The G1 Florida Derby, the highlight of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park, is scheduled for Saturday along with a host of other graded-stakes races. To get the week started Gulfstream has 10 races on tap on Wednesday, and as usual our in-house handicapper has made picks for the whole card with some select analysis sprinkled in.
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Wednesday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
It’s pretty difficult to pin down any of the fillies and mares in this conditioned claimer, which is why I’m most comfortable picking the class-dropping Bird Map (#2). Although this filly was brutal in her last start at a mile over this track, it’s doubtful she really wants to go that far and she was simply outgunned in that 35k spot. The drop to 16k is a dramatic one, however it doesn’t raise any red flags since she was claimed for just 12.5k earlier in the meet. If she runs back to her effort two starts ago when she earned a 71 Beyer Speed Figure against superior competition she should make short work of this field, and according to the morning line she may not even go off favored. If that comes to fruition, she’d be a solid play even in spite of her recent debacle.
Given the lackluster dirt form of the majority of this field, I believe Bird Map’s main challenger is the surface-switching Fast Catalina (#7). Two back this filly returned off a lengthy layoff and dusted a field on turf going five furlongs, however she took a big step in the wrong direction last out when she was bumped at the start and failed to show her typical early speed. While she’s arguably had more success on turf, as a 3-year-old she was just as good on the main track, and her pedigree and worktab seem to corroborate this. If she’s able to replicate her two-back effort in this spot on dirt, she’s going to be a major player.
Likely favorite Mr. Tip (#5) makes plenty of sense as he makes his first start with top turf trainer Mike Maker, however he’s going to need to improve to beat this field and is liable to be overbet due to the Maker factor. He can win, but I’m going back to the well with Notsosubtle (#3), who true to his name had some overt trouble in a pair of starts earlier in the meet.
On the basis of those difficult trips on December 17 and January 30 at Gulfstream, I loved Notsosubtle in his last race. He took more money than I expected and went off at 5-1, but despite his significant backing he did very little running in that race after making an early move into contention. He really has no excuse for such a poor effort, however that’s part of the reason I like him here. His last race was too bad to be believed, and it’s an encouraging sign his connections keep this 6-year-old in a protected spot after such a disastrous outing. While this is merely an inference about his current form, what I do know is that if he gets back to the race he ran two back over this turf course he’s going to be awfully tough to beat. At double-digit odds I believe that’s a gamble worth taking.
Depending on where he ends up in the betting, the other horse I’d take very seriously is Uncle Curly (#4). He was no match for Notsosubtle two back, however last out he ran really well in a loaded 16k claimer won by the classy Dream Friend. Uncle Curly got a very good trip in that race, but it was a performance that was no doubt worthy of the 81 Beyer Speed Figure he received, which makes him a major player in this spot. He’s not particularly trustworthy, but if bettors are going to dismiss him due to low-percentage connections, he could also enter overlay territory along with Notsosubtle.
Core Curriculum (#11) is far and away the horse to beat in the finale, and he’s not one I’ll be playing against. This Todd Pletcher trainee debuted last month on the main track at Tampa Bay Downs and ran fairly well against maiden special weight company, showing good early speed and logging a 61 Beyer for the effort. It’s a little concerning that he’s immediately being dropped in for a 35k on turf without having tried the surface first, but he is bred strongly for it and I can’t imagine him immediately falling off a cliff, which it might take for him to lose this race. He’s likely going to be a much shorter price than his 7-2 morning-line odds would indicate, however I believe that’s fully justified.
Since Core Curriculum figures to be a very short price, I think the value is going to lie underneath the favorite. Many are going to glom onto City Magic (#10) as he goes first off-the-claim for Mike Maker, however I have little interest in this horse after a very mediocre performance last out. Instead, I prefer the uncoupled duo from the barn of trainer Mark Casse, American Great (#5) and Correlate (#7). The former in particular caught my eye as I think you can draw a line through his last race on the main track and prior to that he ran pretty well in a very live maiden race won by next-out stakes winner Winfromwithin. A number of horses have come back to improve their speed figures out of that spot, and if American Great moves forward off the 61 Beyer he earned he could give Core Curriculum a run for his money.
Correlate is much more of a wildcard than his stablemate, however he does have one turf race on his page, a third-place finish in a maiden special weight race at Woodbine on October 18, that would make him a strong contender. He hasn’t run anything close to that before or since, but he does show up as a new gelding in this spot and perhaps that’s enough to get him back on track.
*If you're interested in seeing payouts for these races, you can find them on our Results page linked to below*