Friday at Gulfstream

Race 10 Analysis

Race 10 (8F Turf) 50K Optional Claiming 3yo

Contenders: #1,#3,#5,#6,#8

Todd Pletcher always seems to beat me with horses like Earth (#3).  But given his likely short odds, likely early pace pressure, and no wins at two turns, I’m again looking elsewhere at my own peril.

Elsewhere is Bantu (#5).  The blinkers come off for this one and I anticipate the idea is to get him to settle and make a run from off the pace.  I think he’s due for an honest effort and, on paper, the pace should be there.  In his first two starts at Gulftream, he caught unfavorable “good” turf courses in higher level events.  In his last race on February 9th, he was on hold for virtually the entire race and gets free too late.  Just watch Ortiz wrestle him for 6F.

Horse on hold:

$10 Exacta 5/1-3-6-8
$2 Trifecta 5/1-3-6-8
$4 Exacta (saver) 1-3-6-8/5

Post Time at Gulfstream Park Got You Confused?

Here’s a helpful video on how to figure it out.

Gulfstream’s practice of marking post time “up” for five minutes and beyond really needs to stop.  At first I thought it was a nod to the aging fans on track that needed extra time to get to the windows but that really doesn’t fly.  There’s been a majority old people at the track since I started going regularly in 1985.

I think this started as a gimmick to juice up the Rainbow 6 and since evolved to become standard.  What’s even worse is that other tracks may start doing the same, especially if there’s an argument it increases handle.

Thursday at Gulfstream

Race 4 and Race 10 Analysis

Race 4 (7.5F Turf) 16K Claiming 4yo+

Contenders: #1, #5, #7, #8

At first glance, Beyond Smart (#1) seems like a logical play.  Positive barn switch to trainer Kelly Breen, adds jockey Irad Ortiz and speed figures that make him competitive with this bunch.  He’s also been on/near strong early paces in his three GP starts that may have compromised his chances.  However, at scant value given his new connections, it’s too hard to overlook the negatives: 2-19 on turf, 0-6 on GP lawn, and the general unease that this 7 year old is not improving (at least enough to win this).

Creaky Cricket (#5) gets a positive switch to Luis Saez for low percentage trainer Leon Minott.  That make up for the host of negatives:  0-6 on GP turf, 1-10 at distance, and doubts about his preferred running style.  He’s been involved from the get-go in his last four starts to no avail.  Will Saez take him off the pace today?

Is McElloy (#7) going to keep improving?  His BRISnet speed ratings have progressed from 49-77-81.  Last summer and fall in New York (under Rudy Rodriguez’s care) he was consistently hitting 85 before tailing off.  I’m taking a stand against.  He’s certainly a candidate for second or third, though.

I think Mr. Online (#8) will top this group.  His back class is obvious but I like how he significantly improved March 3rd on the stretch out second back from the long layoff.  I also like that trainer David Bratty gave him a 4F workout on March 17 at Gulfstream Park West.  It’s a small detail but it’s reassuring to see he’s fit and healthy.

Mr. Online is the morning line and likely post time favorite.  However, the money could be spread out among Beyond Smart and Creaky Cricket.

I’m optimistic that on-the-fringes long shots Picketts Corner (#2) or McFly (#4) might get up for second.  They’ll need help in the form of an honest early pace but they both sport multiple wins on the GP turf.

$10 Exacta 8/2-4-5-7
$2 Trifecta 8/2-4-5-7
$4 Exacta (saver) 2-4-5-7/8

(Update: #7 scratched so I’ll substitute the #1)

Race 10 (5F Turf) 62.5K Optional Claiming 4yo+

Contenders: #5, #6, #8, #9

Big Rock (#5) could and probably should win this based on his past numbers.  Positives also include: Christophe Clement (excellent at bringing turfers back off a layoff), the best turf/distance record in the field, and solid competitiveness especially at races above this level.  However, after six months on the shelf he looks like a very shaky M/L favorite.  If he’s not ready to go, I think he fades out of the trifecta.  Struggling Rosario in the irons doesn’t help either.

I can readily see Pocket Change (#6) wiring this field if French Quarter (#4) and Focus on Me (#9) don’t challenge him early.  He’s full of positives: undefeated in two impressive starts, Jason Servis trained (and excellent off the layoff), and Irad Ortiz.  But there’s also a new track, new distance and a bit tougher company than he’s faced before to negotiate.

My value choice here is Sonic Boom (#8) at 10-1 M/L.  He seems to prefer longer distances although his maiden win at 6F (Kentucky Downs) was solid.  I’m hoping he’s versatile enough to shift down to a sprint and there’s no better time for that than the first start off a layoff.  Other positives: Ian Wilkes is solid despite numbers not always showing it, patient turf specialist Julian Leparoux, and solid 5F workouts (on the turf) at Palm Meadows since late January.  He was also competitive against G1 company and won a G3 last year–something no one else has come close to.  And he’s a first time gelding.  Does that make a horse run faster?  I don’t know but if the speed falters, I think he’s a threat.

$20 Win 8
$10 Exacta 8/2-4-6-9
$2 Trifecta 8/2-4-6-9
$4 Exacta (saver) 2-4-6-9/8



Wednesday at Gulfstream

Race 8 Analysis

Race 8 (8.5F Turf) 30K Optional Claiming 4yo+

Main Contenders: #1, #3, #7, #8

Can Chief Exchanger (#3) wire this field for his third gate-to-wire win in a row? As the only clear front runner, he could potentially duplicate his almost too easy effort from February 24th.  However, at short odds of 7-2 M/L (the weddings at 12-1 and 9-1 have been missed), an additional 1/16 of a mile to negotiate and the likelihood of a slightly more challenging pace, I’m looking elsewhere.

Global Entry (#1) comes off a nice wire-to-wire effort at 9F on February 18th and retains Castellano (who leaves Royal Blessing).  I think the possibility of him going head to head with Chief Exchanger is doubtful.  I see him tracking closely on the inside and making a run.  It all sounds reasonable, but his past races seem indicate to me that he lacks that closing punch to get things done.

Given that I don’t trust these early pacesetter/pressers, this feels like a turf event where the fastest closer wins.  To me that’s Royal Blessing (#8).  He’s no mean value but he has the class and recent speed numbers to overtake this field if he fires.

Sit and pounce: Royal Blessing winning a similar turf event on March 7th:

Barney Rebel (#6) and Cut to Order (#9) are a tall order for the win, but could offer significant exacta value for second.  Cut to Order no doubt needed a race after 8 months off and has every right to improve here.

$10 Exacta 8/1-3-6-9
$2 Trifecta 8/1-3-6-9
$4 Exacta (Saver) 1-3-6-9/8


RIP Thunder Gulch

I’ll never forget you were 24-1 in the Kentucky Derby

Thunder Gulch’s career on the track was criminally short.  Injured and retired during the fall of his three year old campaign, we never got to see how scary great he had a chance to become as a four year old.

Instead we have his Kentucky Derby win to savor.  Noteworthy is just how fast that early pace is.  And Thunder Gulch is incredibly never further than 3 1/2 lengths away.  Those early leaders didn’t last but the best horse on the track that day sure did.

As a three year old he would only lose three times with valid excuses for each.  To a dawdling front runner named Wild Syn in the Blue Grass Stakes.  To heralded stable mate Timber Country in the Preakness.  To Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup due to injury.

So why was a horse this good 24-1 on Derby day?

Thunder Gulch is a classic example of how the betting public mistakenly puts too much emphasis (positive and negative) on a horse’s last race.  Prior to his 4th place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Thunder Gulch impressively bested Suave Prospect twice at Gulfsteam Park in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby.  Had he skipped the Blue Grass, his odds that first Saturday in May would undoubtedly been below 5-1.