The beginning of the new gambling year is liberating feeling. The wager ledger is completely clean and the possibilities of a successful (and profitable) year are endless. Well, at least until after the first month.
I was all ready to dive in with my first play of the year yesterday - the late Pick 4 at Portland Meadows - but cold weather caused a cancellation of racing for Monday and Tuesday.
Portland Meadows is a track that I'll play once and a while during the winter due to the fact that a few horses, jockeys and trainers from Emerald will migrate down I-5 for their meet. Not a lot, but enough that I can get a decent feel for what's going on.
There's also a second reason that I've targeted a little Portland Meadows action this year and that's due to their 14% $0.50 Pick 4. Twin Spires has a nice little promotion going on right now that if you play the PM Pick 4 on Mondays, and you hit it, they'll refund the take, making it essentially a 0% Pick 4. That's a decent bonus.
The cancellation at Portland means that Wednesday's Gulfstream card will be the official start of 2011 for my horse playing, and it looks like GP has an excellent card on tap to start things off.
Race 1 - $15k Claiming (9 horses)
Race 2 - $6.25 Claiming (12 horses; 3 AE)
Race 3 - $50k Claiming (Turf; 9 horses)
Race 4 - $15k Claiming (10 horses)
Race 5 - N1X Allowance (Turf; 12 horses, 3 AE)
Race 6 - MSW (11 horses)
Race 7 - N1X Allowance (Turf; 12 horses, 1 MTO, 2 AE)
Race 8 - G3 Old Hat (6 horses)
Race 9 - $65k Maiden Claiming (Turf; 12 horses, 1 MTO, 3 AE)
The $0.10 Pick Six starts with race 4 and the $0.50 Pick Five with race 5.
The field for the Grade 3 Old Hat came up a bit soft (six horses) but if you're taking a shot at the Pick Five (which I will be on opening day), it's not horrible to see one short field in the mix. And if the Old Hat gets chalky (and it appears it might) the Pick Five will essentially turn into a Pick Four.
Quantum Miss and Roxy Gap get all the morning line attention due to their significant last out Beyer advantage but each one comes in with at least token questions surrounding them.
Quantum Miss put up a huge performance in her last race, but that was a stakes race at Penn National that was restricted to Pennsylvania-breds. That doesn't make her any less dangerous in this spot (especially since Tony Dutrow is shipping her in) but it's not like she dominated graded stakes company.
Roxy Gap was sparkling at Woodbine in her first three starts as a juvenile, but she'll face surface questions given the fact that all three of her wins took place on either Polytrack or turf. If she's able to make the transition to dirt, I think she's the most likely winner given her ability to sit a bit off the pace in the early going. The other four fillies appear likely to engage in a heated pace duel in the early stages which should set things up nicely for Roxy Gap if she's good enough.
Something to take note of on opening day is the turf rail. According to the conditions in the past performances, for races 3, 7 and 9, the rail will be at 36 feet. For race 5,the rail will be at 96 feet. The last few years the rail placement at Gulfstream has had a big impact on the success or failure of lone speed. Once that rail gets past 80 feet it seems that speed does incredibly well, all things being equal.
I haven't dug into the PPs yet, but I'll be looking out for any kind of speed horse that might shake free in the fifth race.