Gulfstream, Race 1: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf for three year-olds
I’m interested to see what Chart Topper (#6) can do here off his blowout five-furlong maiden victory. This race really doesn’t set up for him at all with a lot of speed on paper, but he absolutely loved the turf last time and ran a time that perhaps should have earned a much higher Beyer speed figure on a day when the turf course was not yielding fast clockings. Horses who have run back out of that race seem to support that hypothesis. Maybe he’ll simply show speed and wilt, but he is bred to go longer so maybe he can take them all the way up front.
$10 Win 6
Gulfstream, Race 3: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Rei’s (#9) turf efforts are much stronger than they appear on paper and he could get overlooked in the wagering. He never had a chance to make a late impact behind Rydilluc in his grass debut as a three year-old and then couldn’t make a dent in the slow-paced Toronto Cup, where he was meeting what in retrospect was a graded stakes quality field. I think it’s pretty clear that there’s more to this horse than meets the eye. He’s a Leroidesanimaux that sold for almost $500,000 as a two year-old in training and is out of a dam who was a multiple graded stakes winner on turf. Additionally, he’s working well for this return and gets a top jockey.
$10 Win 9
Gulfstream, Race 6: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 1 1/16 miles for three year-olds
I’ve been high on Tonalist (#8) since he made his debut at Aqueduct. He rewarded my faith in him last time when he ran a Beyer figure that will be tough for this field to top despite racing extremely wide on the turns. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the slight cut back in distance and short stretch of these mile and a sixteenth races. I know that this isn’t the main goal for Clement, but I still think this horse has a ton of ability and is a likely winner.
I realize that likely favorite Constitution (#6) was brilliant in his debut and, with a clean break, should have a pace advantage in a race really lacking in that department so he is the main danger. I’m less fearful of the others. Wicked Strong may just not be that good since we’re coming to realize that the Remsen result doesn’t mean very much moving forward. Mexikoma has a bit of a reputation based on his Breeders’ Cup effort, but he really didn’t do all that much running in a race that set up perfectly for him. He could be okay down the line, but it’s not usually a good sign when a horse’s trainer is quoted as saying he’d be “surprised” if his horse won.
$15 Win 8
$5 Exacta Box 6/8 (WINNER; Payout: $49.00)
Gulfstream, Race 10: The Canadian Turf (G3) at one mile on the turf
I suppose the conversation should start with Rydilluc (#3), since he’s likely to go favored. While Rydilluc got perfect trips in his Gulfstream wins last year, he was brilliant in those victories. Things didn’t work out so well when they tried to stretch him out in distance later in the year, but I’m not going to hold those efforts against him. Contessa wisely gave him time to recover as he somewhat surprisingly does very well with these types of layoffs. Contessa put him through an almost unbelievably fast seven furlong move 10 days ago so I’d say it’s safe to assume he’s fit. This horse has generated more hype than he’s probably earned at this point in his career and may be a slight underlay, but he loves this track and distance just appears to be well meant in this spot.
My top pick, however, due to the value he’ll offer relative to the favorite, is Unbridled Ocean (#2). While the race he won last time was dominated by longer prices, that was still a very strong allowance field and Unbridled Ocean was able to grind out the victory over a rain-softened turf course that he may have not really cared for. He appears to be a big, heavy horse and those body types usually do best on firmer courses. While Unbridled Ocean has taken an unusual path to this race, he’s proven his quality along the way. If you’re willing to look back to 2011, he was awesome when running down some nice horses in Santiva and Nine O Wonderful over this course. Even his Dubai races were strong efforts. You rarely see American horses hold their own in races over the Meydan surface, let alone actually win. There’s no doubt he’s had his share of physical issues, but Mott appears to have him sound now and I think he stacks up well with this group.
I’ll bet Unbridled Ocean to win and use him strongly in exactas with Rydilluc. I’ll also throw him underneath other contenders like Reload, Salto, and probable pacesetter Joha.
$10 Win 2
$4 Exacta Box 2/3
$2 Exacta 5/6/8 with 2
Gulfstream, Race 11: The Fountain of Youth (G2) at 1 1/16 miles for three year-olds
I had gone into this race thinking that Top Billing (#12) might have to take a step forward to be successful in his stakes debut, but that’s not the case at all. Actually, despite the large field, this is a relatively weak running of the Fountain of Youth. If Top Billing merely runs as well as he has in each of his two prior starts at Gulfstream, he’s probably going to win this race. The projected pace only makes this result more likely since there’s a ton of speed on paper. I know he’s not going to offer any value, but it’s hard for me to get past him.
You can say many of the same things about Commissioner, though Handicapping 101 tells you that Top Billing is the one you want out of that January 3rd race since he had trouble and was against the pace whereas Commissioner got an absolutely perfect trip.
I prefer Pletcher’s other runner. We Miss Artie (#2) has done the majority of his running on turf, but his effort on dirt in the Breeders’ Cup was actually quite good. He was up close chasing that suicidal early pace and had to briefly wait for room on the far turn. He regained his momentum to bid for the lead at the top of the stretch, but understandably tired late. Pletcher has said repeatedly that this horse works better on dirt than turf so maybe this will ultimately turn out to be his preferred surface. He drew a great post position and should work out a decent trip from mid-pack. I’ll use him with Top Billing in exactas while pushing the likely favorite’s number more heavily in the top spot.