Cajun Brother Out to Defend Title in 2022 Sunshine Sprint
David Bernsen's Cajun Brother is set to make his 5-year-old debut with the chance defend his title and earn the first win for his new connections in the $75,000 Sunshine Sprint at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 15.
The six-furlong Sprint serves as the co-headliner on an 11-race program along with the $75,000 Sunshine Classic going 1 1/8 miles, each for Florida-bred 4-year-olds and up. Both races offer a $25,000 FSS bonus to the winner.
First race post time is noon.
|Robert Hess, Jr.
Cajun Brother will be making his third start for trainer Bob Hess Jr. after being claimed for $35,000 out of an optional claiming allowance victory sprinting six furlongs last September at Gulfstream. Hess credited Bernsen with picking out the Cajun Breeze gelding.
"The horse is talented. He's beautiful. It took me a while to get him figured out, but I think we're on top of it now. He looks great and he's doing quite well, so I'm expecting not necessarily a victory but a much improved effort," Hess said. "He's actually doing really well. I'm excited about the race."
Cajun Brother earned his fourth win and first in a stakes in last year's Sprint, where he beat Group 1-winning millionaire Extravagant Kid by a neck at odds of 14-1 for previous trainer Michael Yates. He followed up by running third in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) to another Grade 1 winner in Mischevious Alex before finishing off the board in back-to-back starts including his turf debut.
After returning to the winner's circle following a determined effort along the rail, Cajun Brother ran behind fellow Sprint rivals Gatsby and Pudding in successive starts for Hess, chasing the early pace in both before tiring late.
"There was definitely a learning curve. Yates did a real good job with him and it took me a while to figure him out," Hess said. "He's definitely going in the right direction.
"He's just real sharp again. The look in his eye, he's real confident, real happy, real aggressive," he added. "He just had a few things that were bugging him, just little things, and now he's 100 percent healthy."
Junior Alvarado is named to ride Cajun Brother from the far outside in a field of eight.
"Regardless of how it plays out, I just think he's definitely back to where he needs to be, mentally and physically, and he'll run as well as he can run," Hess said. "I think that's where we have him. Hopefully I'm right. We're definitely looking forward to it."
Trainer Carlos David will be represented by stablemates Gatsby and Legal Deal in the Sprint. Arindel homebred Gatsby and Michele and Lawrence Sargent's Legal Deal are both front-running types that have combined to win 10 races and more than $416,000 in purse earnings.
"They're both very nice horses," David said. "I'd hate for those two horses to battle each other on the lead or anything like that. It's never good for a trainer to be in that position. I just have to tell the [jockeys] to just ride your own race, try not to bother each other and be fair. They're both doing really, really good."
Gatsby is a three-time winner that has finished third or better in 10 of 18 career starts. After breaking his maiden at first asking in April 2020, he ran in six consecutive stakes and placed twice, finishing second in the FTBOA Florida Sire Dr. Fager at Gulfstream and Juvenile Sprint at Gulfstream Park West.
By Brethren, Gatsby was 7-for-11 in the money as a 3-year-old in 2021, most recently finishing second by a half-length to Grade 1 winner Drain the Clock in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance Dec. 10 at Gulfstream. The winning time that day was 1:08.63 over a fast track.
"Drain the Clock, of course he was the horse to beat that day. I think Gatsby gave him a run for his money," David said. "He ran really, really good. I liked my horse going into the race. I talked Brian [Cohen] from Arindel and he was like, if he's going to face these horses during the championship meet, we have to run him and see where he's at.
"It was important that he give us a good performance," he added. "I think he fits in because he's a Florida-bred coming off that open race running second to Drain the Clock. I think he's going to be one of the favorites, especially with that time. They went fast."
Legal Deal has run first or second in three of his last four starts, winning an optional claiming allowance in July and a starter optional claimer in October at Gulfstream. In his most recent start, the 5-year-old Khozan gelding was beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Grade 3 winner Miles Ahead in the seven-furlong Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Dec. 4.
David claimed Legal Deal for $12,500 out of his third straight win Aug. 15, 2020 at Gulfstream. In his third start after the claim, Legal Deal won the 2020 Millions Sprint Preview at Gulfstream Park West and was fifth in last year's Sprint after being bumped at the start.
"That last race, he really dug in. Miles Ahead, it was kind of the same deal as Drain the Clock. They've got to face these top horses but they fight and they show up for us. I'm really glad that they're running good and they're sound and that he's become this type of horse after being claimed for [$12,500]. He's amazing.
"I couldn't tell you which one is better. Legal Deal, he's a year older than Gatsby so he might have the upper hand there, but I think Gatsby's a lot faster," he added. "He's lighter. Legal Deal has never gone in 1:08. We'll see. There's going to be some other fast horses in that race. It's not just those two."
Championship Meet-leading rider Luis Saez has the call on Gatsby from Post 5, while Edwin Gonzalez will be aboard Legal Deal from Post 7.
Stonehedge homebred Poppy's Pride won the 2020 Armed Forces at Gulfstream, Juvenile Sprint at Gulfstream West and Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs in succession to cap his 2-year-old season, and finished fifth to Drain the Clock after setting the pace in the 2021 Swale (G3). He went unraced for seven months and has gone winless in his last three starts, encountering trouble when seventh in the Dec. 11 race with Pudding, Gatsby and Cajun Brother.
Miguel Vasquez will ride Poppy's Pride from Post 4.
Also entered are 2020 FSS In Reality winner Boca Boy; Cool Quest, who beat state-breds sprinting 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 12 at Gulfstream; stakes-placed Lugamo, unraced since last June; and Pudding, most recently third in the Rapid Transit.
OffTrackBetting.com - US Legal Gulfstream Park OTB is a great way to bet horse racing at Gulfstream Park. Available to customers across the United States, OTB features both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing from major racing venues in the US as well as top international racing from Europe, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.