From a class standpoint, there can be no doubt that First Dude is the creme of the Sunshine Million’s Classic crop, but much like the less than stellar film of Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, there is major confusion on how this day will unfold.
The reason for the for all the confusion is the best horse in the race has a penchant for running 2nd or 3rd, rather than visiting the winner’s circle. It was one year ago when a then little known First Dude impressively broke his maiden for trainer Dale Romans at Gulfstream Park in his third lifetime start. Since then he has won … nada.
It’s hard to imagine a horse who has run as many fine races as First Dude, is still eligible for non-winners-of-one-other-than, but that is exactly where his career stands. Narrow losses in the Preakness, Belmont, and Pennsylvania Derby, were sandwiched by a head-bobbing loss in an allowance race to Fly Down, a 3rd in the Blue Grass, and tiring in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after setting a demanding pace. Throw in a pair of 3rd play finishes in the Haskell and Travers, and you can see what type of company the Dude has kept since his initial win.
I first saw First Dude in person at last year’s Preakness, and it is no exaggeration to say the Florida bred is one of the more good looking and physically imposing horses I have seen in recent years. Yet that pesky record lingers. 12 races, 10 times in the money, but with only 1 win.
Back after a short freshening, the Dude is listed as the favorite in today’s half a million dollar Sunshine Millions Classic, and rightly so. This appears to be the spot. Despite the large purse, this could be the lightest competition he has faced in a full year. Adding to his high hopes, the newly turned older colt returns to the sight of his only win, he will be running without blinkers for the first time in four starts, and adds the services of the capable Kent Desormeaux for the first time. A perfect stalking trip behind a couple of speed types can be easily seen unfolding, but of course, I say all this with reservation. With only that one lifetime win, First Dude makes it hard to be over confident.
Some horses simply do not want to win. Will we be forced say this about First Dude, or will today, at long last, be the day that the Dude finally breaks through and wins a stakes race? My feeling is yes. Today will be the day. After all, those guys in the movie finally found their car, right?