The day after St. Patrick's Day features recovery from a day of Guinness and Jameson, along with just a single graded stakes race on the calendar: the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park (post time: 5:35pm Eastern; TV: HRTV). The race drew a field of 11 (plus two MTOs), with scratches reducing the field to nine.
Let's take a look at Sunday's G2-Honey Fox.
2-Bay to Bay (6/1): A graded winner in Canada last summer, Bay to Bay likes the eight furlong distance and has to tactical speed to keep herself in the mix during the early stages.
3-Romacaca (4/1): This mare loves Gulfstream (8-4-2-0), loves the distance (9-6-1-0), is in excellent form (hasn't finished out of the top three since August of 2011 in the Beverly D.), and has the gate speed to secure a great trip around the course. Tough to get away from this mare.
4-Last Full Measure (20/1): A nice looking four-year-old filly by Empire Maker that is stepping up to graded stakes company for the first time. She'll need to improve off her last effort to come out on top against this field.
5-Cumulonimble (12/1): She's run well against restricted and state-bred company in the past but hasn't proved to be graded stakes quality in the past. Catalano has had a strong meet this winter/spring; this mare could be a nice price play.
6-Louvakhova (12/1): Three starts in the U.S. after shipping over from France last fall; her two victories came over courses that had taken a bit of rain, while her one flop occurred against graded stakes company on firm ground. The Gulfstream course looks to be firm today.
7-Tapitsfly (6/1): She's got gate speed, which is an asset given the rail positioning. She's got Leparoux in the irons. And she's consistently run quality races against graded stakes competition over the past year.
8-Future Generation (IRE) (3/1): The likely post-time favorite, Future Generation got off the plane and won at first asking in the U.S. back on February 15th. A Group 3 winner in Ireland (G3-Desmond Stakes), Future Generation has a good turn of foot in the early stages but might be a bit compromised going into the first turn given all the speed to her inside. If Maragh can avoid losing too much ground in the first quarter mile, this filly may be much too tough for this field.
9-La Reine Lionne (5/1): Another filly that possess a good amount of early pace, La Reine Lionne missed by a nose to Heavenly Landing last time out in the G3-Marshua's River. She's perfect at the one mile distance (3-3-0-0) and strong over the course (4-2-1-0). Toss her into the mix as another legitimate contender.
11-New Normal (20/1): Despite the brutal post position, I like New Normal a little in this spot. She's got the speed to clear this group if she's able to break well from the gate. At 20/1 on the ML, she might be worth a light play and inclusion in some exotic plays.
12-Lacie Slew (MTO-SCRATCH)
13-Much Rejoicing (MTO-SCRATCH)
Given the deep and evenly matched field, there are a number of ways to play this race from a betting perspective. To me, Romacaca is the best all-around filly/mare in the field; she's consistent, she's run well against graded competition, she's got enough speed to get into the mix in the early stages, and she's drawn a low gate position which should allow her to avoid a wide trip, unlike some of her rivals.
Future Generation will likely take most of the money and, under different circumstances; she would probably get mine, as well. I don't care for her drawn given the presence of so many stalkers to her inside. If she wants to run up front and not get caught wide into the first turn, Maragh will almost certainly send her a bit harder out of the gate. If she hangs back, she'll have to deal with a lot of traffic at the top of the lane. It's really a tough call because I feel like Future Generation is the best horse in the field but also likely to face a less than ideal trip.
I'll take Romacaca on top and in a tri play with Future Generation, New Normal, Cumulonimble and Tapitsfly.