Millions Classic Preview Stakes sets up a rematch
MIAMI – The first time Jay’s Way and Mr. Jordan met, in January at Gulfstream Park in the Sunshine Millions Classic, the two put on quite a show. Jay’s Way re-asserted himself in late stretch after getting headed on the lead a furlong out to post a well-deserved halflength triumph for the first stakes win of his career.
But when the pair meet again Saturday in the 1 1/16-mile Sunshine Millions Preview, the edge will have to go to Mr. Jordan, with his unblemished record in four starts at Gulfstream Park West and going against a rival who has been idle since March 10.
The Sunshine Millions Preview is one of nine Florida-bred stakes worth $75,000 apiece on an outstanding 11-race program that also includes a pair of maiden special weight races for 2-yearold statebreds. Post time is noon.
Trainer Armando De La Cerda is following the same plan that worked so well for Jay’s Way last fall and ultimately led to his game triumph in the Sunshine Millions Classic. Saturday’s race will be the horse’s first start since a distant sixth-place finish in Tampa Bay Downs Challenger Stakes on March 10.
“We did the same thing last year, gave him plenty of time off to freshen up after a hard fall and winter,” said De La Cerda. “And like last year, when it took him a couple of starts before he won an allowance and then the Sunshine Millions, he might need this race Saturday.
“[Gulfstream Park West] can be tough for horses who’ve been away like he has. But I expect him to be on the lead, and then we’ll go from there. One thing I do know, he is very game when he’s got the lead in the stretch. Not only did he come back to win the Classic, he also won an open allowance in his previous start the same way, after getting passed at midstretch.”
Mr. Jordan is the defending winner of the Classic Preview, having drawn off by 11 1/2 widening lengths a year ago to remain unbeaten at Gulfstream Park West. He has won just once, however, in nine subsequent starts, rallying to a 1 3/4-length decision in the seven-furlong Big Drama on May 12 at Gulfstream Park. Mr. Jordan has drawn the rail for the third straight time on Saturday, a post that was a disadvantage in his two previous starts – both one-turn races at Gulfstream – but should prove an advantage in two-turn races at Gulfstream Park West.
Although Jay’s Way and Mr. Jordan will attract much of the attention, the main event is anything but a two-horse race with Noble Drama and Deland both coming off big wins and the improving 3-year-old Weisser completing the field.
Trainer David Fawkes orchestrated a major upset with Noble Drama, who rallied to capture the one-mile Wildcat Heir over the more seasoned pair of Mo Cash and Mr. Jordan in the Wildcat Heir on Sept. 29 at Gulfstream. The win was the first against older horses for Noble Drama, who proved his mettle around two turns winning a statebred stakes at one mile and 40 yards last spring at Tampa Bay Downs.
Deland has improved steadily since being transferred to trainer Victor Barboza Jr.’s barn following his fourth-place finish in the Big Drama in May. Deland has not started since posting a popular eight-length tally over a sloppy track in the one-mile Mo Exception at Gulfstream on Sept. 7.
The seven-furlong Millions Distaff lured a wide open field of 10 Florida-bred fillies and mares with Starship Bonita and the lightly raced Heiressall likely to vie for favoritism. Starship Bonita and Heiressall are two of six 3-year-olds in the field.
Starship Bonita has been freshened since rallying to a 2 3/4-length victory in the Sheer Drama nine weeks ago. The win was the first for the daughter of Gone Astray since capturing the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl a year earlier.
“She’s won around two turns, but I think seven-eighths is her best distance, it’s perfect for her,” said trainer Steve Dwoskin. “She’s got enough speed to stay close, but she’ll do whatever the jock wants her to. She’s feeling good, training good, and I’m expecting another big race from her on Saturday.”
Heiressall brings a threerace win streak into the Distaff for trainer Terri Pompay and figures to be a forward factor along with Heavens Pulpit.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” said Pompay when asked about Heiresall making her stakes bow. “We didn’t just throw her into a stakes. We let her get her confidence up and let her get ready first.”
Ms Meshak, a troubled but distant second in the Sheer Drama; Weekend Mischief; and the Todd Pletcher-trained stakes winner Shanghai Starlet are also key contenders in the Distaff.
Jay’s Way (right) defeated Mr. Jordan earlier this year in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park. In Saturday’s Classic Preview, Mr. Jordan seems to hold the advantage.