01/21/2017 3:09PM

Family Meeting works hard to narrowly prevail in Sunshine Millions Filly-Mare Turf

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Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photos
Family Meeting, ridden by Jose Lezcano, defeats Frosty Friday by a neck in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Ever so fittingly, the Florida roots run deep for Family Meeting, winner of the $100,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

“She’s a sixth-generation homebred, all of them Florida-breds,” said Craig Bernick, whose family’s Glen Hill Farm bred and owns Family Meeting. “So it’s very special to win this race.”

Victory didn’t come easy for Family Meeting and jockey Jose Lezcano in the Filly and Mare Turf, the first of five Sunshine Millions events for Florida-breds Saturday afternoon. It took most of the stretch run for Family Meeting to push past Frosty Friday to prevail by a neck in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Family Meeting, a 4-year-old Sky Mesa filly currently based at Tampa Bay Downs with trainer Tom Proctor, returned $3.80 as favorite in a field of six after finishing in 1:43.18 over a firm course. Frosty Friday was the 9-5 second choice under Javier Castellano.

“I didn't want to be too close early,” said Lezcano. “She broke good. When I asked her, I let her pick it up, little by little, on the backside, and then basically she went on to win the race. I felt like there was a lot of horse under me, even though it might not have been on full display.”

E B Ryder rallied belatedly to finish third, another three lengths behind the top pair. Then came Elizabeth Aurora, Sumfloridasunfun, and Rontos Lily. Mom’s On Strike, the 2-1 program favorite, was an early scratch.

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Family Meeting now has won 3 of 11 starts, with her prior triumph coming at 37-1 in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante over the Del Mar turf in the fall of her 2-year-old season.

Bernick is the grandson of Glen Hill Farm founder Leonard Lavin. Bernick has ascended to the presidency of the Ocala farm where he said his 97-year-old grandfather was watching all the action Saturday on television. Asked to name the five preceding mares in the pedigree of Family Meeting, Bernick quickly responded with a smile, starting with the foundation mare Convenience, whose most notable career feat was a victory over Typecast in a 1972 match race at Hollywood Park.

The $2 exacta (3-5) paid $8.20, the $1 trifecta (3-5-1) returned $7, and the 10-cent superfecta (3-5-1-4) was worth $2.94.