Merit Man finishing second to Hightail in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. - Jeff Gross
Gulfstream Park kicks off 2013 with a quartet of stakes races, as well as some excellent non-stakes action.
An early and hearty "Happy New Year" to everyone - I hope you have a safe and sane New Year's Eve, wherever you are.
With the calendar turning from 2012 to 2013, tens of thousands of thoroughbreds add a year to their age, and Gulfstream Park has a bevy of birthday events lined up for the colts and the fillies. Let's take a look at a few of the races from Gulfstream on New Year's Day.
Race 3: Spectacular Bid, 6f, Dirt, 3yo
1-Merit Man (6/5) was nosed out by Hightail in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint after setting moderate (for Santa Anita) fractions on the front end of 22.41 and 23.53. He got beat up the inside by Hightail and we know the rail was one of the best places to be all Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, so it's difficult to be too hard on him for that loss. On the other hand, I wonder whether he has much room for improvement off of that effort. Perhaps going back on Lasix will help him finish stronger?
5-Little Distorted (8/5) ran huge in his debut at Belmont in late October and could get better as he goes longer. He should be able to sit just off the early leaders down the backstretch and should be the colt to beat when it comes time to wheel towards the wire
Race 5: Grade 3 Old Hat, 6f, Dirt, 3yo, Fillies
1-Kauai Katie (3/5) is back after finishing a distant fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, a race that was probably a bit too far for her sprinter's speed. She's been working very well for Pletcher down at Palm Meadows and makes sense as the odds-on favorite versus a small field.
Race 6: MdSpWt, 8f, Turf, 3yo (Temp. Rail 24 feet)
3-Rockin Rowan (12/1) debuts for trainer Steven Dwoskin, a trainer that's struggled with firsters on the lawn over the last five years (3-for-43, 7% Win%, 30% ITM, $1.44 $2 ROI). On the other hand, Bernstein is pretty effective with offspring running on the grass and his pedigree suggests the distance is a perfect fit. Could be worth a play in the bottom part of the exotics.
7-New Line (3/1) looks like a winner to me in this spot after some so-so efforts to begin his career. His lone try on grass saw him finish fourth at Churchill Downs against maiden special weights. The winner of that race, Newfound Zapper, came back to win the Dania Beach at Gulfstream on Dec. 15th.
10-Play It Loud (6/1) is a nice looking first time starter by Unbridled's Song out of a Pulpit mare (Bsharpsonata) for Michelle Nihei. Over the last five years, Nihei is just 2-for-31 (6% Win%, 29% ITM) with firsters on the lawn, and is 0-for-12 with grass firsters at Gulfstream. It probably makes sense to take a wait and see attitude with this colt, but I could be enticed to toss this guy into an exacta or trifecta play.
12-Liberal Spin (12/1) is a Kitten's Joy colt making his first start on grass, something that makes him fairly interesting in this spot. Joel Rosario takes the mount for the lawn debut.
Race 8: The Ginger Brew, 8.5f, Turf, 3yo, Fillies (Temp. rail 96 feet)
A big, tough field for the Ginger Brew, including a pair of nice looking Kitten's Joy fillies from Ken and Sarah Ramsey (11-Kitten's Queen (12/1) and 14-Kitten's Dumpling (7/2)).
My eyes were drawn to the European shipper, 6-Tuttipaesi (IRE) (12/1), a first time Motion trainee looking to re-gain her form after a poor effort in the Group 2 Steel May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in mid-September.
Motion is good with horses making their North American debut on the lawn, so it's not out of the question for this filly to run big at first asking. I'm willing to toss out the last race as she was facing a field much, much stronger than what she'll find at Gulfstream. Additionally, she won over a synthetic surface in Italy in mid-May, suggesting to me that this filly probably wants a bit firmer ground than she's found in Europe over the past year. At 12/1 on the ML, I'm willing to take a shot.
There isn't a ton of speed in this race which could set-up 8-Discreet Marq (8/1) to take advantage of the 96 foot rail positions.
Race 9: Gulfstream Park Derby, 8f, Dirt, 3yo
2-Purple Egg (4/1) comes into this race following a score in the ungraded Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and a couple of morning bullets. He's undefeated in three lifetime starts but hasn't run longer than six panel in his brief career. He'll be tested by a solid field and an extra quarter of mile in ground but, on paper, he's good enough to win this race.
4-Sr. Quisqueyano (5/2) draws morning line favorite status after a trio of runner-up finishes in ungraded stakes races at Calder this fall. I'm not thrilled with a short price on a horse coming in off of a layoff as trainer Luis Olivares doesn't sport strong numbers with that move (13-for156, 8% Win%, 33% ITM, $1.10 $2 ROI). This colt may need a race.
7-Star Contender (3/1) makes a lot of sense in this race regardless of his lack of dirt experience. I'm a bit leery of Mark Casse's number when going from synthetic to dirt over the last five years (37-for-313, 12% Win%, 38% ITM, $1.16 $2 ROI); he's not bad but he's no sure thing. I'm comforted, however, by the solid drills at Palm Meadows over the last month.