Note: This post ended up being a whole lot longer than I anticipated so I'm breaking it up into two parts. Part II will be along this afternoon.
Saturday marks the start of the 2012/2013 Gulfstream meet in the official start to the winter racing season (at least for me). This is the earliest beginning to a Gulfstream meet in quite some time following a minor reshuffling of racing dates in Florida. Tampa Bay Downs will also begin their 2012/2013 meet on Saturday afternoon.
Gulfstream will run Wednesday through Sunday (dark Monday and Tuesday) with special days on January 1st, January 21st and February 18th. First post is 12:45pm Eastern (9:45am Pacific).
Gulfstream offers the usual smorgasbord of wagering options including:
- $1 Super HI-5 (offered once daily), $0.10 Superfectas, $0.10 Rainbow Pick 6, $0.50 Trifectas, and $0.50 Pick 4s and Pick 5s.
- Daily Doubles and Exactas are a $1 minimum bet.
- Doubles and Pick 3s roll throughout the race day.
- The Pick 5 features a 15% takeout.
- The Rainbow Pick 6 must be hit to a single unique ticket in order to avoid a carryover.
Personally, I love the Gulfstream meet as I've found it to regularly challenge my handicapping with cards filled with a wide variety of class and conditions throughout the season. The diverse nature of the horse population provides opportunities for players to focus on specific areas if they so desire. Do you love following up and coming three-year-olds on prepping for the spring Classics? You can find that at Gulfstream. Do you like to play a good number of turf routes includes European horses shipping over to North America for the first time? Check. How about a good selection of allowance and optional claiming races or a strong collection of top class older horses, both routers and sprinters? Check, check and check.
One of the major things I've kept an eye on at Gulfstream the past several years is the temporary rail settings on the turf course. Similar to tracks with large turf course that deploy a movable rail, the Gulfstream grass course becomes very favorable to speed horses the further out from the hedge the rail is set. If you dig through the results charts from a season of turf races, you'll see rail setting from 0 feet all the way out to 108 feet, and a lot of different settings in-between.
In my personal opinion, it seems that speed really starts to have an advantage when the rail is 80 feet or further away from the hedge. When I see a 108 foot setting, I'm looking for speed horses unless the pace is going to be insane and even in those situations I'm more likely to pass than play a deep closer.
There are a couple of different considerations for the rail setting, chief among those the ability to reduce wear and tear on the grass over the course of the season. The other consideration is the distance of the scheduled turf races for the day; the rail setting impacts the position of the starting gate relative to the turns which can impact the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of gate positions.
You're not going to crush every race where the rail is set out at 80 or 100 feet with a front running horse but, if you watch those races fairly closely throughout the meet, you'll find at least several instances where lone speed will go off at ridiculously high odds given the advantages of the rail set-up.
Gulfstream has scheduled a very nice stakes calendar for the meet highlighted by the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30th.
Below is the 2012/2013 Gulfstream Park stakes calendar:
|1-Jan||GP||Gulfstream Park Derby||3yo||8.0||Dirt||$100,000|
|19-Jan||GP||Sunshine Millions Classic||4up||9.0||Dirt||$400,000|
|19-Jan||GP||Sunshine Millions Distaff||4up||f&m||9.0||Dirt||$300,000|
|19-Jan||GP||Sunshine Millions Turf||4up||9.0||Turf||$150,000|
|19-Jan||GP||Sunshine Millions F&M Turf||4up||f&m||9.0||Turf||$150,000|
|19-Jan||GP||Sunshine Millions Sprint||4up||6.0||Dirt||$150,000|
|19-Jan||GP||Sunshine Millions F&M Sprint||4up||f&m||6.0||Dirt||$150,000|
|2-Feb||GP||Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint||4up||5.0||Turf||$75,000|
|9-Feb||GP||Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap||1||4up||9.0||Turf||$300,000|
|9-Feb||GP||Gulfstream Park Sprint||2||4up||7.0||Dirt||$150,000|
|23-Feb||GP||Fountain of Youth||2||3yo||8.5||Dirt||$400,000|
|24-Feb||GP||Ladies Turf Sprint||4up||f&m||5.0||Turf||$60,000|
|9-Mar||GP||Gulfstream Park Handicap||2||4up||8.0||Dirt||$300,000|
|30-Mar||GP||Gulfstream Park Oaks||2||3yo||f||9.0||Dirt||$300,000|
|6-Apr||GP||GP Aftercare Stalion Stakes||3up||7.5||Dirt||$60,000|
Coming Up: Part II - Opening Day Preview