All of the bets I’ll be making this weekend are centered around the stakes races in Florida and California. Let’s start out at Tampa Bay Downs.
Tampa, Race 9, The Suncoast Stakes
The probable favorite here is the Todd Pletcher-trained Wait Til Dawn, who is coming off an odds-on maiden win at Gulfstream. She can certainly win, but I’m going with Melrose Woods (#3), who was very impressive winning her debut from off the pace at Santa Anita at the end of January. It seems she was privately purchased after that race as she is now based in Florida with Leigh Delacour. She could show more speed today and, as a half-sister to Charitable Man, should love the extra distance.
$5 Win 3
Tampa, Race 10, The Hillsborough Stakes (G3)
Last year’s Diane Stakes (G1) winner, Zagora, is likely going to take the majority of the play in here and I’m not going to deny that she is the most likely winner. However, she was beaten in this spot last year by Denomination (#5) and I’m going to hope for the same outcome today. Denomination did not get good setups in either of last two races, first getting placed on the lead in the My Charmer (G3) and then being taken 10 lengths back off a half in 50 seconds in Suwannee River (G3). Today, with the jockey switch to Julien Leparoux, she should sit in mid-pack early and then come charging at Zagora late.
$5 Win 5
Tampa, Race 10, The Tampa Bay Derby (G2)
This race lost a lot of its luster with the withdrawal of Take Charge Indy yesterday. Now Spring Hill Farm (#9) looms as the favorite, and while I love his pedigree to stretch out, he is most likely going to have rate off another horse for the first time in his short career. As speed figures are concerned, this field is very well-matched and I could see plenty of these stepping up just enough to win. I’m going to pick Golden Ticket (#2), who has the same sort of look to him that Battle Hardened (#7) did coming into his win in the Sam F. Davis. It took Golden Ticket six starts to break his maiden, but he did it the right way going two turns last time at Gulfstream, earning an 83 Beyer. He should get a good setup behind what figures to be a quick early pace.
$5 Win 2
Gulfstream, Race 8, The Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2)
Jackson Bend (#6) is not only the best horse in this race, but he may be one of the best horses in the country. I also don’t think he’s going to go off favored in here with the recent buzz around Mucho Macho Man and his win in the Sunshine Millions Classic. Also, people are probably going to read into the fact that the second-place finisher in that race, Ron the Greek, came back to win the Santa Anita Handicap. I’ll take Jackson Bend “Mucho” and the returning Gulfstream specialist Tackleberry.
$5 Exacta 6 with 1-2
Gulfstream, Race 10, The Swale Stakes (G3)
The two classiest horses in this spot are Motor City (#4) and Ever So Lucky (#7), both of whom were last seen running well in graded stakes at the Churchill Downs fall meet. I think they both have a shot, but I’m going to use recent debut winner Bahamian Squall (#6). This David Fawkes-trained runner is a half-brother to top sprinter Apriority and should get a pace to run at. I’ll also bet him in the exacta with Ever So Lucky and main speed Trinniberg (#2).
$5 Win 6
$2 Exacta Box 6 with 4-7
Santa Anita, Race 9, The San Felipe Stakes (G2)
I love the way Creative Cause (#7) is being prepared for the Kentucky Derby and I think he is going to bounce back from his tightener in the San Vicente with a win here. People forget just how well he ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year and the form of that race has certainly held up. Today he should sit just off frontrunners Bodemeister and American Act early and get the jump on the closers. Creative Cause may go off favored here, but I don’t see him dropping much below his morning line of 5-2 and I just have a strong feeling that he is going to win. Without much win value, I will use him in the exacta on top of American Act (#3), Liaison (#6), Rousing Sermon (#8), and Empire Way (#10).
$3 Exacta 7 with 3-6-8-10