Heart to Heart winning the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (gr. I) - Photo by Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography

Heart to Heart winning the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (gr. I) – Photo by Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography

Gulfstream Park is doing their best to keep us entertained while we wait for the eagerly-anticipated Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) and Pegasus World Cup Turf (gr. I) on January 26th.

The Florida racetrack has packed their upcoming weekend stakes slates with high-class events, including the Tropical Turf Stakes (gr. III) and the Marshua’s River Stakes (gr. III) on Saturday, January 12th. These two turf races for older horses have attracted small but quality fields, and who knows—with the field still in flux for the Pegasus World Cup Turf, perhaps one or two starters on Saturday could wheel back in two weeks for the richest turf race in North America.

Let’s dive in and see if we can’t come up with a few interesting plays….

Race 9 (3:45 p.m. Eastern): Tropical Turf Stakes (gr. III)

It comes as no surprise to see #6 Heart to Heart turn up in the entries here. The eight-year-old veteran is a top-class turf miler with a 5-for-7 record at Gulfstream Park, so the one-mile distance of the Tropical Turf should suit him perfectly. Yes, he’s getting old, and his last two runs of 2018 resulted in disappointing finishes, but he was running over wet turf courses that he might not have cared for, and in both races he encountered challenging pace scenarios. He should face no such challenges on Saturday—he looms as the lone front-runner—and drawing post six should help him stay out of traffic in the event of a slow start.

Heart to Heart’s biggest challenge could potentially come from #7 Your Only Man, an up-and-coming son of Creative Cause trained by Marcus Vitali, who claimed the gelding from Todd Pletcher at the end of the Saratoga meet. Since then, Your Only Man has performed well in three starts at Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West. I particularly liked Your Only Man’s runner-up effort in a one-mile starter optional claiming race at Gulfstream on January 1st, in which he rallied well from mid-pack to finish second by just a neck while running the final quarter-mile in less than :23 seconds.

#4 Doctor Mounty, a graded stakes winner from the barn of Shug McGaughey, also fits well here and must be considered for the exotics. I’ll play Heart to Heart on top of Your Only Man and Doctor Mounty in the exacta while also adding a small saver ticket boxing Your Only Man and Doctor Mounty, just in case age is starting to catch up to Heart to Heart:

$10 exacta: 6 with 4,7 ($20)
$5 exacta: 4,7 with 4,7 ($10)

Race 11 (4:47 p.m.): Marshua’s River Stakes (gr. III)

There are several capable turf stakes winners in this 8.5-furlong race, but I’m inclined to throw my support behind the less accomplished #3 Bombshell, who has found new life since being transferred to the barn of trainer Arnaud Delacour. Earlier this summer, Delacour elected to try Bombshell on turf, and the results were two wins and a close third from three starts at Delaware Park and Mountaineer. She followed up by winning an off-the-turf renewal of the Forever Together Stakes at Aqueduct, and for Saturday’s race she’ll get back to her seemingly preferred surface while picking up the services of Gulfstream’s leading jockey Luis Saez.

Bombshell might not be the most likely winner, but in a race that looks pretty wide-open on paper she should offer a nice price and I’m optimistic that she’ll outrun her odds. #1 Bellavais, winner of the Ginger Brew Stakes at Gulfstream two years ago, is another logical contender after making an arguably premature move into a testing pace in the My Charmer Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream last month. #5 Rose Tree is worth a look while switching to turf for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, and #7 La Signare could be a danger on the front end while running for the first time since July.

A tricky race? You bet. With that in mind, I’ll take a bit of a stand with Bombshell, betting her to win and keying her in the exacta with Bellavais, Rose Tree, and La Signare:

$10 to win on #3 Bombshell
$3 exacta: 3 with 1,5,7 ($8)
$4 exacta: 1,5,7 with 3 ($12)

Good luck!