Our Gulfstream Late Pick-5 Play detailed here hit for $1,459, keyed by an impressive performance by Sharp Azteca in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. We were certainly a tad lucky though, as 7-2 Escape Velocity, a first-time starter for Chad Brown, rallied to just get up and win the opening leg over 11-1 Hieroglyphics. We had used Hieroglyphics, but as a C, and we would have gotten bounced in the next leg when B horse Dickinson rallied up the inside to win the Suwanee River. Still, we’ll take it!
There are some good races today as well and we’ll look at a few at both Gulfstream and Aqueduct.
Gulfstream 8th – OC25k/n1x, 4up, 5 furlongs turf – These 5-furlong turf sprints are often specialist distances and races and there are two horses in here that might be better going a bit farther. #3 Grand Sky (7-2) has won going 5 1/2 furlongs and 6 furlongs on the turf, but I think 5 is a tough short, plus his lack of early speed doesn’t play as well going this short. #7 End Play (4-1) won at Saratoga going 5 1/2 but that was against starter allowance foes and most of his other races have been at 6 or 7 furlongs.
The horse to beat is probably #4 Lex Vegas (3-1) who makes his turf debut for Brian Lynch. He was a smashing debut winner here last year but missed time and his two races since returning are both below what he ran in debut. His dam was unraced, though his second dam was a G3 winner on turf, and a five time winner on grass, and he does have the speed usually required to win these five furlong dashes. Still, we’ll try #8 Forgive (5-1). He broke his maiden on grass on December 16th and the runner-up from that race came back to break his maiden and improve his figure nine points. Forgive then ran in an allowance race on January 12th and really had no chance behind Canadian Flyer who jumped out to the lead and wired the field with a 92 Beyer. There are no such rivals here and he should get a clean trip stalking on the outside at a good price.
Gulfstream 10th – Alwn1x, 4/up F&M, 8.5 furlongs, turf – One of my favorite angles is to take a horse that ran competitive figures early in their development and then comes back off a layoff, during which they likely matured physically. That’s the case with #8 Wessex (4-1) who was a rare first-out winner for Bill Mott here last April. She then ran competitive races in the Hilltop at Pimlico and the Regret at Churchill Downs before going to the sidelines. Mott in the last five years is 21% (14-67) with a $2.00 ROI with four-eight month layoffs in turf routes (per DRF Formulator). That’s not bad in a race where we’re not enthused about anyone else. One longshot to note is #3 Sunday Sonnet (10-1). She was last seen on December 18th and was very keen and wrangled around that day early on. Then she got shuffled back on the turn and found more traffic in the lane. It was a brutal trip. I wish she had another race or two that showed she was good enough, but we’ll toss her in underneath at a big price.
Gulfstream 12th – MSW, 3yo fillies, 7.5 furlongs, turf – The best bred horse in here is #3 Hello Dearie (12-1) for Barclay Tagg. A Bonner Young homebred, she is half to two of our favorites – Caroline Thomas and My Sweet Girl and out of Grade 1 winner Bit of Whimsy. Tagg is not known for having his runners ready to go first time out (3-36 with FTS on turf) but has won with a few including Highland Sky in 2015. Still, this horse is one to watch and should improve as the distances increase. Another well bred runner is #12 Nido (12-1), a first time starter for Kiaran McLoughlin. Out of Grade 1 winner Cocoa Beach, Nido is half to Imperia, a strong turf runner from a few years back for these connections. However, the poor post won’t help.
The public might also be attracted to first time starters for Christophe Clement – #5 Game Factor (5-1) who cost $300,000 at the 2-year old sale for a good first-our trainer – or Chad Brown – #6 Relentless Miss (4-1), out of a Grade 2 inning dam. Game Factor though only has one workout in the last four weeks, as does #10 Vigor (6-1) for Bill Mott, a Claiborne homebred by War Front. There was nothing wrong with the turf debut of #1 Fancy Kitten (9-2), who was part of the pace and relented only in the last furlong to a Chad Brown first time starter and promising Shug McGaughey runner. She should be the speed today from the inside, and should like the turn back from 8.5 to 7.5 furlongs.
We like Fancy Kitten with her seasoning and will key her with Hello Dearie, Nido, and Relentless Miss.
Aqueduct 4th – Clm 25,000n3L, 8 furlongs, dirt – This might be a bit of a stretch but he should be a big enough price. #5 Mister Monolo (10-1) did not run well in his last race (though it’s at least somewhat encouraging that trainer Leah Gyarmati didn’t drop him down another level after that race), in which #4 Investigator (4-1) forced a pace which fell apart. But Mister Monolo, who gets a nice rider switch to Cornelio Velasquez, has also run in some much tougher spots over the last few months and if In Equality goes with Dogtown early on, the field might come back to him.
Aqueduct 7th – Alw n1x (NYB), 6 furlongs, dirt – The horse to beat is #1 Saratoga Giro (2-1) who ships down again from Finger Lakes, but he’s also had some chances. He typically runs out to the lead, sets a decent pace, and gets run down late. There are a few alternatives, but the one we prefer is #2 H Man (5-1). He finished two lengths behind Saratoga Giro on December 8th but that was a day when you wanted to be on the rail and H Man was 8-wide into the lane. Then last time he pressed a Bill Mott dropdown in a state-bred claimer when that one, Rectify, was on the gold rail and wired the field. Last time out, he had a strong close after waiting for room at the top of the lane. Now, he’s first off the claim for trainer Linda Rice. Rice is 7-24 with a $2.19 ROI on dirt when running a horse in an allowance race in the first start off the claim (per DRF Formulator), so she is strong when confidently moving the horse up in class as she does here. We’ll take H Man for the small upset. The other horse to use is #5 Benevolence (7-2) who put in a good rally last time behind a wire to wire winner after having gate trouble two starts back.