01/29/2011 7:51PM

Tackleberry pulls off $56 stunner in Sunshine Millions Classic

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Adam Coglianese
The front-running Tackleberry, ridden by Javier Castellano, pays $56.60 for winning the Sunshine Millions Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.- On a day full of surprises, Tackleberry saved the biggest for last when he led  throughout to post a 27-1 shocker over Duke of Mischief and the 57-1 Dream Maestro in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic.

First Dude was shuffled back from along the inside through the opening quarter-mile and failed to seriously menace finishing fourth as the 4-5 favorite.

Tackleberry’s unexpected victory in the Classic followed upset wins by Aegean ($20.20) in the Sunshine Millions Sprint and Trip for A. J. ($14.40) in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

Tackleberry ($56.60), who finished fourth after pressing the pace in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope three weeks ago, broke a step slow but quickly rushed to the lead entering the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile Classic. Jockey Javier Santiago nursed Tackleberry through relatively soft fractions of 24.41 seconds, 48.78, and 1:12.13 while stalked by Duke of Mischief from the outset.

Tackleberry was finally able to discourage Duke of Mischief once settling into the stretch, and then gradually increased his advantage to the end while completing the nine furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.52.

“He loves to run and wants the lead,” said Luis Olivares who both owns and trains Tackleberry. “Last time he stumbled and broke bad at the start and didn’t get to run his race. He’s a fighter. He looks like he’s dead at the top of the stretch and he fights back. This is the biggest purse I’ve won.”

Duke of Mischief drifted through the late stages but was easily second best, outlasting the late-running Dream Maestro by 1 ¼ lengths to finish second.

First Dude, the 9-10 favorite racing without blinkers for the first time since the Haskell, steadied in behind Tackleberry entering the first turn, then continued to fight jockey Kent Desormeaux, who appeared determined to get the favorite back and to the outside around the opening bend. First Dude remained in contention into the stretch but weakened under pressure while also drifting as he approached the wire.

Birdrun was a major disappointment, finishing a tiring and well beaten sixth as the 7-2 second choice in a field of nine older horses.