It isn't surprising that trainer Bill Cesare and owner Robert Walker (Bitterroot Investments Inc.) have decided to run Cellars Shiraz in the $350,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25 instead of the $750,000 Sunshine Millions Vessels Stallion Farm Distaff at Santa Anita Park the same day. Cellars Shiraz loves Gulfstream Park and won three stakes races over the local oval last winter.Another reason may be that the local race is on the grass and the Distaff is on the dirt, according to Cesare "This is a very good horse and she just loves to run on any surface, but she may be a little better on grass than on dirt."The Turf and Distaff are two of the eight races that comprise the Sunshine Millions and will be run on Jan. 25. The unique series, worth an aggregate $3.6 million, matches Florida-breds against California-breds with four races each scheduled at Gulfstream and Santa Anita."Whenever they are giving that much money away it's great," said Cesare, a former NFL linebacker who spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before becoming a trainer. "It's also a good thing for Thoroughbred racing because it will help develop the fan base of our sport. It will create rivalries between Florida-breds and California-breds, much like football match-ups in the NFL."Cellars Shiraz began her love affair with Gulfstream when she finished second in an allowance turf race on Jan. 13 last year. She followed with victories in the Herecomesthebride (gr. III)on the turf on Feb. 3, the Gaily Gaily on the dirt on March 1 and the Via Borghese on the turf on April 7. She was the only three-time stakes winner during Gulfstream's 2003 meeting.Cellars Shiraz didn't stop there. She went on to win the Office Queen Stakes, Convenience Stakes, Calder Oaks and, in her last start on Dec. 21, the Frances A. Genter Stakes. All those races were at Calder. She also was second in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs, the Pucker Up Stakes (gr. III)at Arlington Park and was third in Florida Championship Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap at Calder."You can't win them all, but she tries every time, and they have to run a nice race to beat her," Cesare said. "I never look at it like she has a rivalry with any one horse. She'll face them all in the Sunshine Millions Turf and will have to beat them all."Cellars Shiraz has been training well at Calder for her appearance in the Turf. She was clocked in 1:45 breezing in her latest workout on Jan. 10.
In Other Sunshine Million developments...Trainer Manny Tortora worked a pair of his Sunshine Millions probable starters. Four Pennies, scheduled to run in the $250,000 Padua Stables Filly & Mare Sprint at Gulfstream breezed a half mile in :51 on Tuesday, while Supah Blitz, likely to run in the $250,000 Ocala Stud Dash at Gulfstream, was timed in :50 1/5 breezing on Wednesday...Another Ocala Stud Dash probable, Hear No Evil, worked a half-mile in :47 2/5 handily for trainer Jim Hatchett on Tuesday. It was the best workout of 22 horses working that distance...Chispiski had the second best trial of 1:02 1/5 breezing for five furlongs Tuesday. Scratched from Sunday's The First Lady Handicap, the Ron Spatz-trained runner is expected to run in the Padua Stables Sprint... Two horses that are being pointed towards the Sunshine Millions $350,000 Franks Farm Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream, Stay Forever and Sara's Success, worked at Calder Wednesday. Trainer Marty Wolfson had Stay Forever go a half-mile in :50 breezing while Sara's Success went a mile in 1:43 4/5 handily for trainer Ed Plesa, Jr.Trainer Bill Mott had Miesque's Approval, one of the favorites for the Sunshine Millions $500,000 Barretts/CTBA Turf at Santa Anita breeze a half-mile in :49 at Payson Park on Monday.Trainer Tim Hills worked a pair of horses at Gulfstream Wednesday with designs on Sunshine Millions stakes. Stormy Roman, who is expected to go in the Turf at Santa Anita, breezed five furlongs in 1:04 3/5. Wish It Were, a probable starter in the Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream was timed in :48 4/5 breezing for a half-mile...Trainer Jimmy Picou had Whata Brainstorm work a half-mile in :48 3/5 handily on the turf on Wednesday. Whata Brainstorm will run either in Sunday's $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. III)at Gulfstream or the Sunshine Millions Barretts/CTBA Turf at Santa Anita.