By Jim Freer
Saraguaro, Jewel of a Cat, Old Time Hockey and Legal Laura won the stakes races for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Preview Day at the Gulfstream Park West meet, being held at Calder.
GP West also had four stakes for 2-year-olds. The winners were Li’l Meatball, Brandy’s Girl, Little Nick V.and Pancake.
All of the stakes races had $100,000 purses and were restricted to Florida breds.
It was the biggest stakes day of the 40-day GP West meet, which Gulfstream Park is holding at Calder under a lease agreement with that track.
The biggest stars were the 3-year-old colt Saraguaro, (shown in preview phto)the fast winner of the 1 1/16 mile Classic Preview, and the 5-year-old mare Jewel of a Cat, who “beat the boys” in the Turf Sprint Preview.
The four races for older horses had age and distance conditions similar to those of races that will be part of the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream on Jan. 16. Horses bred in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York also will be eligible for those races.
Here are details of Saturday’s races:
* Millions Classic Preview — 1 1/16 miles dirt, 3-year-olds and up
The fast-improving Saraguaro, the 5-2 second choice, took the lead about 200 yards from the finish and went on to beat 9-1 shot Nauset Beach by 1 ¼ lengths.
East Hall, the 5-2 favorite, finished fifth in the seven-horse field. He won the race last year.
It was Saraguaro’s third win in ten career starts and his second stakes victory. His first stakes win came in the Foolish Pleasure Stakes at Gulfstream on Oct. 5. The Foolish Pleasure was 1 1/16 miles on dirt and was restricted to 3-year-old Florida-breds who are eligible for the Florida Sire Stakes program.
Eddie Castro rode Saraguaro in both stakes wins. Saffie Joseph Jr. trains Saraguaro and co-owns the colt with Thoroughbred Acquisition Corp.
Saraguaro won the Millions Classic Preview in 1:45.65–a fast time for the deep Calder track. ‘’
After Saturday’s win, Joseph said his target for Saraguaro is the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at 1 1/16 miles on dirt on Jan. 16.
That is a big step forward for a horse that did not break his maiden until his sixth race, last July 15. But Saraguaro showed some promise with a second place and a third place finish in his first five starts.
Later this week, we’ll have a follow-up story on Saraguaro that also will look at the route his sire Express Tour has taken from Florida to Dubai and back to Florida.
Express Tour in 2002 swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series for 2-year-olds at Calder, for trainer Marty Wolfson. Late that year, breeder and owner Clare “Butch” Silva sold Express Tour to the royal family of Dubai for a reported $1 million.
Many observers regard Express Tour as one of the best 2-year-olds to ever race at Calder.
Dubai’s Godolphin Racing ran Express Tour once in Dubai and nine tines n the United States, where he had one win. He finished eighth n the 2001 Kentucky Derby
For several years, Butch Silva and his wife Karen have again owned Express Tour at their farm near Ocala. In 201I they bred him to Return o Mom, producing the horse later named Saraguaro. Joseph and his partners bought him for $33,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s April 2014 sale.
* Millions Turf Sprint Preview — five furlongs, 3-yea-olds and up
It was a distaff exacta as Jewel of a Cat (4-1) beat the 3-year-old filly Katie’s Kiss by three lengths.
All of the seven other runners in the race are males.
Jewel of a Cat was ridden by Paco Lopez and won in 56.80 seconds.
It was Jewel of a Cat’s first race for trainer Carlo Vaccarezza. She was previously trained by Ben Perkins who races his horses primarily at tracks in the Mid-Atlantic states.
Jewel of a Cat is owned by a partnership of J and J Stables and GSP Stable. John Williams, a partner in J and J, also is a part-owner of several other horses that are trained by Vaccarezza.
* Millions Distaff Preview — seven furlongs, fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Legal Laura (7-1) rallied on the inside and beat My Miss Venezuela by 2 ½ lengths. The winning time was 1:23.48.
Flutterby, the 2-5 favorite, finished third following a lengthy speed duel with My Miss Venezuela.
Antonio Gallardo rode Legal Laura for trainer Kathleen O’Connell and owner Gilbert Campbell.
* Millions Turf Preview — 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds and up.
Old Time Hockey (4-1) rallied on the outside and won in a photo finish.
He came in a head in front of Rizwan and One Step Salsa, who dead-heated for second. Reporting Star the 2-5 favorite, was another head behind in fourth.
Old Time Hockey won on the firm course in 1:44.60, relatively slow for a stakes for older horses. Ronald Allen Jr. rode Old Time Hockey for trainer Tom Proctor and owner Glen Hill Farm.
* Juvenile Sprint — 6 ½ furlongs on dirt, 2-year-olds.
Li’l Meatball (5-1) led almost the entire route and won by 1 ½ lengths over the late-running Fellowship. Bullet Gone Astray finished another length back in third.
Li’l Meatball won in 1:18.21. Miguel Vasquez rode for trainer David Braddy and owner George Kerr.
* Juvenile Turf — one mile, 2-year-olds
Little Nick V. (7-1) beat Light the Night by a nose. Ian Smith finished another neck behind in third.
Jeffrey Sanchez rode Little Nick V. who won in 1:39.69.
Vaccarezza trains Little Nick V. and is managing partner of Little Dreams Racing which owns the colt, who is a son of Colonel John.
*Juvenile Fillies Turf – one mile, 2-year-old fillies
Pancake, the even money favorite, rallied from fifth place after a half mile and beat Lupo’s Way by 1 ¾ lengths. It was her second win in two career starts.
Jose Caraballo rode Pancake, who won in 1:40,69. Ronny Werner trains Pancake, a daughter of the 20o7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Corinthian.
Pancake is a homebred of Arindel Farm in Ocala. Alan and Karen Cohen, who live in South Florida, own Pancake. Alan is a former managing general partner of the Florida Panthers.
* Juvenile Filly Sprint — 6 ½ furlongs on dirt, 2-year-old fillies
Brandy’s Girl (2-5) led the entire route and beat Silent Prayer by 4 ¾ lengths. She won in 1:18.59 and was ridden by Paco Lopez.
Edwin Broome is the trainer, breeder and owner of Brandy’s Girl.