I can’t say that I’m too distraught over Aqueduct cancelling the past couple of days when there are cards like today’s at Gulfstream to handicap. The race I’m most looking forward to today would have to be the matchup of Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. You all probably know by now that I’m a huge Point of Entry fan and will be rooting for him to win, but the race doesn’t present enough value on the win end to warrant a bet. Still, there are plenty of other races today in which I have opinions so let’s get to them:
Gulfstream, Race 4: Claiming $25,000-$20,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
As someone who likes to watch trips and make notes, I love a race like this. Seven horses are coming out of the same race and while no one necessarily had significant trouble, there were dynamics at play that make me believe we could see a different result today. The turf course was not very fast at Gulfstream that day as is evidenced by that “-27” track variant and the pace should be viewed as fast. Professor Palmer rated a bit farther back than he usually would and made the final move, which, considering the race dynamics, gave him the advantage that day. Sunshine Rambler (#7), on the other hand, was up close stalking the quick pace of Dynamic Boy and understandably came up empty in the stretch when the closers were coming with their runs. Sunshine Rambler is a little bit better at today’s distance than the nine furlongs anyway, so I’m willing to excuse the effort and consider him a major player.
Gimme Credit (#4) is the other horse I want out of that January 17th race. He has shown on many occasions that 1 1/8 miles is just too far for him and Luis Contreras did him no favors last time by making an early blitz to the front at the top of the stretch. Professor Palmer waited longer and ran him down late. I think Gimme Credit is as good as anyone in here at the age of 10 and will not be surprised to see him in the winner’s circle at a healthy price.
$10 Win 7
$5 Win 4 (WINNER; Payout: $43.50)
Gulfstream, Race 5: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at six and one-half furlongs for 3 year-olds
I want no part of Park City in this race. On July 27th at Saratoga (I was in attendance that day) there was a strong outside bias and horses making rallies in the center of the racetrack had a major advantage. Park City was steered into the clear outside of horses around the far turn and I believe his trip helped him get up more than his natural ability. Little Distorted is a bit of a conundrum. His debut wasn’t just good–he looked like a future champion that day. But as impressive as his debut was, his Spectacular Bid was spectacularly lackluster. I imagine that he can do better than that, but he’s so much of a question mark that I’m not going to rely on him.
I was very impressed by Declan’s Warrior’s (#2) initial start for a number of reasons. He was a Nick Zito first time starter who took absolutely no money and had trouble out of the gate. After running less than a furlong, the field started to converge towards the rail entering the far turn and Declan’s Warrior was shuffled back even further. By the time they hit the three-eighths pole he was legitimately 12 lengths behind. Yet what makes his performance so impressive is that this was not really a race that collapsed. No one made a strong closing move except for this horse. He ran his final three and a half furlongs in approximately 39 3/5 seconds and his final three-sixteenths in around 16 4/5 seconds. Those are some otherworldly splits for the end of a dirt race and if he repeats that sort of effort everyone is probably running for second today.
$15 Win 2
Gulfstream, Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles for 3 year-olds
This isn’t the sort of horse that I usually would pick, but War Dancer (#7) finished up like a serious racehorse in his debut after getting stopped briefly coming into the stretch and actually has far more pedigree for dirt than turf on his dam’s side. His dam, Deed I Do, could run on anything and his sire produces runners who seem to be able to run on anything. Yet most of this dam’s progeny have excelled on the dirt. Most tellingly, War Dancer’s lone full sibling, Into the Fray, tried all surfaces and pretty clearly ran his best races on dirt. He probably doesn’t need to move forward at all of his debut to take this and McPeek uses the turf-to-dirt switch pretty often. This guy has some size and scope to him and looks like the sort of horse who wants to run all day. For what it’s worth, he bears much more of a resemblance to his damsire, Alydeed, than many of the other War Fronts I’ve seen.
$10 Win 7
Gulfstream, Race 10: Suwannee River Stakes (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
I understand that Romacaca is the lone speed in this race and perhaps that will give her a distinct advantage, but I’m playing against her. Many of her wins recently have come against much weaker competition and 9 furlongs has always been pushing her to the limit. I like one of the new faces stepping up in class for the first time and that’s Abaco (#8). This five year-old mare certainly took a while to get going and only broke her maiden in her ninth career start. Yet ever since then, it’s been nothing but wins for this daughter of Giant’s Causeway. She showed blazing speed making up the deficit in the blink of an eye last time and I think her combination of turn of foot and stamina will give her an excellent shot. Shug McGaughey has made some hopeful comments about her prospects recently and I have the feeling there’s room for better.
Of the horses coming out of the Marshua’s River, I want Hard Not to Like (#4) the most. She and Channel Lady both received perfect trips, but the winner is more likely to move forward off that race. I’ll use Abaco on the win end, but will put her behind Hard Not to Like in the exacta as well.
$10 Win 8
$5 Exacta 4-8
Gulfstream, Race 11: Donn Handicap (G1) at 1 1/8 miles
I was highly impressed by Csaba’s (#7) win in the Hal’s Hope (G3). He was stuck in an uncomfortable spot for nearly the entire trip and when he finally found room on the rail, ordinary horses may have sulked at that point, but Csaba’s sheer will to get to that line in front carried him to victory. I think the competitive nature of this race will ensure he’s a bettable price so I’ll play him to win. Flat Out is certainly the horse to beat, but his poor performance in the Donn last year gives me some slight concerns. I’ll be using him prominently in multi-race wagers, but don’t think he’ll offer much value. The pace should be fast early, so I don’t want Ultimate Eagle or Graydar. Dynamics should bring Bourbon Courage and Pool Play into the mix, but Csaba is adaptable enough to work out a trip as well and I think he’s better than them.
$10 Win 7
Gulfstream, Race 12: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 3 year-olds
My thinking here is pretty simple. I prefer horses with experience in these races and Gentleman’s Honor (#1) and Kid Lightning (#2) have that in addition to fantastic turf pedigrees. The former’s dam won $600,000 on grass while the latter is a half-brother to Theyskin’s Theory, who nearly won the Grade I Garden City over Winter Memories a couple years ago. They both drew great post positions and I’ll be using them each to win and in the exacta.
$5 Win 1
$5 Win 2 (WINNER; Payout: $46.00)
$5 Exacta Box 1-2
[2:27 p.m. update] – Well that’s the right way to get the day started off. Gimme Credit ($17.40) got the patient sort of ride that he needed and just barely proved best. I really thought I had that exacta wrapped up until the final strides with Sunshine Rambler battling him to the wire. I really didn’t see Crown’s Path coming before, during, or after the race. Still, no complaints here.
[2:59 p.m. update] – Ouch. Declan’s Warrior was probably best there, but Park City ran better than I would have expected. Declan’s Warrior did have to stop and start a couple of times and likely didn’t see the winner at any point during the stretch drive. I’ll be interested to see where he turns up next time because he likely has a bright future.
[4:22 p.m. update] – Point of Entry won. That alone can make my day.
[5:28 p.m. update] – Congratulations to those who followed my misprinted 5-8 exacta in the Suwannee River. I meant to bet Hard Not to Like, #4, not Channel Lady, #5, but switched up the numbers when writing this. I actually liked Channel Lady third best and used her in the exacta as well in my own personal wagering, but I feel a little silly about unintentionally giving out a winner. I won’t be adding the exacta total to my winnings since it was a misprint.
[6:21 p.m. update] – It wasn’t a bad day for me. I hit 4 of 5 in the Pick-5 only losing the Donn Handicap (G1) when I needed Bourbon Courage to get by Graydar. Kid Lightning ($9.20) came through in the finale after an eventful trip.