Pesci Seeks Star Billing in Sunshine Millions Distaff

The 4-year-old filly, Pesci, is looking to upstage her Academy Award winning owner and namesake, Joe Pesci, when she goes to the post against older fillies and mares in the Jan. 24 Sunshine Milions Ocala Breeders' Sales Distaff at Gulfstream Park.

Pesci (by Stormy Atlantic) enters the Sunshine Millions off a five-length win in a Dec. 28 allowance contest at Santa Anita. In her first trip to the post, on Nov. 27 at Hollywood Park, the filly led throughout a six-furlong in a maiden sprint and drew off to win by 8 1/2 lengths.

"When I met Joe Pesci for the first time he was just a horseplayer," said trainer Wesley Ward, who co-owns the filly with the movie star. "He had his eye on a colt he wanted to buy and name after himself to get into the game as an owner, but I told him I had another one (the filly) who could really run. Jockey Mike Smith, another friend of Pesci's, worked her five-eighths in :56 4/5 for me and told him he liked her as much as I did. Pesci bought into her right away and signed an authorization to use his name for her."

"She is very talented," Ward said. "She's very big, about 17 hands, and she had the usual minor setbacks so I took my time with her and gave her time to develop. I got her here to Palm Meadows early to get her acclimated, and I'm very happy with her progress. I gave her a very tough test in her second start and she passed with flying colors. Without a doubt, I think she is up to this next test in the Sunshine Millions."

Pesci (the man) won his Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1990 for his role as a psychotic mobster in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas." A decade earlier, Pesci was nominated in that same category for his role in Scorsese's "Raging Bull."

"It's a great concept," said Ward of the Sunshine Millions series and specifically the $500,000 Distaff. "It will promote breeding in both Florida and California and give people something to point for. It should help the whole industry."