Grade I winner Benny the Bull heads the field in the Sunshine Millions Sprint.

Grade I winner Benny the Bull heads the field in the Sunshine Millions Sprint.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

'The Bull' Eyes Millions Sprint

Benny the Bull will look to tackle 10 rivals Jan. 26 in the Sunshine Millions Sprint.

IEAH Stables and partners’ Benny the Bull is the probable morning line favorite for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint, but will have to subdue 10 tough challengers Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park.

The Sprint is one of four Sunshine Millions events at Gulfstream, and will run concurrently with four others at Santa Anita. The 6th annual Sunshine Millions pits Florida-bred horses against California-breds, with a total of $3.6 million in purses at stake.

The Sprint is a six-furlong test on the main track, open to older horses. Last year, it was won by Smokey Stover at Santa Anita.

Benny the Bull enters off an impressive 1 ¼-length score in the $250,000 De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) Nov. 24 at Laurel Park. The 5-year-old Lucky Lionelhorse flashed his usual closing speed, coming from well off the pace to take the six-furlong event under Edgar Prado.

Prior to the De Francis, Benny the Bull broke slowly and finished fourth in the $2-million TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. He was 3-1-1 from eight starts in 2007, including a second place finish in the Sept. 1 Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.

Out of the Birdonthewire mare Comet Cat, Benny the Bull seems to be at his best right now, as evidenced by his recent bullet works, including a five-furlong breeze in one minute-flat Jan. 2 at Palm Meadows.

“I would say we started to think about the Sprint after his last race,” said trainer Rick Dutrow, who will also send out Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Mr. Umphrey. “He ran so big, and with the way he’s going, he’s going to be very tough. I hope there is a lot of pace in the race. Benny the Bull is always going to come with his closing run. “

Benny the Bull was bred in Florida by Tomoka Hills Farms. Prado will get the mount once again, breaking from post six.

The early speed that Dutrow wants should come from Vernon O. Underwood Handicap (gr. III) winner Bushwacker and Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing’s Finallymadeit, a heavily-raced colt who is no stranger to Florida racing.

Bushwacker, a 6-year-old Outflanker horse, took the six-furlong Underwood by 1 ¾ lengths Dec. 2 on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track. The gate-to-wire score was not unlike his previous victory, which came in allowance competition Nov. 10, also at Hollywood.

Trained by Bill Currin, Bushwacker’s chances could be compromised a bit by drawing post 11. Joe Talamo will ride.

Finallymadeit makes his first start of year after a demanding 19-start campaign in 2007. The 4-year-old son of Concerto was an impressive 8-4-2 from those starts, including five stakes victories at Calder Race Course. He enters off a third-place effort in the Jan. 5 Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream. On Jan. 19, Finallymadeit posted a :34.60 three-furlong bullet work at Calder.

“He just loves to train,” trainer Javier Negrete said. “He thrives on it. He ran good in the Mr. Prospector, but he should be a little sharper for this race. He hit his head in his stall a few days before that race and needed several stitches.”

Also figuring to play a prominent role in the Sprint is Rustlewood Farm’s Mach Ride, who won the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) July 7 at Calder. Trained by Steven Standridge, Mach Ride was scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but was a scratched due to an abcess on his foot. The 5-year-old Pentelicus horse returned from his more than three-month layoff in the Mr. Prospector, finishing second. Elvis Trujillo will ride, breaking from post two.

Harris Farms’ High Standards is the lone California-bred in the event.

$300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint (Race 7, 4:02 p.m.), Four-Year-Olds and Up , Six Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. High Standards (CA), 122, Jorge F. Chavez
2. Mach Ride (FL), 122, Elvis Trujillo
3. Praying for Cash (FL), 122, John R. Velazquez
4. Finallymadeit (FL), 121, Eduardo O. Nunez
5. Storm in May (FL), 121, Manoel R. Cruz
6. Benny the Bull (FL), 122, Edgar S. Prado
7. Cobalt Blue (FL), 121, Rafael Bejarano
8. Mr. Umphrey (FL), 122, Javier Castellano
9. Tropic Storm (FL), 121, Aaron T. Gryder
10. Santana Strings (FL), 122, Rene R. Douglas
11. Bushwacker (FL), 122, Kent J. Desormeaux