Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Tapit captured Saturday’s $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic as the 3-2 favorite, taking advantage of a Hall of Fame trip under John Velazquez to prevail with a half-length decision.
The 1 1/8-mile Classic capped Gulfstream Park’s Sunshine Millions stakes action for horses bred in Florida, following the $100,000 Sprint, the $150,000 Turf and the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf.
Nick Tomlinson, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, was duly impressed with Velazquez’s heads-up ride.
“Johnny’s great. He’s the best in the business. I was messing with Johnny in the paddock and said, ‘Mark gave me a bunch of instructions for you.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Let me guess. Nothing?’ I said, ‘Exactly,’” Tomlinson said.
Velazquez needed no instructions, instead relying on his years of experience and immense talent to craft a savvy ride aboard the 5-year-old son of Tapit.
The Hall of Fame jockey settled Souper Tapit behind the pace set by defending champion Jay’s Way, stalked by Dalmore on the inside and Weisser on the outside, through fractions of 24.17 seconds and 47.68 for the first half mile. Jay’s Way continued to show the way into the far turn and around the final turn under Luis Saez, as Velazquez made a decisive outside move toward the lead, allowing Souper Tapit to get the jump on Dalmore, who was forced to wait for running room under Irad Ortiz Jr. at the top of the stretch.
Souper Tapit responded to Velazquez’s urging in the stretch drive to wear down a gutsy Jay’s Way, who held second, a neck ahead of a rallying Dalmore. The homebred Souper Tapit ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.62 to capture his fourth victory in 15 starts.
“I was where I wanted to be. I was hoping someone would go with Irad, when I took back, the other horse [Jay’s Way] got in front of him. I said, ‘Here’s my chance to beat him,’” Velazquez said. “I just tried to bide my time and keep him trapped where he was. That’s how we won the race.”
Souper Tapit captured the Marine Stakes (G3) at Woodbine in May 2017. After a string of six second or third-place finishes in allowance company, he returned to winning form in a mile off-the-turf optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Dec. 16.
“He was ultra-consistent last year and we were able to get a win at the end of the year, which was great,” Tomlinson said. “The timing for this race couldn’t have been better. He trained great up to the race. The result showed today.”
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