Steven Michael Bell's Aegean, sent off at 9-1 odds, held off a determined 13-1 shot in Jessica Is Back to post an upset in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29.
With Jeffrey Sanchez aboard for trainer Wesley Ward, Aegean rallied in the stretch to take the lead and then had to withstand a photo for the nod over Jessica Is Back, who closed resolutely along the rail under Alex Solis.
As expected, Feel That Fire, making only her fourth career start, jumped to the lead from the outside 11 post, and got the first quarter mile in :22.29. Speedy Wildcat Heiress, seeking her fourth straight win, had assumed the lead after a half-mile was completed in :45.83 as the field began to close on the leaders rounding the turn in the six-furlong sprint.
In the end, Aegean held off the cavalry charge led by Jessica Is Back, stopping the timer in 1:09.61. She paid $20.20, $9.40, and $6.00. Jessica Is Back was worth $11.40 and $7.60, with Feel That Fire hanging on for third, paying $4.80.
Amen Hallelujah, the 6-5 favorite making her first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park last June 5, ran fifth.
Aegean, a 4-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Northern Afleet -- Apt to Star, by Aptitude, has won five of 13 starts, including the 2009 Kentucky Juvenile Stakes (Grade 3). Previous to the Sunshine Millions F&M Sprint, the filly won the Dream Supreme Stakes and was fifth, beaten 3 ½ lengths, in the Lightning City Stakes at Tampa Bay.
Bred by Vegso Racing Stable, the filly was consigned to the 2008 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's August yearling sale by Cutting Edge Equine, agent, and was purchased by James Riley for $70,000.
The Sunshine Millions is a six-race winter series, in its ninth year for horses bred in California and Florida, worth a combined $1.8 million at the two MI Developments-owned tracks.