The Sunshine State Stakes season for Florida bred trotters and pacers kicked off over the beautifully manicured one mile oval at Sunshine Meadows on Saturday with Famous C, Im Done, Gold Star Aurora and Maybe Ned beginning their two year-old careers with victories.
Fittingly enough, Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey began the festivities with the “Famously” bred Famous C (yes, he is by Famously) eking out a narrow decision over Atlantic Crest (Sergio Corona) in 2:05.3 in his racing debut in the juvenile trot for the fillies.
Trained by Marc Aubin for Amante Standardbreds, Famous C made a quarter move to the front and then held off the furious late rush of Atlantic Crest to win by a scant nostril. Charming Gator and Bonnie Blue Banker were next, respectively, in the quartet.
Next, in the two year-old colt-gelding trot, Im Done, a gelded son of Toro Bravo owned and trained by Troy Basista, used the rail to perfection in scoring a gate to sire win measuring five lengths for Tom Lehmann over Azzaro (Jay Sears) in 2:09.2. Gator Glide was next after an early miscue.
Two-year-old pacing fillies were in the limelight next and Maryann Audley’s Gold Star Aurora, a daughter of Rock On, crushed her four other rivals, scoring by 16-1/2 lengths for Walter Ross, Jr. in 2:04.2. Tay Tay M (Wally Hennessey) recovered after some misfortune around the opening turn to finish second while Golden Diamond (Bill Owens) rallied for third. Millerlands Anna and Gold Dust Darling completed the order of finish.
The win for Gold Star Aurora not only kicked off her racing career, it was the very first training win for young Maggie Audley
In the two-year-old Sunshine State Stake for pacing colts and geldings, Maybe Ned, driven by Bryce Fenn showed true grit and determination in scoring a hard-fought 2:01.2 win.
Trained by Bob Barker, who co-owns with Marah Lee, Maybe Ned, a son of Royal Millennium held off the pocket-sitting Gold Star Bugsy (Walter Ross, Jr.) by a half length, prompting trainer Barker to lament, “now I’m thinking of changing his name from Maybe Ned to ‘Definitely’ Ned.
“He had been training well right along and my confidence in his ability was justified today.”
Kingwiththeaxe was next with Moon Doggie and Fabiano also earning cheques in the field of six.
Florida bred three-year-olds were in the spotlight next, with All Star Fame, Gold Star Mysti, Proud Joe T and Gleneagles notching the victories.
All Star Fame, yet another son of Famously, gave Amante Standardbreds a second win on the program as trainer Sergio Corona steered the sophomore filly to a very narrow decision over the fast closing first time starter Im For Sale (Tom Lehmann) by a neck in 2:03.3.
It appeared the “race was over” midway through the mile as All Star Fame took advantage of the rail in the two-horse field and cut serious panels of :30.1, 1:00.2 and 1:31 en route to a long lead. But Im For Sale kept gnawing away and it was a photo finish that decided the outcome at the wire.
In the filly pace for the three-year-olds, Gold Star Mysti earned Maggie Audley a training double as this Mysticism filly broke her maiden with a sharp 1:59 ground-saving journey, courtesy of Walter Ross, Jr.
Owned by Marianne Audley, “Mysti” came into the action with a 7-0-0-0 scorecard during her two year-old campaign but sliced through along the inside to go on to a 3-3/4 length win in 1:59 over Gold Star Lovebug (Joe Sanzeri). Caitlins Romance was third for Bruce Fenn with Yule Love It completed the order after a miscue around the first turn.
In the three-year-old trot for the colts and geldings, it was Proud Joe T, deftly handled by Rob Hoffman for lessee and trainer Dave Myrick, making his 2016 debut with a lifetime best performance in 2:02.3--his margin three lengths over Rexamillion (Wally Hennessey) with Famous Crown next. Famous Crown (Mickey McNichol) was third over Last Chance Fame and Pacific Nitro in the sextet.
The usually headstrong Proud Joe T, did show his usual gate speed but elected to take the pocket and then rallied half way down the long Sunshine Meadows stretch to collar Rexamillion and sprint on by as the latter made a miscue.
Finally, the two-year-old champion of 2015, Gleneagles, trained by Dan Hennessey for the J L Benson Stables, earned his initial victory of his sophomore season, scoring in 1:59.4 by 4-1/4 lengths over R Chism (Jay Sears) in an event which featured only two starters.
The F.S.B.O.A. Sunshine State Stakes action continues next Saturday at Sunshine Meadows with post time set at 11:00 a.m.