Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Quijote benefited from a sizzling speed duel between favored X Y Jet and second-choice Ray’swarrior in Saturday’s $100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Park, rallying from well off the pace to score by 3 ¾ lengths.
“We actually knew there was going to be a lot of speed, and he’s a closing type. It’s nice when things go to plan,” trainer Georgina Baxter said. “The plan was that they were going to go at each other’s throats and we would pick up the pieces in the end.”
The six-furlong Sprint kicked off Saturday’s Sunshine Millions stakes action, which included the $150,000 Turf, the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf, and the $200,000 Classic, featuring horses bred in Florida.
Rockingham Ranch and Gelfenstein Farm’s X Y Jet, the defending champion who also won the race in 2016, went to post as the 1-2 favorite. The multiple graded-stakes winner broke cleanly from the starting gate but met an immediate outside challenge from Ray’swarrior, the 3-1 second choice. Neither Emisael Jaramillo, aboard X Y Jet, nor Luis Saez, aboard Ray’swarrior, were inclined to back, urging their mounts through a quarter mile in a blistering 21.09 seconds and a half-mile in a sizzling 43.54. The pair, side-by-side, showed the way into the stretch, but would eventually pay the price for their pace battle.
Ray’swarrior gradually moved past a faltering X Y Jet, who was making his first start since winning the Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream June 30, but also shortened stride late as Quijote, who settle far back early, surged on his outside and drew off to the pull off a 23-1 upset under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I tried to keep him in the clear. I knew there was going to be some pace so I just rode him with confidence and tried to wait as long as I can. When I turned for home, I hit him and my horse responded really well and they started coming back to me,” Ortiz said.