01/13/2016 2:26PM

Wildcat Red keeping it short

Tom Keyser
Wildcat Red is running in the Sunshine Millions Sprint instead of the Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Wildcat Red is the only millionaire entered on Saturday’s Sunshine Millions program. But Wildcat Red, the runner-up in the 2014 Florida Derby, will not be competing in the afternoon’s main event, the 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Millions Classic. Instead, trainer Jose Garoffalo has opted to bring him back off his latest layoff in a more suitable spot, the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Sprint.

Wildcat Red has not started since finishing fifth behind Rock Fall in the Grade 1 Vosburgh. That performance came on the heels of a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Overall, Wildcat Red won once during a five-race 2015 campaign that was shortened due to an injury sustained in last year’s Sunshine Millions Classic.

“He pulled a muscle in his back during the Sunshine Classic,” said Garoffalo. “So, we gave him plenty of time to recuperate. After that, he did a lot of traveling and ran hard in some tough races against some very good horses, so we just decided to give him a little rest after the Vosburgh. He’s not had any other physical issues.”

Wildcat Red, who has been stabled primarily at Gulfstream Park throughout his career, won the seven-furlong Hutcheson and the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth as stepping-stones to his near miss to Constitution in the Florida Derby. Those performances earned him a spot in the 2014 Kentucky Derby, but Wildcat Red did not appear to handle the surface at Churchill Downs that day, finishing 18th behind California Chrome.

“He’s training well, his last work was excellent, and he’s ready to run,” said Garoffalo. “But I was thinking the Classic was too long for him the first time after the layoff and that the Sprint was a better place to bring him back, to start him over again this year. In fact, we’ll probably try to keep him running between seven-eighths and a mile after this race, try to find some easier spots this year, keep him out of the Grade 1 races.”

Although he’s skipping the Classic on Saturday, Wildcat Red might actually be returning in a tougher spot, with the red-hot X Y Jet likely to be one of the shorter-priced favorites on the Sunshine Millions card. The Sprint field also includes Ackeret, Alfredo Romano, C. Zee, El Botas, It’s Not Me, and Puntrooskie.

The $250,000 Classic and $150,000 Sprint are among six Sunshine Millions stakes on the Saturday card. The others are the $200,000 Distaff, the $150,000 Turf, the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf, and the $150,000 Turf Sprint. The Sunshine Millions races are restricted to Florida-breds.