01/26/2008 12:00AM

Benny the Bull romps


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Benny the Bull won Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint Handicap at Gulfstream Park and at the same time may have lost his reputation as a one-dimensional horse who is at his best when rallying from far off the pace.

Benny the Bull ($4) dragged jockey Edgar Prado to a perfect striking position just behind the early leaders, found ample room to challenge for the lead turning for home, then drew off to a resounding 4 1/2-length victory over the 49-1 Santana Strings in the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Sprint. Pacesetter Mach Ride outlasted Tropic Storm by a nose to finish third.

Benny the Bull's final time of 1:08.48 was just .02 of a second off the track record set by Tiger two years earlier.

Richard Dutrow Jr., who trains Benny the Bull for a group led by IEAH Stables, was as surprised as anybody to see his horse so close to the early pace.

"That certainly wasn't planned, but he has been training so good," said Dutrow when asked about Benny the Bull getting involved in the race so early. "I can't explain it. The horse just put Edgar right there. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe how well he ran. It was mind boggling. That looked like the best race he's ever run. I don't know his style anymore."

The win was the sixth in 14 career starts for Benny the Bull, a Florida-bred son of Lucky Lionel, who was also second behind Eclipse Award winner Midnight Lute last season in the Grade 1 Forego before finishing a slow breaking fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Dutrow said Benny the Bull would most likely make his next start in Aqueduct's Grade 1 Carter, a race Dutrow won a year ago with Silver Wagon.

"I'm sure the people from Dubai will be after us to run in their sprint race, but if I had to choose now, I'd say the Carter would likely be the best option," Dutrow said. "It's the logical spot. It gives us plenty of time, the outer track at Aqueduct is a very safe track and I'm not afraid of running him seven furlongs."