A very nice (and difficult) late Pick 4 today at Gulfstream Park, with all four raced scheduled for the turf course. The first leg, race 8, is scheduled to go to past at 4:43 Eastern / 1:43 Pacific.
Two quick house keeping issues. First, we've got two different rail setting for the turf races at Gulfstream today. Races 8 and 10 will run with a temporary rail of 24 feet. Races 9 and 11 will run with the rail at 96 feet. Just something to keep in mind while looking at each race in the sequence. Second, all of the AEs have scratched out of the Pick 4 except for the #15 in race 11. That horse will replace #8, who is a morning trainer scratch.
Leg 1 - 1 Mile, Maiden Special Weight
You really can't kick off a Pick 4 with a race that is much tougher than today's 8th at Gulfstream. Nine of the entries have never run on the grass before, and seven of those are first time starters.
I ended up going six deep in the opening leg because, well, that's just how deep I felt I needed to go in order to cover any of the horses I thought were likely winners. In truth, I hate having to cover so many numbers in the first leg but in the end it really doesn't matter. If you go 3-for-4 and hit the first three legs it's the same as going 3-for-4 and hitting the last three legs - you don't get paid in either situation.
Here are my six plays:
1-Salaam Alaakum: Second time starter, first time turfer for Todd Pletcher. Over the last five years, Pletcher is 11-for-66 (17%, $2.34 ROI) at Gulfstream with horses making their first start on the turf in Maiden Special Weights at a distance of a mile or greater. The long layoff is a little bit of a concern but I felt the need to cover the Pletcher horse, especially since the barn's #1 rider, Johnny V., takes the mount.
2-Cocktail Humor: A first time starter for Jimmy Jerkins and a full-sister to Film Maker, a mare that could run just a little on the lawn. Jerkins isn't great with firsters on the grass but there is some serious grass talent in the pedigree and Leparoux climbs on board for the ride.
5-Perfect Swirl: Of all the horses in this race, I went back and forth on Perfect Swirl the most. This filly is a first time starter for trainer Roger Attfield, a trainer that is decent with first time starters making their debut on the turf (3/20, 15%). Not bad, but not stunning and it's a pretty small sample size. She's a half sister to Shakespeare and Lady Shakespeare, two very nice turf runners but I wonder how much that matters considering both of those horses were by Theatrical (IRE). I wanted to toss this filly and keep her out of the ticket but just couldn't bring myself to do it.
8-Celestial Sweep: Last time he was on the track he was getting beat pretty badly in a MdSpWt affair at Saratoga in late September. That race produced a next out MdSpWt winner at Keeneland and also produced Zilva, a filly that has been competing in Grade 1 events out at Santa Anita. She's had a bunch of time off and comes back in a race without a ton of speed which should allow her to stay closer to the lead. She'll wear the shades for the first time, as well.
10-Beautiful Song: Another that returns after running on the lawn at Saratoga where she showed she could run with some fairly decent fillies. The winner of her last race, Tapitsfly, won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly Turf, while the place horse came in 2nd in the Jessamine at Keeneland. Not bad company at all. That race also produced two other next out winners. If she fires off the bench she'll be tough to beat.
11-Wicked Charm: I thought that this filly is a must play for me in this spot - a half to English Channel showing up on the turf for the first time under trainer Michael Matz with what looks like a bunch of stamina works on the lawn over the last two months.
Leg 2 - 5 furlongs, $25k Claiming
Ah, the obligatory turf sprint. To me, this race seemed pretty straight forward so I only went two deep:
7-Stradivinsky: Ran third in a tough little turf sprint at Tampa last time out that has produced two next out winners and a 2nd place horse in a $50k claimer. Trainer Larry Rivelli is 21-for72 in turf sprints over the last five years (29%, $1.70 ROI) and this gelding is a very nice 4-2-0-1 at the distance and 1-for-2 on the Gulfstream lawn. Combine those numbers with fitness and tactical speed and he's a logical contender.
9-American Cruiser: This horse has done some nice work at Belmont, Saratoga, and Philadelphia Park over the past couple of years and is a solid 5-2-2-0 at today's turf sprint distance. Tactical speed is crucial in these races and this gelding appears to have plenty of it. The race should set-up very well for him.
Leg 3 - 1 1/16 miles, N1X Allowance
Back to a 24 foot rail and a two turn allowance event. I found this race pretty tricky due to the lack of a true "need to lead" horse within the field and In the end I came up with three horses that required inclusion on my ticket.
5-Forever Awesome: Pletcher has two horses in this race and this is the one I chose to include (which, obviously, means that the other one will win). This colt ran under these same conditions at Gulfstream in his last race on January 13th. That day he was slow to load into, and break from, the starting gate. The poor break caused him to race in tight traffic heading into the first turn and I'm not sure this colt ever got fully settled during the race. He's come back to worked great since that effort. The biggest drawback for this horse: Coa's in the saddle. He and Pletcher are 0-for-20 at the meet and Eibar has been killing me lately with some awful rides.
7-Show the Way J: Comes out of the same last race as Forever Awesome where he missed top honors by 3/4 of a length. A couple of bullet works and a switch to Desormeaux, this colt looks ready to take that next step and graduate out of N1X company. In that last race, Show the Way J ran the final 3/16 of a mile in 29.88, so he's got the ability to stay close and then turn it on in the stretch.
10-Guys Reward: Here's another one of those horses where I wasn't really sure what to do with. Since his maiden breaking win at Ellis last August he's bounced around between some stakes races and N1X affairs. He ran pretty well in the Dania Beach last time out and if you look just at his turf form he has the potential to really outclass this field. Julien Leparoux in the irons makes the decision a lot easier.
Leg 4 - 1 1/16 miles, $30k Claiming
Final leg and this is the spot where I chose to single...and at a bit of a price (at least in relation to the morning line). 9-Musca is stepping up a bit in class but he's finished first in his last two turf events at this distance so it's pretty clear that he likes the trip (one of the races he was DQd and placed second). He's got some tactical speed in his corner and with a 96 foot rail, his speed should be a big advantage. Throw out that race two back (taken off the turf and run over a muddy surface) and his form, fitness, and pace fits in very nicely with this group.
If I get this far in the sequence I'll probably do a little hedging with the 7-Don'twait Toolong, a stone cold closer that can really bing in it deep stretch. I think he'll be compromised by the rail positioning and the firmness of the Gulfstream course, but I wouldn't want to watch him nip my single at the wire to deny me the prize.
I'm going to play this one "Caveman"-style and go with one ticket at the $1 base amount. Because of the large, deep fields I want to have as much coverage as I can get at the minimum cost, which a single ticket provides better than the multiple strategy. In the end it comes out to a $36 play.
$1 base: 1-2-5-8-10-11 / 7-9 / 5-7-10 / 9 = $36