Here’s our picks for the Stakes races at Gulfstream Park today:
3rd: 5-3-4/8/7-2-1…Sanibel Island Stakes…La Libertee (5) won last time out going just 5 furlongs here on Feb. 25. Has never been farther than 6.5 furlongs and she stumbled and lost the rider that day at KY Downs. Can she stretch out? Interesting to watch. Joy of Painting (3) ran well in the first try at a Stakes event last time out, finishing 3rd in the G3 Herecomesthebride Stakes. Cuts back in distance and that should help here. Has speed and will try to push the pace, too. World Tour (4) moves up off a MSW win last time out. Chance. I bet the 3 — take note — to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 8 in two smaller units. I also key the 3 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units.
4th: 6-2-5/3/4-1…Sand Springs Stakes…This is just a 7-horse field for a Stakes event over the sod, but it is a very good field. I will go with Sweet Melania (6), who is coming off a layoff since her tiring run in the G1 QE II Challenge Cup at KEE last October. That was an uncharacteristic run for a 4YO filly, who has a 3-2-3 record in 9 career races. I look for a massive rebound here to kick start the 2021 campaign, and she could be a nice and solid price, too. i bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in one exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 5 in two smaller units and then key the 6 over/under the numbers listed in two more.
5th: 7-3-6/1-4/5…Sir Shackleton Stakes…This is a 7-furlong Sprint+ event, and I will go the only horse in the field who is G1 Stakes-placed — Basin (7). Ran 2nd to Charlatan in the G1 Arkansas Derby (a division) last year. I think he fits better at this distance, where he is a perfect 1-for-1. Has not raced since last August, though, and the question is whether or not he is fully ready for the return. Barn wins with .29% of the bench and this one is training OK for a HOF trainer. Gets a top rider, who booted this one to a 2nd in the G2 Amsterdam last year at Saratoga. One to beat, for sure. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 7 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units.
6th: 8-4-3/1-2-6…G3 Appleton Stakes…How about a Chad Brown-trainee in a Graded Stakes race over the sod? How about Seismic Wave (8)? This one is racing for the first time as a gelding and for the first time under the shed of Brown. He wins with .23% of those that make the barn debut and the works are spot on going into this one. In 3 starts at this distance? Two wins and a second. My solid choice here. I bet the 8 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 8 over/under the “all button.”
7th: No Picks
8th: 2-1-6/5/3…G3 Ghostzapper Stakes…This 11/8-mile event has attracted a rather modest field of 7. I’ll give the edge to Eye of a Jedi (2). Don’t know much of this barn operation, which has won with only .07% of the 68 races under the girth over the last two years. But? this one ran a better-than-looks 4th in the G2 Gulfstream Park Mile last time out against 5 others. Two races back was 2nd by a neck to the nice colt Performer. At GP? This one has a 4-6-6 mark in 20 starts. Gets a huge, huge rider switch here. Chance. I bet the 2-6 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the top 3 over/under the 5-3 in two smaller versions. I will also key the 2-6 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units.
9th: No Picks
10th: 1/2-7/3-6…G2 Pan American Stakes…A G2 turf race and you get 8 horses in the field? What the heck? OK. Cross Border (1) comes out of the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and ran 3rd that day to Colonel Liam — who may be the best grass runner in NA these days. This one will come late, but has shown some ability to stalk, too. Looks the best in here to me, but if you have any experience as a Racing Secretary, you may want to apply for a job in South Florida. I bet the 1 to win/place/show and then key the 1 over/under the “all button” here.
11th: 6-8-1/3-4/7…Cutler Bay Stakes…A rather weak crowd has been assembled for this 1-mile turf event. Got to go with the proven factor here and that is Annex (6). This 3YO son of Constitution has been out twice so far. Won them both. Rallies late and must find a clear path in the final stages here. Rider has been red hot all meet and has won with .25% for this barn operation — which is his go-to trainer. Could be a very nice one. Step Dancer (8) is another late-runner and he comes in off a win in the Awad Stakes. But? That was last October and this barn is not known to crank them up off the bench. Has some talent, but ready? Hyperfocus (1) stepped it up on the sod, when racing over that surface for the first time. Another closer. Gets a top rider and the barn wins with .22% when making the 2nd start off a layup. Chance. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then key the 6 over/under the numbers listed in the two exactas.
12th: 1-6-3/4-7…G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks…Let’s be honest here folks. This is the weakest G2 and major prep for the KY Oaks that I have seen. In a very, very, very long time. Maybe ever. In fact, the 3YO filly race at Turfway Park today is much better. But…that being written…there has to be a winner. I will give the edge to Con Lima (1). And, this one is a Texas-bred who specializes on the turf. That tell you something? Still, this one has a true “Z Pattern” coming in. Flashed true speed on the turf two back. Came with a late run in the G3 Herecomesthebride over the sod last time. Love this pattern on the bet back, but this one is likely to be very low odds, too. Millefeuille (6) gets a huge, huge rider switch here and I can toss the last one. Has trained lights out and the barn is red hot this meet — winning at a .28% clip. My pick. I bet the 6 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I key the 6 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units.
13th: 9-7/8-5/10-1-4…G3 Orchid Stakes…Always Shopping (9) comes into this G3 event off an impressive win in another G3 at GP. Has now won 2 in a row and 3 of the last 4. In 5 races over the sod, has 3 wins and a second. Looks to be the best in this group and the stalking style sets it up perfectly over this tricky turf course, which is as much sand as grass. One to beat, definitely. Delta’s Kingdom (7) ran 2nd to the top pick last time out and has hit the board in each of the last 5 races. But? She never wins. Rider is 8-6-3 in the last 28 mounts and has won with .25% of the 36 rides for this barn. But? This mare never wins. I bet the 9 to win/place and then key the 9 over/under the “all button.” I use the 9 again over/under the numbers listed above.
14th: 7/10-11/9-1-5…G1 Florida Derby…This appears to be a gift for one of the best 3YOs in the world this year — Greatest Honour (7). On paper, no other horse in this field measures up. Then again? They don’t run races on paper — unless someone wants to bring back that ill-fated wax stuff known as Polytrack. But, seriously, Greatest Honour looks like the best here. Much the best. Spielberg (10) has been a bit inconsistent in his career. Brilliant at times. Struggles at times. But he brings Team Baffert here for the first time — ever. He looks like he might be getting better, too. And, he has raced 8 times to date — with a record of 2-3-1. Threat? Maybe? I also use Papetu (11), who was 3rd and coming late in the G2 FOY. I bet the 7 to win only and then box the 7-10-11 in one exacta. I key the 7 over/under the 10-11 in two smaller units.