Trainer David Fawkes is optimistic about his chances in Saturday’s $1.3 million Florida Sunshine Millions…and why not?
Not only will Fawkes saddle the 2-1 favorite and Mr. Prospector (G3)
winner Apriority in the $150,000 Sprint, but he’ll also send the
hard-knocking, stakes-winner Duke of Mischief to post in the $400,000
Apriority and Duke of Mischief will be just two of the 17 Graded Stakes
Winners on Saturday’s six-race Florida Sunshine Millions program, one
that includes Eclipse champions Musical Romance and Awesome Feather, who
will be attempting to run her undefeated streak to nine in the $300,000
Distaff. Mucho Macho Man, the popular third-place finisher in the
Kentucky Derby, will go to post in the Classic.
For Fawkes, he’ll send Apriority to post after an outstanding
performance Dec. 31 in the Mr. Prospector. Despite stumbling badly
coming out of the gate, Apriority was able to recover under jockey Luis
Saez to gamely beat Zero Rate Policy by a nose.
“That race was a heartbreaker,” said Fawkes. “He grabbed his quarter
pretty good. He was bleeding in the winners circle. I mean, he got
himself right up there after the start and he wins by a nose.”
In last years Sunshine Millions Sprint, run at Santa Anita Park,
Apriority raced off the pace and finished well but was beaten a head by
eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner, Amazombie.
“Last year, I think he lost his footing,” Fawkes said. “He broke OK but
he is usually not that far off the pace.Then throughout the year, he
had a lot of foot issues.”
Two months after his performance in last year’s Sunshine Millions, the
son of Grand Slam returned in an allowance race at Gulfstream. He won
the 6 ½-furlong sprint by 4 ½ lengths over stakes winner Aikenite. He
then ran in the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct. In that seven furlong
event he took the lead after running sixth but finished second by 1 ½
lengths to Morning Line. On Derby Day at Churchill Downs, the bay horse
was second to Aikenite by a nose in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) at
seven furlongs. Apriority was then off the board in his next three
starts, which were all Grade I events run at seven furlongs - the Alfred
G. Vanderbilt, the Vosburgh, and Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“I just don’t think he was himself,” commented Fawkes. “He had a really
bad abscess that we just couldn’t get right. So it didn’t work out.
He’s coming into this race excellent. He looks great, the foot looks
Duke of Mischief, a 6-year-old by Graeme Hall, will be taking on Mucho
Macho Man and five others in the Classic. After finishing second in last
year’s Classic to the multiple-stakes winner Tackleberry, he returned
in March to finish fourth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), a game
effort in which he was beat only three-quarters of a length.
Duke of Mischief scored a huge prize April 16 when he captured the $1
million Charles Town Classic (G3), winning the 1 1/8th mile event on a
sloppy track by 2 ¼ lengths over Game On Dude, who would later finish
second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). After finishing a game fourth
June 18 in the Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs, Duke of Mischief
traveled north to Saratoga for the Whiney (G1). Unfortunately, the trip
wasn’t what Fawkes had in mind, ending with a 10th place finish.
“Before the Saratoga race he tore a muscle in his back,” said Fawkes. “He did not run a jump. So, I’m throwing that race out.”
Fawkes said Duke of Mischief needed his last race, a fifth-place finish
in the Dec. 17 Harlans Holiday that came off a four month layoff. “He
is doing excellent,” added Fawkes. “He loves this racetrack and he’s
been working really well.”