Updated on 09/17/2011 10:47AM

Layoffs play lead role in Sunshine Millions


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - To avoid being left out in the cold as Sunshine Millions festivities heat up, bettors will have to warm to the recency factor because 30 of the 95 horses entered in the eight races have been idle for at least 45 days.

Since each track offers a pick four on its Sunshine Millions races, let's first look at Gulfstream, and then Santa Anita, in terms of what might be expected from the returnees. Are they contenders or pretenders?


Filly and Mare Sprint (four layoff horses)

Chispiski - A $25,000 claimer last spring, she has been away since hanging on to win a Grade 3 on Dec. 7. She was more productive than any other in this field last year, winning eight times with three runner-up finishes, while steadily rising in class. She returned from seven weeks off to run what was then a new top Beyer Aug. 12. Contender.

Shameful - She is unraced since stopping to a walk in an ungraded stakes Oct. 31. She has won twice from four starts off workouts, including her lifetime top Beyer off a 10-week break, and a half-length loss to Bella Bellucci off a 45-day break. Bob Baffert has good stats with this type of absentee. Her recent works are sharp. Contender.

Madame Pietra - Consistently fastest among these in 2002, she closed out the year with six straight one-two finishes, all with figures in the '90s. She has three maintenance workouts since winning an ungraded stakes Dec. 8. Contender.

Jetinto Houston - She's one-for-life, and overmatched here. Pretender.

Classic (three layoff horses)

Continental Red - He beat subsequent San Fernando winner Pass Rush at Sam Houston seven weeks ago. He drops weight off that performance, has the rail, and worked a total of 16 furlongs in a recent 12-day span. Contender.

Island Skipper - He was last seen Beyering 108 when left alone on an easy lead in a Calder allowance. He returns with a trainer change to Nick Zito, whose layoff stats are average. The longer distance of this race, combined with more pace pressure from multiple stakes winner Booklet, are serious obstacles. Pretender.

Saint Marden - The late-blooming colt came into his own last summer and won four of five route starts, the lone defeat in a sloppy Travers where he didn't handle the footing. He has the most upside potential of any of these. Contender.

Dash (two layoffs)

Valid Video - The top figure in the race is 95, and two of three such efforts belong to this gelding, who earned them off works, winning his debut and the Sapling at Monmouth Park. He has been shelved since a rough trip in the Futurity, which was run in a driving rainstorm at Belmont on Sept. 15. He has a very light work tab at Classic Mile Farm. He will be under the gun from the inside post. Tough call!

Lex Luthier - His best race isn't good enough, and he blew out three furlongs in 39.60 last week. Pretender.

Filly and Mare Turf (three layoff horses)

Maliziosa - She is a steady-going filly from Bill Mott, whose stats with 61- to 180-day layoffs are surprisingly pedestrian. A deep closer, she will be overbet, but must be used in pick fours.

Stay Forever - She won four in a row last summer and fall when brought back from nearly two years on the sidelines, and the streak was snapped by a troubled-trip third with a new top Beyer. Her trainer wins at 26 percent in stakes. Contender.

Elaine's Angel - She has one lifetime turf win, and she has never been outside the SoCal circuit. Pretender.


Turf (four layoffs)

Ninebanks - He had an impossible task from post 13 in the Cal Cup Mile. He has a strong workout line since career-top Beyer on Nov. 29. His trainer is 24 percent with this type of layoff. Contender.

Gobi Dan - He has been idle since August. He has never run a turf race in the same league as these. Pretender.

Special Matter - Former $16,000 claimer won a Grade 3 in the fall, then got dusted in the Hollywood Turf Cup. His trainer's layoff stats are discouraging. Pretender.

Forbidden Apple - One of the marquee horses on the program, he is ticketed for retirement after this race. He has just one published half-mile workout since being outkicked by not one but two rivals as the 1-2 favorite at Sam Houston on Dec. 7. Post 11 on an unfamiliar course doesn't help this certain underlay. Pretender!

Oaks (six layoff horses)

Forthelifeofme - She raced a total of seven furlongs in two early-season starts as a juvenile, but recently worked twice at the Oaks distance in the span of a week, capping off a very purposeful series of drills. Long chance.

Ivanavinalot - She was scratched two days before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies due to a temperature and high blood count. She is the fastest filly in the field, and her trainer's $5.75 ROI with layoffs indicates she knows how to get them ready. Contender.

Elegant Designer - She has undergone an amazing transformation, going 3-for-3 at three tracks following a trainer change to Tony Dutrow last fall. Brother Dick, New York's leading trainer in terms of wins the last two years, will saddle her. She worked in 34.40 seconds at Laurel. Contender.

Miss Nicolie - She is too slow. Pretender.

My Kai - She had trouble at the gate in both starts and is stuck in post 12. Pretender.

Stonecoldfox - She fell off badly after debut win. Pretender.

Sprint (five layoffs)

Disturbingthepeace - Six straight wins earned him a shot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and he has been freshened since then. He began his last form cycle with a 111 Beyer. Contender.

Joey Franco - He has raced once at six furlongs, against maidens. Pretender.

Captain Square - A Grade 2 winner, he has raced only once at six furlongs, when a rallying second off a shorter layoff in Calder's Carry Back Stakes. He has strong works at his home track. Contender.

F J's Pace - A certain pace factor, but he is an 8-year-old with one career win at the distance. Pretender.

Men's Exclusive - He is now 10 years old and showing his age after being blanked in 2002. Pretender.

Distaff (three layoffs)

Castling - Two of her four wins have come in layoff situations, and she's not outgunned figure-wise. Contender.

Smok'n Frolic - She won the Cotillion Handicap when fresh last fall, which was her first win in nearly a year. Note trainer Todd Pletcher's 30 percent win rate with this type of layoff. Contender.

Ms Brookski - She went off form after winning the Grade 2 Davona Dale last winter. She is marooned out in post 12. Pretender.