OTB Race Previews
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Big Changes, a multiple stakes winner for Steve Landers Racing, will be making his eighth consecutive start at a different racetrack and first in South Florida as part of a competitive edition of the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The 16th running of the 1 1/16-mile Turf for 4-year-old and up is among four Florida-bred stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 12-race Sunshine Millions Day program highlighted by the $200,000 Classic. First race post time is 11:45 a.m.
Race 6 on Gulfstream Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 2:15 PM
|1||Archer Road||6-1||Jeffrey Sanchez
|2||Second Mate||8-1||Jose Ortiz
|3||Big Changes||8-5||Javier Castellano
|4||Driven by Thunder||8-1||John Velazquez
|5||Expected Ruler||12-1||Miguel Vasquez
|6||Class and Cash||5-2||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|7||He's Bankable||15-1||Chris Landeros
|8||Salute the Colonel||10-1||Luis Saez
Big Changes, a gelded 7-year-old son of multiple graded-stakes winner and 2008 champion 2-year-old Midshipman, had five wins and two seconds from seven starts last year, each one at a different track in Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and his winter base of Louisiana.
He opened 2018 with five consecutive wins, three of them in stakes, including a second straight in the John Henry at Evangeline Downs. Big Changes was second in each of his last two, the first by a half-length to Brad Cox-trained stablemate Mr. Misunderstood, a multiple graded-stakes winner, in the 1 1/8-mile River City Handicap (G3).
"He's been really consistent. He seems to have gotten a little better with age," Cox said. "He had his best year in `18 and hopefully we can start off `19 right with him. He's done extremely well in his training at the Fair Grounds. He's going to run well. He's doing extremely well."
Big Changes has finished first or second in 10 of 14 tries at the Turf distance, six of them wins, and has nine wins and $428,550 in purse earnings from 23 career starts, the most recent coming Dec. 22. He was scheduled to leave New Orleans on Wednesday.
"I think without a doubt it's his best distance, and he's been able to take his show on the road. He's won at several different venues and been able to ship and do it the right way, so shipping's not an issue with him," Cox said. "He always shows up, and we're excited about him. It will be his first time in Florida. Being a Florida-bred, we hope to take advantage of that opportunity and capitalize on it."
Big Changes has done his best running on or near the lead and Cox expects that to be the case Saturday, where his style is similar to another consistent stakes winner, Class and Cash. Big Changes will break from Post 3 at co-highweight of 121 pounds with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard.
"He's been a model of consistency over the last year especially," Cox said. "He doesn't accelerate a whole lot when he turns for home. He kind of maintains a high cruising speed and that seems to be his best, most effective way of running. That's just him and what we've come to find out he likes to do over the years. We've had him a long time and he's been very good to us. Hopefully he shows up on Saturday."
Edward Short's Class and Cash has not raced since being beaten a nose on the wire after setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Turf Preview Nov. 10 at Gufstream Park West. That effort came after the 7-year-old gelding earned his first career stakes victory in the six-furlong Laurel Dash over a yielding course Sept. 22 at Laurel Park.
The funny thing is, when I claimed him he had only ever sprinted and I thought, `I wonder if he'd go long.' I didn't see why he wouldn't," trainer Jane Cibelli said. "That was just dumb luck, really. Laurel plays to him because it's got a long stretch and he can sit off the pace because he's got stretch to work with. He's been a wonderful horse for us."
Since being claimed for $16,000 in March 2016 at Gulfstream, Class and Cash has a record of 11-6-1 with $353,270 in purse earnings in 21 starts for Cibelli. He has finished in the top three in seven of 10 career tries at Gulfstream, four of them wins.
"He loves the Gulfstream course and it is a chance to run against Florida-breds, but it won't be easy by any means," Cibelli said. "He just got picked up at the wire last time and it was really a heartbreaker. He is absolutely a cool horse. We breezed him the other day and he breezed well, so we're going to give it a try and see what happens."
Irad Ortiz Jr., leading contender to dethrone younger brother, Jose, for the Eclipse Award as champion jockey, has the mount from Post 6.
"He's a funny horse. He seems like he'd be pretty easy to ride but he's really not. He's got that high cruising speed but he doesn't necessarily have that kick which is why we've kind of kept him out of stakes," Cibelli said. "After I claimed him he was eligible for starters and he had his allowance conditions so we could kind of get away with it.
"He has a kick if you're going three-quarters or seven-eighths but a mile and a sixteenth he doesn't. He just kind of goes to the lead and he's got that high cruising speed, so you've got to worry about other speed in the race and things like that," she added. "He has come from off the pace, but it's not easy. You've got to have the right rider and he's got to have the right pace in front of him, too."
Repole Stable's Driven by Thunder is entered to improve on his stellar Gulfstream record, where he has five wins from seven career starts. He suffered only his second local loss when he was overrun late after setting the pace and finishing sixth by less than two lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Claiming Crowd Emerald Dec. 1.
"I thought he ran his race last time. Most of his best performances have come when he's made the lead," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "If he can do that under the right scenario, that seems to be his preferred strategy. There was some other speed in the race that day. I thought he rated pretty well, but that last 50 yards he just couldn't hold them off."
Pletcher and Repole have had Driven by Thunder claimed away twice, only to claim him back. All seven of his career wins have come in 14 starts for Pletcher. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride from Post 4.
"We've claimed him back twice now, and took him back with coming down here in mind," Pletcher said. "He seems to like the turf course here, he's consistently run well. He's been training well with this race in mind and we figured we'd take a shot at it."
Also entered are Live Oak Plantation's He's Bankable and Patricia Generazio's Salute the Colonel, both stakes winners over the course and distance last year; Arindel's multiple stakes winner Archer Road; Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables and Bethlehem Stables' Second Mate, racing first off the claim for trainer Jorge Abreu; John Nittolo and Walder Racing's Expected Ruler, a Gulfstream optional claiming allowance winner Jan. 10; and Brian Hanley and Walder Racing's Chiseled, for main track only.
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