Grade I winners Cost of Freedom and Jessica Is Back head their respective sprint divisions of the Sunshine Millions taking place at Santa Anita in California and at Gulfstream Park in Florida Jan. 29.
The $200,0000 Sunshine Millions Sprint takes place at Santa Anita as the fifth race on the program, while the Filly and Mare Sprint is race eight at Gulfstream. They are part of the six-race winter series, in its ninth year for horses bred in California and Florida, worth a combined $1.8 million at the two MI Developments-owned tracks.
Gary and Cecil Barber's speedy 8-year-old Cost of Freedom is coming off a 4 1/2-length victory in Hollywood Park's Miles Tyson Stakes Dec. 11 and is on a three-stakes win streak for trainer John Sadler. The California-bred Cees's Tizzy gelding has led at every call during his current streak, which includes a 1 3/4-length triumph in the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III) in his previous start Nov. 25.
Cost of Freedom, who drew post 3 and will have Joe Talamo back aboard, has 11 wins in 21 races and earnings of $857,983 to lead a six-horse California-bred contingent in the field of eight.
Sadler also entered Don Tito for the Barbers and Larry Nestadt, a horse with tactical speed that the trainer scratched out of last weekend's Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. II) for this spot. The 4-year-old Florida-bred son of Trippi was a non-factor in Santa Anita's Malibu Stakes (gr. I) in his last start. Joel Rosario has the mount.
Trainer Doug O’Neill is optimistic about the chances of California-bred Quick Enough.
“He’s doing fantastic,” O’Neill said recently. “He breezed (Jan. 22), came out of it in great shape and we entered with Pat Valenzuela.”
The 7-year-old High Brite gelding is coming off a runner-up finish in the Daytona Stakes (gr. IIIT) on Santa Anita's hillside turf course Jan. 1. Owned by Michael Bello, Russell Sarno and Suarez Racing, the grade III winner was second to Cost of Freedom in the Tyson prior to that.
Quick Enough, with a 7-5-3 lifetime mark in 17 races and earnings of $313,360, is O’Neill’s lone entry in the Millions.
“I wish we had more but he’s the only one we have," he said. "I would trade places with maybe Cost of Freedom but other than that I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I like the way we’re going and he’s training great.”
Also representing Florida is Donald Dizney's homebred Apriority. The 4-year-old Grand Slam colt is riding a three-race winning streak for trainer David Fawkes and will be making his stakes debut.
The Filly and Mare Sprint attracted a field of 11 older fillies and mares. Besides Jessica Is Back, who captured the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder last July, Amen Hallelujah, a two-time grade II winner in 2010, also holds a class edge.
IEAH Stables and Whizway Farm’s 4-year-old filly Amen Hallelujah is to be ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. in her first start since losing a half-length decision when second to Champagne d'Oro in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park last June 5. The daughter of Montbrook began the 2010 season winning the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita in January and traveled east to win the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream by 6 ¼ lengths in late February.
Carolyn Vogel’s 7-year-old mare Jessica Is Back scored the most important victory of her career in the Princess Rooney Handicap before a third-place effort in the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga in late August. Trained by Marty Wolfson, the daughter of Put It Back had a rough trip finishing ninth in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill on Nov. 5 in her final start last season for Farnsworth Stables.
Jessica Is Back was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Novmber sales two nights later and although she did not meet her reserve in the ring, was sold privately to Vogel for $475,000. She was sent back to Wolfson at Calder to prepare for a start or two before being bred in the spring, but will need to improve on her seventh-place effort in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 15 at Gulfstream. Jockey Alex Solis will have the mount.
Trainer Greg Sacco's barn sends out Red Oak Stable's Feel That Fire, who exits a victory in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream Jan. 7. The 4-year-old daughter of Lightnin N Thunder has started just three times, winning her last two, and spots the remainder of the field quite a bit of experience. She broke her maiden against males at Monmouth Park by three lengths in November.
“Feel That Fire is training super and is on target for Saturday,” Sacco said. “She’s lightly raced but she keeps on improving.”
Feel That Fire breaks from post 11 with jockey Elvis Trujillo aboard.
“She has a world of talent,” Sacco said. “I usually don’t have them cranked up all the way in their first starts so I hope she would continue to improve.”
Glen Hill Farm's homebred Broken Dreams posted a fine second behind Unzip Me in her first start of the year for trainer Tom Proctor, the Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita turf Jan. 2. The 5-year-old Broken Vow mare will be making her first try on dirt since breaking her maiden by 14 lengths against $25,000 claimers on a sloppy Tampa Bay Downs track in April.
The speedy Wildcat Heiress, owned by Ron McCauley and trained by Tevis McCauley, owns a three-race win streak and won the Esplanade Stakes at Fair Grounds by 3 1/4 lengths in her most recent start Dec. 18. The 4-year-old daughter of Wildcat Heir has won four of five in her career, all in front-running style. She is sure to be gunning from the rail.
The lone California-bred in the field is Dizney's homebred North Rodeo, coming off a fourth-place finish in her stakes bow in the Minaret at Tampa Bay Jan. 1 for Fawkes.
$200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint (Race 5, Santa Anita, 2:03 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Amazombie (CA), M Smith, 122, W Spawr
2. Cayambe (CA), G Gomez, 122, V Garcia
3. Cost of Freedom (CA), J Talamo, 122, J Sadler
4. Don Tito (FL), J Rosario, 120, J Sadler
5. Excessive Passion (CA), R Baze, 120, J Bonde
6. Quick Enough (CA), P Valenzuela, 122, D O'Neill
7. Apriority FL), R Bejarano, 120, D Fawkes
8. Dance With Gable (CA), V Espinoza, 122, M Machowsky
$200,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint (Race 8, Gulfstream, 4:16 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Wildcat Heiress (FL), K Desormeaux, 120, T McCauley
2. Broken Dreams (FL), J Lezcano, 122, T Proctor
3. Belle of the Hall (FL), J Castellano, 120, T Albertrani
4. Jessica Is Back (FL), A Solis, 122, M D Wolfson
5. North Rodeo (CA), E Coa, 122, D Fawkes
6. Sweetlalabye (FL), R Maragh, 120, E Tortora
7. Amen Hallelujah (FL), J Leparoux, 120, R Dutrow Jr.
8. Aegean (FL), J Sanchez, 120, W Ward
9. My Irish Girl (FL), P Lopez, 120, B Cox
10. Musical Romance (FL), J Leyva, 120, W Kaplan
11. Feel That Fire (FL), E Trujillo, 120, G Sacco