The Player’s Edge – February 8, 2013: Gulfstream Park & Santa Anita
Gulfstream Park – Donn Handicap
Gulfstream Park – Sprint Championship
Santa Anita – San Marcos Stakes
Gulfstream Park – Turf Handicap
Grade 1 Turf Horses
A great card this Saturday at Gulfstream Park with four graded stake races highlighted by the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on the main track. The Donn is not the only Grade 1 race; however, as older horses take to the turf in the Grade 1 Turf Handicap.
This year’s race, the 30th running, drew only a field of six, but it should come down to a great stretch run with Point of Entry, Unbridled Command and Animal Kingdom.
Point of Entry was probably best in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November, but could not get to a game Little Mike, who is a great horse in his own right. Point of Entry was farther back than he normally is and just could not close the ground quick enough late. It was still a great effort and he looks to start off his 2013 campaign with a win.
Prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Point of Entry won three straight Grade 1 races and five straight races overall. He started last year at Gulfstream Park in an allowance race and finished fourth. The five-year-old is a much better horse this year and has been working well in the mornings.
The horse to beat is Animal Kingdom, the winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom also ran on Breeders’ Cup day, beaten just a length and one-half in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to Wise Dan, who went on to win Horse of the Year honors. Animal Kingdom had some trouble in that race and was closing like a freight train. The nine-furlongs is perfect for the son of Leroidesanimaux and with only five other rivals, Animal Kingdom should not experience any traffic.
Unbridled Command is the wildcard in the race. He is currently riding a five race win streak that includes a Grade 3 and a Grade 1. His Grade 1 victory was in the Hollywood Derby against three-year-olds last November, but the horse he beat, Grandeur, came right back to score against older horses. Unbridled Command should be a force in the turf division throughout the year.
The pace scenario is a little cloudy and Point of Entry may find himself on the lead. Unbridled Command does have a front-running win, but that was on a soft turf course with very slow fractions. The other horses; Film Making, Salto and Where’s the Baby are exactly “need-the-lead” types either. It could simply come down to a three-furlong sprint with all the horses together as they turn for home.
More than likely Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom separate themselves from the pack and make it a two-horse race. It’s a great way to start the stakes action.
Post time for the Turf Handicap, start of the 50-cent pick-5, is 4:01 ET.
Gulfstream Park – Donn Handicap
Ten Go Nine
The feature race on Saturday at Gulfstream Park is the 57th running of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. The nine-furlong race drew a field of 10 and contention runs deep.
Bourbon Courage drew the rail for his first start since late November and is a Grade 2 winner after taking the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in September. Short run to the first turn so post one helps and his jockey, Javier Castellano, has been riding lights out during the current meet.
Another horse making his first start since November is Flat Out, who drew post two. Flat Out won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last year then finished third, beaten seven lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. On that day, Flat Out had no shot to win over the speed favoring Santa Anita main track, but his form outside of Belmont still needs to be proven.
The one they will all have to catch is Ultimate Eagle, the Michael Pender-trainee making his first start outside the state of California. Ultimate Eagle is all speed, no sense in taking him back, and sometimes that plays very well on the Gulfstream Park track. During his 2011-2012 campaign, Ultimate Eagle won the Grade 1 Hollywood Park Derby on turf and the Grade 2 Strub on dirt. He should be set for his best, third start off the layoff.
Adding more pace to the race is Csaba and Take Charge Indy. Csaba has show the ability to rate from off-the-pace, but his most dominating win was at nine furlongs in wire-to-wire fashion. He is also two-for-three at Gulfstream Park and two-for-four at the distance.
Take Charge Indy has not run since a second place finish to Shackleford in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and won the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park last year. He may need a race off the layoff, especially against this group.
Fast Falcon and Pool Play are the closers and should get a good pace to run into. Fast Falcon makes his third start off the layoff and is looking for his second career win. Nine furlongs may actually be too short, but he will be doing his best running late.
Pool Play just finished second to Csaba in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope over the track and was eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In four starts now over the dirt, Pool Play has two wins and a second. In 2011 the eight-year-old horse won the Grade 1 Stephen F. Foster Handicap at nine furlongs at Churchill Downs. He will need to run a top race to get the job done on Saturday, but may just be up to the task.
Completing the field are Graydar, Ducduc and Citrus Kid. Graydar is two-for-three in his career with both wins at Gulfstream Park. Those three starts; however, have come with layoff lines. Talented, yes, but giving away a lot of experience.
First post on Saturday at Gulfstream Park is 12:45 with the Donn scheduled to break from the gate at 5:32.
Gulfstream Park – Sprint Championship
Grade 3 Sprinters Kick off the Pick-4
Between the two Grade 1 races on Saturday at Gulfstream Park is a pair of Grade 3 stakes with the first being the Sprint Championship. The seven-furlong race drew a field of eight led by Travelin Man.
Travelin Man may be a single on many of the pick-6, pick-5 and pick-4 tickets having won four of five lifetime starts at Gulfstream Park. In fact, all of his career wins have been over the Hallandale track. The five-year-old has many layoff lines on his form, but when at 100% he can’t be beat.
Of course that doesn’t mean others aren’t going to try.
Big Grandpa just ran a huge race at Belmont Park over a sloppy track in October, but has not been seen since. He was claimed out of that race from David Jacobson, who is hard to improve off of. The five-year-old has been working steadily since early January and drew a nice outside post.
Close It Out, Fort Loudon and Bahamian Squall all exit runs on Sunshine Millions day with Close It Out and Bahamian Squall coming out of the Sprint while Fort Loudon ran in the Classic.
Bahamian Squall was second in the Sprint with Close It Out another length back in fourth. The race was run at six furlongs so the additional furlong will help both closers. Bahamian Squall won a $100,000 stake race over track two back and looks best of the two.
Fort Loudon is a sprinter so the cut back in distance will help his chances. In three starts at seven furlongs the four-year-old colt has one win and two seconds. He was also second in the one-turn mile Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap.
Swagger Jack and Good Morning Diva are the other two contenders and will break from posts one and three. Swagger Jack love Gulfstream Park and seven furlongs should be ideal. This; however, will be the class test. His last graded stakes race was in May 2011 in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs.
Good Morning Diva was fifth behind Donn contenders Csaba and Pool Play in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope and has come back with a solid four furlong drill at Calder. The Lion Heart-colt broke his maiden over the course and distance in February 2012. This is a step up, but he may just be up to the task.
Post time for the Sprint Championship is 4:29 ET.
Santa Anita – San Marcos Stakes
Richard’s Kid Tries Turf
The feature race on Saturday at Santa Anita is a head scratcher. A full field of 14 will line up for the ten-furlong turf event and anything can happen.
Perhaps it’s a little bit of karma, but since Richard’s Kid was purchased from trainer Bob Baffert the eight-year-old horse has yet to be closer than three and one-quarter lengths at the finish. He was third in the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again with a fourth and fifth in the Native Diver and Breeders’ Cup Classic. By Lemon Drop Kid, Richard’s Kid should handle the turf.
It’s possible Slim Shadey goes off as the favorite as he won this race last year and also won the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship over the course in September. Slim Shadey has been running in Grade 1 and Grade 2 races since January 2012 and is the class of the field.
Let’s take a look at some of the other contenders, starting with the rail.
Interaction finished second in the Hollywood Turf Cup to Grandeur in December and can work out a nice trip from inside. The seven furlong spin on January 31 looks like a solid work and jockey/trainer Joe Talamo and Ron McAnally just took the Arcadia last week.
Juniper Pass, Temple’s Door and Fast Track exit the San Gabriel, a race that Slim Shadey also ran in. Temple’s Door was second in the Grade 2 and will be better fit, second off the layoff.
Juniper Pass likes to run and can run all day, but it has been awhile since the six-year-old gelding has visited the winner’s circle. Jockey Rafael Bejarano is back in the irons and is the last jock to win on the horse. Perhaps Bejarano decides to take it to the field early.
All Squared Away won at the ten furlong distance in his last start and was eighth in the Hollywood Derby and fourth in the Twilight Derby. Jockey Garrett Gomez seems to get along best with the Bellamy Road gelding, who will be doing his best running late.
Golden Itiz is the long shot play in the wide-open field. The Tiznow horse was working very well for his last start, a mile allowance race on the turf, and if he holds that form may put up his best effort on Saturday. He is going to need to run faster with these, but it’s a jumbled race that is begging to be won by a long shot.
Huntsville was second by a nose in the state-bred Crystal Water, his second straight placing by less than a length. His trainer, Barry Abrams, is looking for his first win of the meet and only has six second and thirds with 33 starters.
Rounding out the field are Dreamcatcher, graded stakes debut, Bridge of Gold, first start since August, Fast Track, seventh in the San Gabriel, Smart Ellis, seventh in the Sir Beufort, Fire with Fire, second by a nose to All Squared Away, and Shaun Washington, graded stakes debut.
Perhaps it’s an “all” kind of play in the multi-race exotics. Post time is 7:38 ET.
Thoroughbred Racing Action
Great racing action from across the country this weekend. Watch these races all on BetAmerica.com.
Saturday– February 9
- Gulfstream Park: Donn Handicap - G1, $500,000, 4yo & up, 9f
- Gulfstream Park: Turf Handicap - G1, $300,000, 4yo & up, 9f turf
- Gulfstream Park: Sprint Stakes - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up, 7f
- Gulfstream Park: Suwanee River Stakes - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up f&m, 9f turf
- Santa Anita: San Marcos Stakes - G2, $150,000, 4yo & up, 10f turf
- Golden Gate: California Oaks, $50,000, 3yo f, 8.5f
- Laurel Park: Miracle Wood Stakes, $125,000, 3yo, 8f
- Oaklawn Park: Martha Washington Stakes, $75,000, 3yo f, 8f
- Tampa Bay Downs: Manatee Stakes, $50,000, 4yo & up, 7f
- Sunland Park: El Diario Handicap, $50,000, 3yo & up, 6.5f
Sunday – February 10
- Gulfstream Park: Hurricane Bertie Stakes - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up f&m, 6.5f
- Sunland Park: Curribot Handicap, $50,000, 3yo & up, 8.5f