Longshot Tackleberry led from the start and repulsed Duke of Mischief to win the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic by 2 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park Jan. 29 (VIDEO). Odds-on favorite First Dude finished fourth after being taken back early by Kent Desormeaux and never regained his eagerness.
Florida-bred Tackleberry, sent off at 27-1 in the 10-horse marquee event, went to the lead as expected and never relented while being pressed throughout by Duke of Mischief, who became racing's newest millionaire in finishing second. Dream Maestro, another longshot, finished third.
The winner, who has now won six of 10 lifetime starts, including the Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) at Calder, set easy fractions of :24.41, :48.78, and 1:12.13 for a final time of 1:48.52. under Javier Santiago, who noted that the trainer told him to "go to the lead no matter what."
“He loves to run and wants the lead. Last time he stumbled and broke bad at the start and didn’t get to run his race. He’s a fighter. He looks like he’s dead at the top the stretch and he fights back," owner-trainer Luis Olivares said. "I might run him back next weekend. This is the biggest purse I’ve won."
First Dude ran with him into the first turn and got into tight quarters, prompting Desormeaux to take hold and drop the rangy, long-striding bay back into fourth. Seeming to resent the grip, Donald Dizney's homebred son of Stephen Got Even never requickened. Most recently eighth behind Blame in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), First Dude finished second in the 2010 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and third in the Belmont (gr. I).
“I did run into traffic on the first turn but it was mission accomplished," Desormeaux said. "We wanted to take him off the pace today and I was able to do that. He hasn’t been performing up to what the team thinks he should so we wanted to get him to the outside and give him his best chance.”
A 4-year-old gelded son of Montbrook out of Box of Joy, by Concerto, Tackleberry most recently ran fourth in the Hal's Hope Handicap at Gulfstream, ending a four-race winning streak. Olivares bought the dark bay privately as a 2-year-old from breeder Ocala Stud Farm, where Montbrook stands. A knee chip delayed Tackleberry's debut until July 2010.
Tackleberry's victory, worth $275,000, increased his earnings to $487,225.
The winner returned $56.60, $23, and $12.80. The Classic victory pushed his earnings to $487,225. Duke of Mischief, who drifted in the stretch, paid $9.40 and $6.20 while Dream Maestro returned $10.40.