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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – After winning 2 straight to end 2020, trainer Mark Casse’s Proven Strategies is ready for his next challenge in Saturday’s $75,000 Sunshine Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The Sunshine Turf is a 1 1/16-mile turf route restricted to Florida-bred horses ages 4 and up. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a 12-race card and has a local post time of 4:50 PM.
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Here’s a look at the full field for the Sunshine Turf:
1. Second Mate 8/1 – The first of two grizzled vets with a field-best 39 starts under his belt, he missed by just a 1/2-length the 1 1/16-mile Sunshine Turf Preview Stakes at Gulfstream Park West. His last grass W came against Monmouth Park optional claimers in August 2018, but he’s no stranger to this race: he finished third in 2018, second in 2019, and fifth last year.
2. Proven Strategies 4/1 – Casse’s patience finally paid off last year; though it took him 7 starts to break his maiden, he compiled an 8-4-2-1 record last year that includes finishing second in June’s Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2) and winning the Toronto Cup Stakes last time out. Elite jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard in the Pennine Ridge, returns to ride for the second time.
3. Monforte 9/2 – He finished off the board for the first time in over a year last time out, finishing a well-beaten seventh in the Sunshine Turf Preview after prompting the pace, but perhaps he just hated Gulfstream Park West. He entered that event having won 5 of 6 starts, all against open company and including 3 stakes scores, all going slightly shorter over this turf course.
4. Shamrocket 7/2 – His second start for trainer Todd Pletcher coincides with his second appearance following a 3-month break; his new barn debut saw him close from last to defeat state-bred optional claimers going 1 mile despite running behind a slothfully-slow early pace. Keeping the mount for the second time is Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s winningest jockey in 2020.
5. Over the Channel 12/1 – Trainer David Fawkes removes the blinkers (an 11% winning move) from this horse after he compiled a record of 13-5-3-1 while wearing the hood. He reunites with jockey Emisael Jaramillo, who piloted him to a 3-1-2-0 mark on turf in 2020 and who succeeds at a 15% rate when riding for Fawkes.
6. Galleon Mast 10/1 – Fawkes’ second runner makes his second start back after a 3-month layoff, having finished a late-running fifth in the Sunshine Turf Preview last time out. He won this race in 2018 and keeps the services of Paco Lopez, who piloted him to victory in the Sunshine Turf Preview each of the prior 2 years. The consistent vet’s record stands at 39-10-13-8.
7. Max K. O. 12/1 – He makes his debut for trainer Mike Maker, who claimed him for $50k out of a local mile-long event in which he set a lightning-quick early pace but quit hard in the stretch. Maker hits at 18% first off the claim and shows tremendous faith in his new acquisition by running him back protected and at a much tougher level, but will he hold on in the stretch?
8. Clear Destination 15/1 – He nearly pulled off a 35/1 upset last time out in his first start for trainer William Tharrenos, stalking early and finishing second by 1 length over this course and distance against optional claimers. He earned a career-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure that day that fits well here, but he failed to finish better than fifth in 4 prior stakes tries.
9. Venezuelan Hug 3/1 – He earned a career-best 91 Beyer Speed Figure after closing from last to win the Sunshine Turf Preview by a head over several of these same rivals. Jockey Luis Saez returns to the saddle after piloting him to maiden-breaking and first-level allowance scores last year, and Saez has a 42% strike rate when trainer Danny Gargan legs him up.
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