards set the early pace, posting a quick :21.93 opening quarter, with second choice Mach Ride just to his outside. Benny the Bull was fifth after two furlongs but moved up to challenge after a half-mile, which was set by Mach Ride in :44.56. Finallymadeit was just a half-length off the lead at that point.
Mach Ride, with Elvis Trujillo aboard, continued his narrow lead coming out of the turn; but when they straightened away, it was clear that Benny the Bull was moving best. Prado took him to the front along the rail, opened up a clear lead in upper stretch, and cruised to the wire under a hand ride.
“I was surprised that he was so close to the front," Prado said. "I found a hole behind the leaders and let him go. He’s a very nice colt. I got no instructions from Rick, and that was the best part. He was better today than when I rode him in the De Francis. He was more on edge. He was in command every step of the way. It was a just a question of when I could let him go.”
Benny the Bull paid $4, $2.80, and $2.40. The $2 exacta (6-10) with Santana Strings was worth $71.80, while the trifecta (6-10-2) returned $356.60.
Out of the Birdonthewire mare Comet Cat, Benny the Bull has now earned $633,550 from 14 career starts, which have produced six wins. He was a $38,000 purchase at the Keeneland 2004 yearling sale.