It’s Florida Derby Day, which means 12 more three year olds are trying to stamp their ticket to Kentucky. The big hype horse for the afternoon is Big Brown, who exits two devastating victories and makes his first start in a Graded race. Big Brown will likely need a top two finish today to gain enough earnings for an automatic place in the Kentucky Derby. He draws the problematic 12-post for today’s race. Plenty of good action at Gulfstream today so let’s get started.
Race 1: This was an Alw41500N1X for 3yo horses going 6 furlongs. I envisioned a very fast pace in this race with most of the runners not showing an ability to pass horses. For this reason I decided to try the first-time starter Bear Den as an unknown quantity. The connections must be pretty high on this horse to start him against winners right off the bat. I thought that he might be the one horse in the race that could sit back and make a late move against these. I also figured I might get 10-1 odds on a first time starter in a field of winners.
The Result: The favorite, Fujita, wore down 12-1 longshot Little Jorge in the final strides to take the opener. Philharmonic finished third. I was hoping for a stalking trip from my selection, but he rushed to the lead on the backstretch and tired on the turn. Little Jorge was the top points horse in the race for running second.
Maximum Points: Little Jorge 116Maximum Score: 116My Score: 0
Race 2: This was a MSW42K for 3+ fillies and mares at 1 mile. I selected Eva Maria from the outside post as the connections are strong and I think she will be lone speed. She has been off 15 months but showed pretty sharp speed in the fall of her 2yo season. Smart Surprise, Jasmine Gardens and Handlethetruth are the other logical horses in this field.
The Result: Handlethetruth comes off a 9-month layoff to score decisively at 4-1 odds over Smart Surprise and Miss Primetime. Eva Maria never broke to the lead like I expected and finished an even 5th at 4-1. Smart Surprise was one of those favorites that I like to play against because she had been the beaten favorite 5 times already in her career. Now it’s six times!
Maximum Points: Handlethetruth 234Maximum Score: 350My Score: 0
Race 3: This was a Clm32000N2L for 4+ at 1m1/16 on the turf. I selected Boris Bay, another horse that I hoped would be lone speed in this field. Boris Bay has run some good races at long odds, including a 2nd place finish three starts back at 31-1. She is 12-1 in the Morning Line today.
The Result: Boris Bay got the trip I was hoping for and scored in front-running fashion at 7-1 with Edge of a Shadow 2nd and Normandy Tower 3rd. The pace angle worked in this case. The favorite, Edge of a Shadow, was another nibbler with 8 second and third place finishes from 16 lifetime starts. Maximum Points: Boris Bay 274Maximum Score: 624My Score: 274
Race 4: This was a MSW40K for 3yo’s. This is a complete guess in a wide open race but I selected a first-timer named Ecton Road, trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Kent Desormeaux. Romans got the money in Race 2 with Handlethetruth so maybe he is on a roll right now. This is just a wide open, very difficult race. Ecton Road is by Doneraille Court, who gets 13% winners first time out.
The Result: A different first-timer won it as Le Grand Cru went wire to wire at 6-1 odds, defeating the favorite Excess Capital and Ecton. Le Grand Cru was a $230,000 purchase and is by Dynaformer. My selection ran evenly along the inside for a mid-pack finish at 7-1.
Maximum Points: Le Grand Cru 242Maximum Score: 866My Score: 274
Race 5: This was the 30th running of the Grade II Shirley Jones handicap. The big favorite in this race will be Sugar Swirl as she is riding a three race winning streak, including her last two starts at Gulfstream Park. I don’t really think she’s beatable but I selected Shaggy Mane, who is now being trained by Richard Dutrow and she does have very good early speed when she’s on her game. I’m hoping she can get the lead in this field and hang on for second, which will hopefully be worth more points than the winner.
The Result: Sugar Swirl was super impressive again as she scored the easiest of victories at odds of 3/5. Baroness Thatcher ran second and Shaggy Mane was third. Sugar Swirl wins her third Graded stakes race at Gulfstream this meet.
Maximum Points: Sugar Swirl 77Maximum Score: 943My Score: 300
Race 6: This was an OC75K/N$Y for 4+ at 1 mile. The likely favorite will be Chelokee, who had a few nice efforts at Gulfstream Park last year. He’s been off for 9 months so I decided to play against with Rehoboth, a late running type with some back class and two wins at the distance. This is another situation where I really don’t think Rehoboth can win, but if he can run second I can get more points than the winner, in theory.
The Result: Chelokee got a patient trip along the inside and scored at 3/5, with Rehoboth getting up for second and Rexson’s Rose running third. Another solid favorite in the winners circle! Nice comeback race for Chelokee. Rehoboth got the most points for his second place finish.
Maximum Points: Rehoboth 88Maximum Score: 1,031My Score: 388
Race 7: This was the 22nd running of the Grade III Palm Beach at 1m1/8 on the turf. I took a stab with Dynamalt, a late runner from the Mott barn who recently finished second in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park. I should get a solid price on this one due to his maiden status against winners. This is another very tough race to figure, no standouts in my opinion.
The Result: The favorite, Sporting Art, prevailed over Flying Dismount and Moral Compass. My selection was outrun at 11-1 odds. Good job by the public tabbing this winner in a wide open field. Flying Dismount was the top point horse for running second at 12-1 odds.
Maximum Points: Flying Dismount 172Maximum Score: 1,203My score: 388
Race 8: This was an OC62K/N2X for 4+ at 7f. I went to the outside horse Steelix as he has placed first or second in 4 of 5 at the distance and has a top trainer Kirk Ziadie. He exits a narrow victory at Tampa Bay Downs and gets tested for class today.
The Result: The big favorite, Kapazunder, won easily giving Castellano his fourth victory on the card. A pair of longshots ran 2nd and 3rd, Port Royal at 11-1 and Izzie’s Halo at 17-1. My selection wasn’t fast enough from the outside post and got a wide trip at 12-1. He wasn’t up to this class level anyway. Once again, the second place finisher got the most points in the race.
Maximum Points: Port Royal 140Maximum Score: 1,343My Score: 388
Race 9: This was the 38th running of the Grade II Bonnie Miss at 1m1/8. I selected Robbie’s Gal, hoping for a forwardly placed trip and a solid price. She has run 2nd and 3rd in her last two starts at Gulfstream at 17-1 and 33-1. Lezcano was aboard her once before and got a win on the Calder turf course.
The Result: The favorites struggled as Shes All Eltish scored at 4-1 over Robbie’s Gal and Highest Class. Shes All Eltish was an easy 7 length winner in this one as she stepped out of allowance company and crushed this field. She looks like a good thing.
Maximum Points: Shes All Eltish 198Maximum Score: 1,541My Score: 508
Race 10: This was the 57th running of the Grade I Florida Derby. A full field of 12 will contest the race at 1m1/8. The ML favorite Big Brown drew the far outside post which is well documented to have yielded no winners since the track was reconfigured. There are numerous possibilities in this race; I selected Hey Byrn based on his two dominating wins at Gulfstream Park. My main concern is the 9 post position which could send him wide into the first turn. Fierce Wind and Smooth Air are good alternatives from the 1-2 posts, and Elysium Fields and Big Brown are the other main contenders from the outside. The Result: Big Brown lived up to the hype with a rousing, dominating victory today in the Florida Derby. Overcoming the far outside post, Big Brown zipped a very fast half mile in 45 and change before leaving his field in the dust. Smooth Air ran a very good second at 16-1 and Tomcito finished third. My selection ran a credible 4th but was no match for the top two. Smooth Air got the most points for his second place finish at 16-1 odds.
Maximum Points: Smooth Air 404Maximum Score: 1,945My Score: 508
Race 11: This was an OC62K/N2X for 4+ at 1m1/8 on the turf. I selected Codeword, an even runner coming back from a brief freshening. His lone start at Gulfstream resulted in a third place finish at 6-1 odds.
The Result: The favorite Adagio scored a convincing win over Bullara and Prince Rahy, with Codeword finishing fourth. No surprises here as the top four betting choices all fired. Another victory for the connections of Dutrow/Desormeaux.
Maximum Points: Adagio 144Maximum Score: 2,089My Score: 508
Race 12: Today’s finale is the 1st running of the Forever Whirl 75K for 4+ Florida Breds at 1m1/8. I selected Better Than Bonds as he has been facing graded competition in his past two starts and got a bad trip last time. Electrify is strictly the one to beat, but at even money I decided to go a different direction. Better Than Bonds does have a win over the track in his career as well as 4 top two finishes from 5 starts at the distance.
The Result: Electrify destroyed the field at 4/5 odds with a devastating turn of foot, just missing the track record by 6/100ths of a second. Saint Daimon finished second and Better Than Bonds was third. Saint Daimon gets the most points in his second place finish. A very formful day at Gulfsteam Park today!
Maximum Points: Saint Daimon 106Maximum Score: 2,195My Score: 536
Summary: Big Brown is going to generate some buzz following his win today from the far outside post. He is a very serious racehorse. If you tabbed Smooth Air in the Florida Derby you got the top point horse of the day as once again there weren’t any big prices to speak of. This was another day to just grind away and hope you hit enough of those mid-range prices to be near the top at the end of the day. I would expect the winner to be in the 1300-1400 range. I guess days like this are good for those of you already near the top because it’s difficult to make up a lot of ground. This track played very well to speed today as the inside part of the track looked pretty good. The second choice in the Florida Derby, Elysium Fields, was washy as they loaded today and ran tenth. Maybe he bounces back in his next start.