There is some very good racing around the country on Saturday with quality Kentucky Derby points races at Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Santa Anita with some very good undercard racing as well.
Gulfstream R3 – 3yo MSW, 8.5 furlongs, dirt – This race feels like a good race to take a swing. The favorite is #3 Prince Tito (3-1) for Gustavo Delgado. He exits a slow debut race from January 7th on a tricky sealed track where the runner-up, Monaco, was all in at the 3/8ths pole, and the first four finishers were separated by less than two lengths. The Todd Pletcher second choice, #10 Hedge Fund (7-2), did little running at even money in his debut and drew the 10 post with the very short run to the first turn. The 4-1 third choice, #1 Makarios, has run twice, both on turf.
Our two key horses are #8 Quality Asset (6-1) and #4 Divine Ami (15-1). Quality Asset ran good enough in his debut at Gulfstream Park West in November, but never lifted his feet at 5-2 in his one-turn mile second start. That race (8th by 35) was not good (duh!), but he comes back six weeks later, with no equipment changes so I’m going to guess that something went wrong and they have figured it out. Technically, this is not a sprint-to-route move, as a one-turn mile is considered a route for statistical purposes. However, those are basically elongated sprints. If you do look at sprint-to-route moves on dirt in the last five years, Servis, over the last five years, 23% in a 120 horse sample with a $2.99 ROI (DRF Formulator). There’s not a lot of speed, and the thinking is Nik Juarez just sends him to the front and maybe never looks back. Divine Ami is a second time starter for Josie Carroll who blew the break in his Woodbine debut (albeit on synthetic) and may have just found the right field at a big price. He’ll have to transfer his form to dirt, but Carroll could have run him on turf if she wanted to.
Gulfstream R4 – Kitten’s Joy Stakes – 3yo, 8.5 furlongs, turf – We were going to bet #5 Clyde’s Image (8-1) when he was 9-2 ML on Sunday in an allowance race, but they got rained off the turf. Trainer Tom Bush puts him in the stakes race here, and he’ll have to beat Made You Look (1-1) for Todd Pletcher, but he might be up to the task after a good effort behind that one last month in the G3 Dania Beach. Here’s what we wrote on Sunday:
Drawn on the outside in the field of eight, he was 4-wide into the first turn and wide into the far turn, making the first move after the pace-setter. He held well, finishing second to graded stakes winner Made You Look. Clyde’s Image ran 26 feet farther than the winner, 52 feet farther than the third place finisher and 58 feet farther than the fourth place finisher (per Trakus).
Clyde’s Image will have to improve, but this is only his fourth career start and he’ll be a much better price, though Made You Look is obviously the one to beat.
Gulfstream R6 – Forward Gal Stakes – 3yo fillies, 7 furlongs, dirt – On my first pass through this race on Wednesday, my thought was that #6 Ms Locust Point was a very likely winner at about 8-5. Then on Thursday, I saw the 5-1 morning line. I don’t buy that she’ll be 5-1 (if she is, that would be great), but I just wanted to point out we’ll be singling in Pick-3s. The ML favorite is #4 Pretty City Dancer (7-5) who dead-heated to win a weak Spinaway on September 3rd and has been off since. #4 Bode’s Dream (4-1) and #6 Wildcat Kate (6-1) exit the Old Hat that wasn’t really that strong of a race. Ms Locust Point is an attractive new face that crushed a Laurel stakes field last time and if she has to sit just off the pace today, it shouldn’t be a problem as she did just that in her maiden breaker in November at Parx. Obviously she has a long way to go to be Cathryn Sophia, but trainer John Servis won this race with Cathryn Sophia last year, bringing her out of the same Gin Talking at Laurel.
Gulfstream R7 – Claiming $16,000, 4/up, 8.5 furlongs, turf – #8 Joe Star (20-1) switches to George Weaver and drops down to a new career low. He ran on dirt last time (throw that one out), and had a wide trip against better in November at Aqueduct. His previous race was good enough to give him a chance and he has some allowance races against much tougher – Security Risk, Ray’s The Bar, etc.
Aqueduct R7 – Allowance n1x, 4/up, 6 furlongs, dirt – #7 Lazarus Project (8-1) will get one more chance here. There should be some speed to set up his late kick and while he was something of a clunk-up third last time, that race came back pretty fast. He’s paired up career-high Beyer figures in his last two starts, and seems to be headed in the right direction for trainer Joe Orseno. The concern is that he is 2-13 with five seconds and three third place finishes, but 8-1 is a fair price.
Santa Anita R9 – San Marcos Stakes (G2) – 4/up, 10 furlongs, turf – The question you have to ask entering this race surrounds #5 Texas Ryano (3-1). Did he get good late last year because he stretched out to 12 furlongs (and this 10-furlong race might be a little bit too short), or did he just get better as an improving older horse? As the favorite, and he’ll be shorter than 3-1, we’ll take a small shot against with #1 A Red Tie Day (15-1). He is improving for trainer Richard Baltas and is 4-7 over the Santa Anita turf course. He last ran at 10 furlongs in the John Henry on October 2nd when beaten 1 1/4 lengths (3/4 of a length by Texas Ryano). He did have a ground-saving trip that day, but it looked like he was stuck in behind for at least a little bit of the stretch. He won the Lure going a mile and then was fifth but against a pretty good field in the G2 Seabiscuit (Ring Weekend, Vyjack, Om). He might not be good enough, but he was improving late last year (and you can toss his dirt race in the off-the-turf San Gabriel last time). We also considered #13 Twentytwentyvision (6-1) but thought he should have won the Lure with an easy trip pressing the moderate pace.