01/14/2016 12:30PM

Mr. Jordan back on week's rest in Sunshine Millions Classic

Nikki Sherman
Mr. Jordan was eliminated at the start of the Hal's Hope last Saturday, and gets another chance in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Nobody knew it at the time, but the complexion of this Saturday’s $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic changed last Saturday, when Mr. Jordan and Matrooh were virtually eliminated from contention after slamming into one another while leaving the starting gate for the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope.

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With that opportunity lost, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. decided to wheel Mr. Jordan back on short rest in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park, where he’ll be the likely pacesetter and favorite despite the quick turnaround. A field of 10 4-year-olds and up will contest the nine-furlong Classic, the highlight of Saturday’s Sunshine Millions program. There are six Sunshine Millions stakes, all restricted to Florida-breds after being opened up to horses bred in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland in 2015.

Post time for the 12-race program is 12:05 p.m. Eastern.

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Mr. Jordan, the winner of the Grade 3 Pegasus last summer at Monmouth Park, never got untracked after the eventful start of the Hal’s Hope, briefly pressing the pace before retreating steadily to finish last, 15 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Mshawish. The outing was just the second for Mr. Jordan since his seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell last summer.

“In all honesty, he was coming into that race the best he’s ever come into a race,” Plesa said of the Hal’s Hope. “And I can tell by the way he’s been training since the race that it didn’t take anything out of him at all. I did the usual things to make sure. I had about six boxes I needed to check to be in this race on Saturday, and he checked out on all of them. Physically, he’s 100 percent. Obviously, I wouldn’t run him otherwise.”

Prior to Plesa’s last-minute decision to run Mr. Jordan in the Classic, the pace figured to be set by defending champion Sr. Quisqueyano, who also is making his third start off the layoff Saturday. In the 2015 Classic, Sr. Quisqueyano registered a half-length victory over East Hall as a 20-1 outsider while making his first start off the claim for owner Looch Racing Stables and trainer Peter Walder. He has gone winless in five subsequent starts, including a second-place finish behind Commissioner in the Grade 3 Skip Away here last spring.

Saraguaro has been freshened since winning the Sunshine Millions Classic Preview at Gulfstream Park West in impressive fashion nine weeks ago for his second consecutive stakes victory, both at 1 1/16 miles.

“I think distance is the key,” said trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. “I think a mile and one-eighth is going to be even better for him.”

Mexikoma will try statebred company for the first time while coming off a fifth-place finish, a length behind Mr. Jordan, in the Harlan’s Holiday in December.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 5 Mexikoma. Trainer Michael Dilger is 24-5-2-0 with a $7.65 ROI over the past five years in routes at Gulfstream Park. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Catholic Cowboy finished third in the 2015 Classic, 1 3/4 lengths behind Sr. Quisqueyano, which was the first of his eight consecutive setbacks since upsetting the Claiming Crown Jewel in December 2014.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 10 Catholic Cowboy. Won the Claiming Crown Jewel on Dec. 6, 2014; since that race trainer Nick Zito is 435-34-34-38 for a $0.78 ROI with all starters. Mike Hogan

Completing the field are Abounding Legacy, Runs With Bulls, Yourdreamsormine, Roll On the Navajo, and Morgans Harbour.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Runs With Bulls. Trainer Peter Walder is 8-5-2-1 with a $4 ROI over the past five years in dirt routes with Javier Castellano aboard last-out winners. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

Key contenders

Mr. Jordan (Last 3 Beyers: 77-95-9)

◗ Distance is the question since he’s never won beyond 1 1/16 miles.

Sr. Quisqueyano (Last 3 Beyers: 82-63-77)

◗ Walder said he’s been pointing for the Classic all year. “We got what we were looking for out of his last race,” he said. “Now it’s time for him to wake up.”

Saraguaro (Last 3 Beyers: 86-87-74)

◗ He has turned in a very strong series of works locally since his victory in the Sunshine Millions Classic Preview.

Distaff: Flutterby eyes revenge

Trainer Jerry Bozzo will be looking for a belated 95th birthday present when Flutterby tries to redeem herself in Saturday’s $200,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.

Bozzo, the oldest active trainer in North America, and his homebred Flutterby combined for a sensational season in 2015 despite her third-place finish as the 2-5 favorite in the Sunshine Millions Distaff Preview at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 7. Flutterby won three of nine starts last year, all stakes, and finished second in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney.

“Her last race was too close to the progression of all the other races she ran last year, and she just needed a rest,” said Bozzo.

Flutterby can avenge her last setback, with the top two finishers in the Sunshine Millions Distaff Preview, Legal Laura and My Miss Venezuela, among her nine rivals Saturday.

Key contenders

Flutterby (Last 3 Beyers: 75-85-87)

◗ She has registered three victories and two seconds in her last five starts at Gulfstream Park.

Legal Laura (Last 3 Beyers: 75-82-76)

◗ She should relish the turnback to seven furlongs as well as a return to statebred company after faltering late and finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Rampart at a mile in her 2015 finale.

Dogwood Trail (Last 3 Beyers: 77-76-73)

◗ Another horse for the course, she’s registered four wins and three seconds in nine starts at Gulfstream.