The Gulfstream Park Championship Meet rolls along on Friday with another exciting 10 races. As usual, our in-house handicapper has you covered with picks for every race and some select analysis of his best value plays throughout the card.
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Duel Fuel (#7) and Now a Jaguar (#2) are likely to attract the bulk of the attention in the day’s opener, and while the former had some trouble last out and is a legitimate contender, I don’t get the appeal of the latter at all. Now a Jaguar did run for a pricier tag in his last start, which also marked his first on turf, but he didn’t do much running and was outfinished by 75-1 longshot El Taberno One (#6). If he is indeed a close second choice in the betting, which the morning line is indicating, it would be a giant mistake.
Duel Fuel should rebound off his last race when he lost a ton of early position, however even if he gets back to the effort he ran two back I’m not sure how dangerous I think he is. Although that performance was assigned a 60 Beyer Speed Figure (the highest number in this field), in retrospect that race doesn’t feel as strong as it was given credit for.
I’d use Duel Fuel in multi-race wagers, but I’m far more interested in Quinto Sol (#9) from a value perspective. You can draw a line through his last as it came on dirt after the race was washed off the turf, and his prior efforts on the lawn stack up quite favorably to this bunch. I thought he ran deceptively well two back on the surface in a race that has proven to be a strong heat for this level of competition. Quinto Sol was given an extremely patient ride in that spot and finished well despite being left with too much to do in the stretch. I wish the jockey who was the culprit of that bad ride wasn’t still aboard him, but I still think this horse is the most talented runner in this race and the price should be inviting.
On paper, Al Heybay (#6) looks like he’s going to be tough to beat since he’s paired up Beyers in the low 70’s in his last two starts and is coming off a second-place finish in the Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs, but you have to ask yourself why this horse is showing up for a tag after just running second in a stakes race. I also have some doubts about the whole Inaugural as a whole, and I’m anticipating some regression from this horse as he’s been off for a couple months now.
My top pick in this race is Thinkaboutit (#4), who should be a fair price if Al Heybay does indeed go off favored. This horse looks like more of a turf runner, but consider that he began his career on the main track and even broke his maiden on dirt before transitioning to turf. Given his pedigree, which probably leans more toward dirt, I think it’s likely that he’s at least able to maintain his recent good form on turf in this spot, and a repeat of his last race would make him a major player.
I’d also give serious consideration to Paladio (#1) if he goes off near his morning-line odds of 4-1. Trainer Antonio Sano has him in good form at the moment and he had some trouble in his last race when he was hindered by trying to rally along the rail. Unfortunately he’s drawn inside again in this race, but if he’s able to get outside of horses in the stretch I could easily envision him coming with a winning rally.
One thing I know for certain in the day’s feature is that I’ll be playing against Jais’s Solitude (#1). While clearly the most accomplished turf marathoner in this field, he goes out for the ice-cold Eddie Kenneally barn and hasn’t run since July 12 of last year. If he returns in similar form he’s going to win, but I have serious doubts that’s going to happen.
Ordinarily I’d just glom onto whoever Mike Maker trains given my reverence for him in these types of races, but I just don’t get good vibes from Bluegrass Parkway (#4). He did overcome an uncomfortable trip and notch a win for Maker last out, however I thought his competition was lackluster and this represents a big step up in class. Instead, I’m going with the classier Monarchs Glen (#3). I was initially skeptical of him, but although he didn’t do much running last out in the G3 Canadian Turf I just think he’s the best horse in this race. He’s been kept at middle distances for the most part in the U.S., but his overseas form does hint at a horse who can be effective at this trip. Given my concerns with the other two main players, if he handles the distance at all I believe he’s going to win.
In the finale, I’ve tabbed Setting the Mood (#4) as the day’s ‘Most Likely Winner,’ but that doesn’t preclude her from also offering some value. Despite far superior form to her competition, bettors could be deterred by her trainer, the low-percentage David Braddy, and her most recent race, a distant 10th-place finish here on March 3. Neither of these issues concerns me, however, since she’s already run well for Braddy at the meet (two back, when she finished well while facing allowance foes) and she made a big, premature move in her last race going a mile and a half, a distance that proved to be too far for her. I wish she had a bit more tactical speed, but ultimately I believe she’s the most talented filly in this race and should be able to overcome any kind of pace disadvantage.
I do think Setting the Mood is a very likely winner, but just to her inside I’m also somewhat interested in Trish the Dish (#3). This mare has disappointed in each of her last two starts, however she seems to have excuses for both of those subpar efforts. Two back she put blinkers on, an equipment change that didn’t agree with her, and last out she lost early position and was left at the back of the pack behind a dawdling pace, though she still closed well to finish second. She has far more early speed than she was able to show last time, and I expect her to work out an ideal, ground-saving trip from just off the pace.
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