Gulfstream Park

Cairo Prince Wins the Holy Bull (Race Replay)

There’s a lot to talk about after the 2014 Holy Bull. There’s always just one true winner but the other story lines behind entries that scored some points versus those that did not still remain. While I would love to dive into the respectable finish of Conquest Titan and Intense Holiday along with the questions surrounding Wicked Strong and Coup De Grace, I can’t resist the opportunity to talk more about Cairo Prince.

With a win today and 10 points added to the 4 that he earned when he finished a nose behind Honor Code in the G2 Remsen Stakes, Cairo Prince is now tied for the points lead with 14. So, going into February and final 3 months of the Derby Prep season this contender has earned the attention I’m about to give him.

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The Morning Line: Fountain of Youth

Union Rags Returns to Face a Pair of Undefeated Horses

We take you back to Gulfstream Park where the derby trail is heating up with the anticipation of our first real deal heavyweight bout. The showdown features a pair of unbeaten horses in Algorithms and Discreet Dancer versus Union Rags the current favorite for the 138th Kentucky Derby. The undefeated contenders are so highly thought of because they are in the hands of Todd Pletcher, the leading trainer at Gulfstream and the hottest trainer on the Kentucky Derby trail. So while the G2 $400,000 Fountain of Youth features a field of 8, there’s only three that are getting all of the attention.

Union Rags is a top class colt and he has earned the odds on favorite title on the current Kentucky Derby Future Wager Line. But those odds don’t matter in the FOY because on the morning line he is only second choice. Outside of Todd Pletcher ruling the roost at Gulfstream Park the only other plausible factor behind it is that this race is his 3-yr-old debut and first at Gulfstream Park.

So let’s rewind back to his 2-yr-old season where he dominated the attention heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes.  The interest in Union Rags was unavoidable after he dismantled the field in his graded stakes debut, the G2 Three Chimneys at Saratoga. The 7 ¼ romp led to the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont where he again put the field away by a sizeable margin of over 5 lengths and stamped himself as the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  (more…)

Holy Bull, the 2-yr-old Champ Returns

The Morning Line: Holy Bull Stakes

The Derby trail will be turned up a notch in the Holy Bull stakes as our reigning 2-yr-old champion Hansen begins his march towards the 138th Kentucky Derby. After capping off a sensational sophomore year by winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Hansen looks poised to hold form and his top contender status in the field of 2012 Kentucky Derby hopefuls.

In this competitive field of 6 all eyes will be on Hansen but before we get there, let’s take a look at his profile so far. 

Son of Tapit, out of the Sir Cat mare Stormy Sunday and trained by Mike Maker, Hansen is a beautiful gray / roan colt who challenges his contenders from the front of the pack. His racing career began in September 2011 at Turfway Park when he dominated in back to back wins by a combined margin of over 25 lengths. His 5 ½ F MSW debut ended with a bang after he turned in a 12 ¼ length victory and final time of 1:05.12. Maker returned him 15 days later in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and it was like watching replay. Breaking right to the front once again, Hansen put the field away in the 1 1/16 mile race by over 13 lengths and a final time of 1:45.82. Pretty Impressive.

As it is in sports and horse racing especially, you have to win against the best before you’re given too much credit.  Entering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile starting gate at 7-1 Hansen was definitely a contender in the eyes of the betting public. But the doubts looming over his transfer to dirt, his front running style and the competition he had romped all over were not enough to make him the favorite.  So the stage was set for Hansen to prove his talent and that’s exactly what he did.  (more…)

Race Recap: Dialed In Glides at Gulfstream in Florida Derby

Dialed In for Victory

Every year, there is a horse that throws a monster race in its final tune-up for the Kentucky Derby.  In the past few years, those horses have included Quality Road, Belamy Road, Eskendereya, and Ice Box.  This year, that special performance belongs to Dialed In after his thrilling victory in the Florida Derby.  I am not saying that he will not win or even race in the Kentucky Derby like some of the above, but the manner in which he won on a speed favoring track was eye numbing.

Shackleford and To Honor and Serve broke alertly and went to the lead with Arch Traveler following closely behind.  The two carried the field and continued to lead a solid half mile in :46.35.  Coming around the final turn, Dialed In was so far back that he wasn’t even on the screen.  Once Julien Leparoux let Dialed In go, he shot by horse after horse picking off Soldat, Flashpoint and To Honor and Serve.  Shackleford was much more determined and stubborn than the rest and Dialed In was barely able to get past him by a nose in the final few jumps. 

If there is one thing to nitpick about the performance, it is that the final furlong was very, very slow.  Regardless, it was very impressive and even though the final furlong may have been slow for Shackleford, it was not for Dialed In.

The morning line favorite Soldat never looked comfortable behind horses and when Alan Garcia asked him for something at the top of the stretch, he had nothing to give. 

1 – 7 Dialed In    $7.80  $4.80  $4.00

2 – 5 Shackleford    $36.60   $15.20

3 – 2 To Honor and Serve    $4.20

$2 Exacta – 7-5 – $339.60, 1$ Trifecta – 7-5-2 – $710.80

Also Rans: Flashpoint, Soldat, Arch Traveler, Stay Thirsty and Bowman’s Causeway

In other 3-year-old races at Gulfstream Park, Travelin Man tracked the leader and drew off by two lengths in the Swale and R Heat Lightening throttled the Gulfsteam Oaks field by over 8 lengths.  The Todd Pletcher trained filly will likely be the favorite along with Kathmanblu in the Kentucky Oaks. 

Written By: Fundanichols

Florida Derby Field Taking Shape

Gulfstream Park: Site of the Florida Derby

Right now, there looks to be a strong field of nine to try the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Sunday (4/3).  The race will be led by several Kentucky Derby contenders including Soldat, To Honor and Serve, Dialed In (Holy Bull winner), Stay Thirsty (Gotham winner) and Flashpoint.  If I had to guess, Fountain of Youth winner Soldat will likely be the morning line favorite and with heavy showers predicted this week/weekend, his number could go even lower.

Soldat, Dialed In and THAS have all been training extremely well leading up to the race.  If Hutcheson winner Flashpoint goes in the Florida Derby, there should be plenty of pace for those behind.  It will be interesting to see if Soldat can take back behind horses like he has been in training.

Likely runners: Soldat, Dialed In, To Honor and Serve, Flashpoint, Stay Thirsty, Flashpoint, Bowman’s Causeway, Arch Traveler, Watch Me Go and Reprized Halo

Morning Line to come later this week.

Written By: Fundanichols

The Morning Line: Timely Writer Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby

Uncle Mo Working the Training Ground

 The five most visually impressive horses that I have seen in person are Ghostzapper (2004 Breeders Cup), Barbaro (2006 Derby), Zenyatta (2009 Breeders Cup), Goldikova (2010 Breeders Cup) and Silver Charm (1998 Clark Handicap).  As only a two year old, Uncle Mo nearly made the list.  I would be a regular Jim Tressel or Bruce Pearl if I did not to say that tomorrow had me thinking about naming my future son or daughter MOses, MOrris, MOhammed, MOntezuma, MOriah or MOnica .  Regardless, let’s bring on Uncle MOmentum who is back for his first time since MOvember and do not be surprised if you see something special.

Buoyed by its impressive simulcast business, Tampa Bay Downs is a relatively new player on the road to the Kentucky Derby.  In 2002, the hometown derby for the Diamond Doctor Dwight Gooden finally gained graded stakes status as it has produced two Kentucky Derby winners with the 2007 winner Street Sense and 2010 3rd place finisher Super Saver

This year’s race lacks some of the quality of the past few years but you may be able to get a price if you think you can take down the chalk.  Leading the race will be Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Brethren who will be trying to defeat the second through fourth finishers from that race Too Experience, Watch Me Go and Beamer.   There are also 5 new additions to the four above but the most interesting are the 7-2 second choice Free Entry and Striding Ahead, a recent Tampa allowance winner. 

$100,000 Timely Writer Stakes (Race 8, 4:25 p.m.), 3YO, 1 Mile (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Uncle Mo (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher 3-5
2. Gallant Dreams (KY), J Castellano, 117, T Albertrani 12-1
3. Madman Diaries (FL),  J Sanchez, 121, W A Ward 6-1
4. Rocking Out (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, R E Dutrow Jr. 4-1
5. Schoolyard Cat (NY), R Curatolo, 117, C F Martin 20-1
6. Rattlesnake Bridge (KY), J Lezcano, 117, K P McLaughlin 5-1

$350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Gr. II, Race 11, 5:20 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Striding Ahead (KY), A O Solis, 116, W I Mott 10-1
2. Economic Summit (FL), No Rider  116, R A Violette Jr. 8-1 
3. Beamer (KY), L R Goncalves, 116, C A Nafzger 10-1
4. Uncle Mo (KY), J R Velazquez, 122, T A Pletcher (WILL SCRATCH) 3-5
5. Too Experience (FL), D Centeno, 120, M Passley 8-1
6. Crimson Knight (KY), R D Allen Jr., 116, G S Bennett 30-1 
7. Free Entry (VA), A Garcia, 116, C C Brown 7-2
8. Moonhanger (KY), C H Marquez Jr., 116, B F Alexander 20-1
9. Watch Me Go (FL), L Garcia, 116, K O’Connell 12-1
10. Brethren (KY), R A Dominguez, 120, T A Pletcher 1-1 

Timely Writer –  This is one of those races that makes track management cringe because they can lose a lot of money in place and show pools with a few bridge jumpers (Not to be confused with bridge diving – so if you want to know more about bridge jumping, shoot me an email) on Uncle Mo. There should not be a whole lot to challenge Uncle Mo but I expect to see some early speed from Madman Diaries and Uncle Mo at the front.  If I were taking a 2nd horse or doing some wheel bets I would take a look at Rattlesnake Bridge.  He is an untested horse that should be passing a few of the also-rans before the wire.

The Pick: #1 Uncle Mo

Tampa Bay Derby – With Brethren breaking from an outside post again it will be interesting to see how he handles and settles in the pace scenario.  Free Entry will add another pace element that should benefit some of the stretch runners, most notably Beamer, but I do not think that he can carry the distance.  I like Brethren who has shown good tactical speed, a willingness to relax and most importantly, power through the turn and stretch.  My problem is his 1-1 price.  So, I am going to take a chance on the up and comer Striding Ahead.  He won his last race wire-2-wire at TB and seems to be improving.  Also, I expect Beamer to get up for a small piece.

The Pick: #1 Striding Ahead – #10 Brethren – #3 Beamer

Written By: Fundanichols

Final Note: 2010 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck will be making his 2011 debut in an allowance race on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard.  He’s been knocking out bullets on the training ground and his trainer Graham Motion was looking for something simple to start the year.  He will be eating his oats and peppermints on the way to the winner’s circle. 

The Return of the Dirty Uncle

Prohibitive Derby favorite Uncle Mo returns to the track for the first time since his breathtaking run in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.  Stabled at the Palm Meadows training facility under the watchful eye of Todd Pletcher and assistant trainer Whit Beckman, Uncle Mo has been steadily drilling towards (March 6 half-mile move in :48 4/5) his first challenge of the year in the $100,000 1 mile Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park.  The muscled freak horse version of Herschel Walker should be ready in what promises to be a very short price and a very small field.  Hopefully, he gets more out of it than a light trot in his preparation for Kentucky and the Wood Memorial.

Later this week, we will be taking a closer look at both the Timely Writer Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby which will feature Derby hopefuls Brethren, Free Entry and Beamer.

Written by: Fundanichols

Fountain of Youth & Hutcheson Recaps: Wire to Wire

Going in to Saturday there were questions surrounding Soldat but the betting public didn’t seem to be asking.  Leaving the gate as the 7-5 favorite, anyone who still had their hand up quickly got their answer.  Soldat broke clean, took the lead and never looked back.  Claiming his first win over a fast main track and the second victory of his three year old campaign, Soldat is headed down the right track on the trail to Churchill Downs.  Next up: Florida Derby.

Coming out of the starting gate Soldat was a few steps slow and behind the 80-1 longshot leader El Grayling.  However, as they went into the first turn, he was able to establish his position right with the leader.  Once the time for the first half mile flashed in nearly :48 flat, the race was over.  Soldat drew away, and maintained the moderate pace and as expected, To Honor and Serve was not ready to duel through the stretch.  Gourmet Dinner put a nice run through the stretch but never threatened Soldat for top honors and had to settle for a nice 2nd place finish.  As far as the also rans, Bowman’s Causeway improved to finish a solid fourth but his and many others Derby fortunes are up in the air.

Right now, it looks as if Soldat will push to the Florida Derby and Gourmet Dinner will either stay in town for the Florida Derby or head out to California for the Santa Anita Derby.  Congrats to the winning connections, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, and jockey Alan Garcia, good luck moving forward.

  • Soldat                                $4.80     $3.00     $2.20
  • Gourmet Dinner                              $6.00    $3.40
  • To Honor and Serve                                       $2.60

$2 Exacta – $13.80, $1 Trifecta – $18.80

The other big race of the day was won in dominating fashion by Flashpoint.  There is no doubt that Crossbow deciding to skip the race in favor of a later date, possibly the Gotham Stakes in New York, had an affect on the race and most importantly, the pace.  However, we should not take anything away from Flashpoint’s dominating 7 1/4 length victory over Travelin Man.  These two ran away from the rest of the field and never looked back.  Great ride by Cornelio Velasquez who flew into Florida from New York to take the mount for trainer Rick Dutrow.  I don’t think that anyone from this race will be a legit Derby contender but we may see one or two connections wearing rose colored glasses come May.  Congrats and hope to see these two on the Derby undercard.

  • Flashpoint                                $15.80     $5.60     $4.20
  • Travelin Man                                             $2.60    $2.40
  • Little Drama                                                            $10.00

$2 Exacta – $40.20, $1 Trifecta – $392.80

Final note: I would love nothing more than to say that it’s Nacho Business who won the 3rd race at Gulfstream; however, he was only able to grab second prize as his hard charging stretch run came up half a length short.  The winner, Arch Traveler, sat behind the pace setter and was able to hold off Nacho Business and Washington’s Rules.

Written by: Fundanichols

The Morning Line: Fountain of Youth & Hutcheson Stakes

Picnic on the green

Back to Gulfstream Park in Florida where we will have the first major stakes race since the Holy Bull Stakes was won impressively by the Nick Zito trained Dialed In.  Fountain of Youth winners can be big time contenders on the trail.  The last 2 went on to be the Kentucky Derby favorites with Quality Road and Eskendereya.  Unfortunately, neither one of them actually ran in the KYD and instead were scratched Derby week due to different types of foot/leg injuries. 

Even with Dialed In choosing to skip the Fountain of Youth, the field coming up is very tough.  The noisemakers include To Honor and Serve, Soldat, Gourmet Dinner, Casper’s Touch and Shackleford.  It will be interesting to see how Soldat adapts to his first fast track (essentially dry dirt) as he has mainly run on turf and off-tracks (wet to sloppy).   These are definitely two races to follow closely due to the talent that has passed through them.  Generally, the Hutcheson does not produce as many Derby starters because the short distance is not an ideal setup for the longer distances that follow.  But since it is an important prep race, it must be covered.

Hutcheson | GII $150,000 Purse | 7 Furlongs | 3 yr olds | Race 9, 4:52 p.m.
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1 Crossbow (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, K P McLaughlin 5-1
2 Madman Diaries (FL), J Sanchez, 120, W A Ward 6-1
3 Travelin Man (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher 5-2
4 Razmataz (KY), J Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher 10-1
5 Flashpoint (FL), C H Velasquez, 116, R E Dutrow, Jr. 4-1
6 Little Drama (FL), J Bravo, 120 D Fawkes 20-1
7 Leave of Absence (FL), R Maragh, 116, R A Violette Jr. 12-1
8 Black N Beauty (ON), K J Desormeaux, 116, D L Romans 8-1
9 Manicero (FL), L Saez, 120, L Azpurua Jr. 12-1
10 Royal Currier (FL), E Trujillo, 118, P Farro 8-1

Fountain of Youth |  GI $400,000 Purse | 1 1/8 Miles | 3 yr olds | Race 10, 5:25 p.m
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Soldat (KY), A Garcia, 120, K P McLaughlin 2-1
2. Gourmet Dinner (FL), R A Dominguez, 120, S W Standridge 5-1
3. El Grayling (KY), R Maragh, 116, M J Maker 15-1
4. Casper’s Touch (KY), A O Solis, 116, K G McPeek 6-1
5. Bowman’s Causeway (ON), J R Leparoux, 116, P L Biancone 20-1
6. Racing Aptitude (FL),   3/C  J Lezcano, 120, H M Tesher 30-1
7. To Honor and Serve (KY), J R Velazquez, 122, W I Mott 8-5
8. Shackleford (KY), J L Castanon, 116, D L Romans 8-1

As a side note, the Fountain of Youth was won by the MC Hammer owned and aptly named colt Dance Floor in ’92.  And this was not Stanley Burrell but Hammertime who had finished era changing songs like U Can’t Touch This and Too Legit Too Quit.  So for the Hammer let’s………Break it down

Hutcheson – Speed, speed and more speed.  It is pretty much the opposite of the Sam F. Davis Stakes.  With the exception of Leave of Absence, it is tough to see who will not be right on the lead.  I expect for the talented Crossbow to get out of the gate as quickly as possible and be followed closely by Madman Diaries and Travelin Man.  However, at the top of the stretch, I think that we will be looking at Travelin Man, Black N Beauty and Royal Currier.  Leave of Absence and Manicero should be coming strong from off the pace and I think one will catch Travelin Man at the line.  Exacta: 3,7,9 and 9 for the win

Fountain of Youth – I think that it may be a race or two before we see the best from To Honor and Serve.  Bill Mott likes a race to shoot for and this is definitely not that race.  I expect To Honor and Serve to challenge but importantly prep and get primed for the Florida Derby.  Even with a lot of early speed, I think we saw something special from Soldat his last time out on a wet track.  If he can get out and keep the pace moderate, I think that everyone else will be running for 2nd.  Of the other challengers I expect U Can’t Casper’s Touch this, Bowman’s Causeway and Gourmet Dinner (may be a little too long for his best late kick) to be in the mix.  Exacta: 1,4,7 and the 1 for the win.   Live Longshot: Bowman’s Causeway at 20-1.  He ran great last time out and could get an earlier jump on Gourmet Dinner and Casper’s Touch.

By: Fundanichols
 It feels no good, when you’re down
Super old boy, betting from A-Town
Stop.  Hammertime
Final note: The 3rd race at Gulfstream on Saturday (Allowance Race) has a few potential Florida Derby runners with the cleverly named Nacho Business, Cool Blue Red Hot, Arch Traveler and Washington’s Rules (was high on before Brethren drew off big in the Sam F. Davis)  Nacho Business…….would be a great name to repeat over and over and over again on May 7th.  Plus, he beat our live longshot in his last race.