Starship Jubilee aims at Sunshine Millions history over Pegasus Turf

Gulfstream Park
January 15, 2020 05:18pm
Starship Jubilee aims at Sunshine Millions history over Pegasus Turf
Photo: Courtesy of Gulfstream Park

There have been plenty of claims that didn’t work out for Kevin Attard over the two decades he’s been training Thoroughbreds. Then there’s Starship Jubilee.

The newly turned 7-year-old mare has taken Attard on the ride of a lifetime, one that brings them back each winter to where it all began.

Starship Jubilee will go after her third consecutive victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park. The 18
th running of the 1 1/16-mile event for females 4-years-old and up is among four Florida-bred stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 12-race Sunshine Millions Day program. First race post time is 11:40 a.m. ET.

Already one of only six two-time winners in event history, Starship Jubilee can become the first horse to earn three Sunshine Millions victories. Valentine Dancer (2004, 2005 Filly & Mare Turf), Lava Man (2006 Classic, 2007 Turf), Mucho Macho Man (2012, 2014 Classic), Manchurian High (2015, 2016 Turf) and the late X Y Jet (2016, 2018 Sprint) also own two wins.

“It gives her a good race against restricted Florida-breds and it’s a great opportunity to kind of kick off the year. Usually it’s her first step of the campaign,” Attard said. “She’s settled into Florida well. She likes this course, obviously. This is her hometown, so it’s always nice bringing her back here. She appreciates the sunshine and, hopefully, we can make it three in a row.”

For Attard, Starship Jubilee has been the claim of a lifetime. Since being haltered for $16,000 out of a February 2017 race at Gulfstream, the daughter of Indy Wind has gone on to win 11 of 23 starts under his guidance with four seconds, three thirds, and $1,120,837 in purse earnings. Seven of those wins have come in stakes company, five of them graded, including the first Grade 1 triumph for both the trainer and owner Bonnie Baskin’s Blue Heaven Farm in the 1 ¼-mile E.P. Taylor last October at Woodbine.

“It was really thrilling. A mile and quarter has always been probably a little bit further than she wants to go. She had won at the distance in the past, but I don’t think it’s an ideal distance for her” Attard said. “She had a good trip. [Jockey Luis] Contreras gave her a great ride that day and it was one of the biggest moments in my life with respect to horse racing. It was great thrill for myself, and a great thrill for the owners. The horse was well-deserving of it.”

Starship Jubilee earned the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion turf female in 2017 and 2018 under Attard’s watch, and figures to be a strong candidate again after racing seven times in 2019 with three wins, three seconds and a third, also capturing the Canadian (G2) at Woodbine and placing in four other graded-stakes.

In her most recent start, Starship Jubilee rallied from well back to take the lead at the top of the stretch and hold it inside the eighth pole before tiring over a yielding course and finishing second as the favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal (G3) Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs. She has worked four times at Gulfstream since Dec. 22.

“The turf course was really soggy last time and it seemed like she kind of struggled through it a little bit. It was a little disappointing off the big win at Woodbine, but we’re going to chalk it up to her just not handling the course as well,” Attard said. “I don’t think she really appreciated it.

“There had been some discussions about retiring her and sending her to the breeding shed but at this point, from my point of view as the trainer, I can tell you she’s in good health, she loves her job, she enjoys what she’s doing,” he added. “We’re just going to take it race by race and let her kind of determine her future. She’s been so consistent, so when it comes time to when she doesn’t want to do it anymore, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to find her a home fairly easily.”

Blue Heaven Farm purchased Starship Jubilee privately prior to her fourth-place finish in the 2018 Claiming Crown Tiara at Gulfstream. After being among the initial 17 primary invitees to the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Jan. 25, where all horses will run medication-free, they ultimately decided on aiming for a Sunshine Millions three-peat.

“Obviously, it’s an honor to be invited to a race like that. We definitely looked at the [past performances] and the horses she’d be up against in a race like that. There’s definitely a lot of thought put into it,” Attard said. “She’s run really well on this turf course and I think that’s always a bonus. It’s against the boys so we’d get a little bit of weight and the medication rules, I wasn’t concerned about that with her. There was definitely a lot of thought put into it, but I think this race just seems to make a lot more sense for her to kind of start off her campaign if she’s going to continue to run as a 7-year-old.”

Starship Jubilee was a one-length winner over nine rivals in the 2018 Filly & Mare Turf, and captured last year’s 13-horse edition by 4 ½ lengths – both as the favorite. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, aboard last winter, gets a return call at topweight of 124 pounds.

This year’s field also includes multiple stakes winner Vow to Recover, making her first start since mid-September; fellow stakes winners Beautiful Lover and Raki; multiple stakes-placed Una Luna; Sweet Hitch Hiker from the barn of Lilli Kurtinecz, who also trained Manchurian High; Admiral’s Win, Bienville Street, Decorated Ace and Just Sassy. Liza Star is entered for main track only.

Overall, Starship Jubilee owns 14 wins from 32 lifetime starts with five seconds, three thirds and $1.17 million in purse earnings. At Gulfstream, she has a record of 8-2-1 from 16 tries.

“It’s definitely amazing. When you sit back and you have people question how it happens, there’s no answer for it. When you’re claiming a horse at that level, you’re just kind of hoping to get a horse that might win you race and you can have a little fun with. That’s all we were looking for,” Attard said. “She’s certainly surpassed expectations. It’s just a fairy tale ending kind of thing with her, right? There’s no way you could have ever anticipated her continuing on to do what she’s done and then capping it off with a Grade 1 last season. You almost have to pinch yourself to convince you that it’s real.

“It’s good for racing, too. It’s good for the average owner. It gives them a chance to say, ‘You know what? Anything can happen in this game,’” he added. “Sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time and getting lucky. We won a shake for her that day. You’ve just got to toss your hat in the ring and definitely anything can happen.”

 

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