Saturday is a very good day of racing up all across the country, especially at Santa Anita, where they have the Big Cap among five stakes, and Tampa Bay Downs, where they run the Tampa Bay Derby among five stakes.
We have a few spot plays from around the country for Saturday. Let’s take a look.
Tampa Bay Race 7 – Columbia Stakes – 3 year olds, 8 furlongs, turf – #10 Holiday Stone (5-1) is our selection, despite the poor post draw. Last time in the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park, he was stuck in a race that featured a very slow pace (the 1-2 horses made up the exacta at each call). Holiday Stone was stuck 3-wide into the first turn and and 3-4 wide around the far turn and kept trying down to the wire. The horse to his inside today, #9 Sonic Boom (7-2) for Ian Wilkes also ran in that race, but saved ground behind the pace and rode the rail all the way around.
Tampa Bay Race 8 – Challenger Stakes – 4/up, 8.5 furlongs, dirt – We’ve never been huge fans of #2 Stanford (8-5, likely shorter) but we have to acknowledge that he is absolutely the horse to beat in this race. Still, the front-runner will have to deal with a few others early, such as his former Pletcher stablemate Blofeld (who ran early with the impressive miler Sharp Azteca last time) and potential Rufello. #7 Ami’s Flatter (9-2) hasn’t been in great form lately but adds blinkers and stretches out today, and maybe can be up close pressing a slower pace rather than chasing the faster paces in sprints. He’s by Flatter out of a Victory Gallop mare so the distance should be within his scope (he was in fact second in the Tampa Bay Derby over this track two years ago). Plus, trainer Josie Carroll is 5-19 with a $3.30 ROI going sprint to route on dirt (DRF Formulator — note that this is technically not sprint to route, as Ami’s Flatter ran in a one-mile race last time, but that was a one-turn mile, which we treat more like a sprint).
Tampa Bay Race 9 – Florida Oaks (G3) – 3yo fillies, 8.5 furlongs, turf – #5 La Coronel (5-2) ran some great races last year at two and is much the horse to beat as she makes her first start since an impossibly wide trip in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf from post 13. She does however draw a formidable foe with a little more recently that could upset the favorite at a better price, and that horse is #6 Fifty Five (5-1). She’s run twice this meet at Gulfstream, winning an allowance race and then running third, beaten just 3/4 of a length, in the Sweetest Chant to the impressive Rymska. In that race, Fifty Five was well back and had to move 7-8 wide into the lane and made up almost seven lengths in the last quarter-mile. She’s improving for an underrated turf trainer in Tom Bush. #9 Compelled (4-1) was second, ahead of Fifty Five, in that race but had a very good inside/out trip, a trip she’s had in each of her last two starts, but seems unlikely to get from post 9 in this race.
Tampa Bay Race 10 – Hillsborough (G2) – 4/up fillies, 9 furlongs, turf – The favorite is #6 Isabella Sings (5-2) who will, as always, jump out to the lead, open up, and try to hold on. She won the local prep for this race, the Endeavor, in her last start, but at nine furlongs, we’ll try to beat her. #3 Dickinson (7-2) will be the second choice after a win in the Suwanee River, pressing the pace, diving inside into the lane, and lasting for Kiaran McLaughlin. She can win of course, but we’ll try #5 Elysea’s World (5-1) again, as we did in the Suwanee River last time. In that race, she ran well, coming wide into the lane and was moving well late – the last three furlongs were run in 34.59 seconds but Elysea’s World still made up two lengths. We’ve always liked her based on races at three last year behind the best of her age group – Time and Motion, On Leave, Catch a Glimpse, etc, including a few times when she had to be taken out of her game or had gate trouble. She is looking for her first stakes win, and we’re betting that she gets it here.
Gulfstream Park Race 12 – Silks Run – 4/up, 5 furlongs, turf – #2 Power Alert (7-5) is the deserving favorite, but he drew inside and will be committed to go. We have to take a shot with #6 Pay Any Prize (6-1). He’s also a front-runner, but ran a remarkable race last time in the GP Turf Sprint (won by an outside-stalking Power Alert). Pay Any Prize set a supersonic pace in that race, one that completely fell apart. The top five finishers, after the first call, were: 4-9-11-1-12 (the 4 was Power Alert). He was only racing on 17 days rest that day, but gets six weeks here.
Aqueduct Race 8 – Tom Fool (G3) – 4/up, 6 furlongs, dirt – The rail has been good the last few days, so that could help #2 Green Gratto (7-2), who will likely be the pace-setter on the inside. but there is a lot of speed in here and that could help our pick #1 Spartiatis (6-1). He ran a good race last time, pressing and running on late to win and earn a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure. That might well be good enough to win here and he should get a nice inside-out trip again. While yes, he would have to hold that high level to win, he is coming into this race on seven weeks rest and not coming back too quickly.