01/16/2016 6:24PM

Mexikoma in Sunshine Millions Classic among Velazquez's four wins

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Barbara D. Livingston
John Velazquez brings home favored Mexikoma in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After running exclusively against open company in his first 10 career starts, Mexikoma found Florida-breds much more to his liking Saturday at Gulfstream Park, rallying to defeat a game Mr. Jordan by 1 1/2 lengths in the afternoon’s main event, the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic. The win was the third of four on the day for jockey John Velazquez.

Mexikoma overcame some traffic on the opening turn to race within easy striking distance of the leaders once settling into the backstretch of the 1 1/8-mile Classic. Mr. Jordan, who was hung wide around the clubhouse turn after breaking a step slow, used his speed to stalk the early leaders before surging well clear midway down the backstretch.  Jockey Joe Bravo wisely allowed Mr. Jordan to ease well off the deep rail turning for home, but Mexikoma had plenty left after racing wide himself leaving the final bend, eventually running down the leader near the sixteenth pole to win going away.

The Sunshine Millions Classic proved to be strictly a two-horse race with Catholic Cowboy finishing another 12 lengths farther back in third.

Mexikoma, a 5-year-old son of Birdstone, is trained by Michael Dilger for Team Valor International. He covered nine furlongs in 1:48.19 over a fast track and paid $4.60 as the somewhat surprising heavy favorite in a field of 10 Florida-breds.

“This has been the target for him for quite a while, and thankfully it worked,” said Dilger. “He’s won so many of his races closing from so far behind, but that style will make you nervous here at Gulfstream so I was glad Johnny rode him the way he did. He’s got a lot of try, even when he doesn’t win it’s not because he doesn’t try. And he’s a two-turn horse. He always runs best at the end of his races.”