Gulfstream Speed


This is the time of year, for the most part racing throughout the country shifts to survival mode. In New York racing at Aqueduct moves to the Inner Dirt Track for a long 4 month stint of lower level competition and in Kentucky Churchill Downs and Keeneland shut down for a long winter’s rest as racing shifts to the Polytrack at Turfway Park.

In Illinois the long Arlington meet finished a few weeks ago and racing occurs at Hawthorne while even in Southern California racing slows down as there will be four weeks of December racing at Los Alamitos (which has picked up Hollywood dates) and then on to Santa Anita after Christmas for a stretch that is not up to the usual higher standards that begin again at that locale in springtime.

Fortunately there is one racing venue that begins to heat up this coming weekend, and that is the always anticipated Winter/Spring race meet at Gulfstream Park which commences this Saturday (12/6.)


Beginning this Saturday racing returns to Gulfstream Park for a December to end of May run. During the first month the schedule calls for 18 racing days which comprises all Saturdays and Sundays but as slightly staggered during week days. The 18 days are as follows:

Saturday 12/6, 12/13, 12/20. 12/27
Sunday 12/7, 12/14, 12/21, 12/28
Tuesday 12/16, 12/23
Wednesday 12/10, 12/17. 12/31
Thursday 12/11, 12/18
Friday 12/12, 12/19, 12/26

Early in the meet many of the horses will simply ship over from Calder to Gulfstream Park as the October and November weekend dates Gulfstream ran a year ago were shifted to Calder this year and that track just finished their fall meet.

As the meet unfolds, however, you will definitely see the big barns from New York, Kentucky and elsewhere begin to ship in. In the meantime, should you be in the mood to get off to a healthy start you might want to consider what happened during the first 11 days of last year’s Gulfstream meet when speed was king on the main track and early on in turf races before halfway through the month there was considerable rain and the dogs were moved out to 96 feet and 108 feet and the closers became predominant. And when I say that speed is worth paying attention I mean it. Unless you see otherwise during the opening few days, it could be financially fatal to try and beat speed.

Keep in mind that the early opening dates last year were in July, but unlike so many northern and mid-western tracks that are subject to radical temperature and weather changes and subsequent surface variations, the conditions at Gulfstream are as consistent as you could wish for year round.

So with that in mind let us take a look at exactly what I mean when I say that “speed prevailed seriously during the opening days of last year’s Gulfstream Park meet.

Below I have listed the number of races run on the main track at distances of between 4 .5 and 8 .5 furlongs during the first 11 days. Following that are the two turn turf races over the same period (no turf sprints.)

The breakdown is self-explanatory as I listed the winners as either wire-to-wire or by the number of lengths off the pace setter they were at first call. Those I listed as pressers were between .5 length and a length and a half of the pace setter and following that the winners were listed by the number of lengths they were behind that pace setter at first call.

4.5 FURLONGS - 11 Races
Wire-To-Wire - 7 Winners
Presser - 2 Winners
2 Lengths Back - 2 Winners
Note - No Winner more than 2 lengths off the pace. Since these 4.5 furlong races were 2-year old races it is worth noting that a number were first time starters or second time starters and following those that had one or more solid gate drills proved helpful.

5 .5 FURLONGS - 7 Races
Wire-To-Wire - 2 Winners
Presser - 3 Winners
2 Lengths Back - 2 Winners
2.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
Note - No Winner more than 2.5 lengths off the pace.

6 FURLONGS - 19 Races
Wire-To-Wire - 9 Winners
Presser - 4 Winners
2 Lengths Back - 4 Winners
3 .5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
4 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
Note - From a significant sample of 19 winners there were still only 6 winners that were not wire-to-wire or pressing runners but even with that those 6 were only between 2 and 3 .5 lengths off the pace at first call.

6 .5 FURLONGS - 7 Races
Wire-To-Wire - 3 Winners
Presser - 3 Winners
5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
Note - Even as the main track races elongate in distance the pattern remains the same. In fact, the lone non wire-to-wire or presser that won is the exception that supports the trend.

7 FURLONGS - 13 Races
Wire-To-Wire - 6 Winners
Presser - 3 Winners
2 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
3 Lengths Back - 2 Winners
3.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
Note - 9 out of the 13 were either wire-to-wire winners or pressers that won and again the “off-the-pace” winners had to be in contact with the pace setter at first call.

1 MILE - 14 Races
Wire-To Wire - 4 Winners
Presser - 4 Winners
2 Lengths Back - 3 Winners
2.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
3.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
7 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
Note - As the races stretched out a bit the speed began to be mitigated a bit but there were still 8 of 14 as either wire-to-wire or pressing winners while 5 more were no further than 3 .5 lengths back with one lone closer from 7 lengths off the pace. In fact, looking back at all 71 races between 4.5 furlongs and 1 mile there were only 10 winners that were further than 2 lengths back of the pace setter at first call.

1 1/16 MILES - 5 Races
Wire-To-Wire - 1 Winner
Presser - 1 Winner
2 Lengths Back - 2 Winners
4 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
Note - These races were not predominantly carded for the main track but were races that were washed off the turf so I am not sure that we want to draw anything from the results or the small sample.


Note - There were 16 two turn turf races over the first 11 days of the meet. Interestingly the breakdown of the sample showed drastically different results up until and including July 14 and when racing continued again on July 20.

It is possible that the rain which hit the area during the break changed the composition of the course or that the maintenance cut the grass differently, rolled it, did something else or the construction of the field in the races changed dynamically. Nonetheless the results were considerably different so I broke them down into two segments.

In any case, when it comes to the turf races the assumption here is that the jockeys might have spent a few days getting a sense of how the track was playing so I would lean more to looking at the course playing evenly than look towards a type of runner in the same way that one would weigh heavily on speed in on the main track.

Wire-To-Wire - 4 Winners
Presser - 2 Winners
1.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
4 Lengths Back - 2 Winners

Wire-To-Wire - 1 Winner
Presser - 0 Winners
4 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
6 Lengths Back - 2 Winners
6.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
8 Lengths Back - 1 Winner
13.5 Lengths Back - 1 Winner

Despite the angle on speed it is worth keeping in mind that handicapping is still a matter of how many speed horses, how the trainer angles, for instance, shortening up in distance after showing good early pace in prior efforts and facing a number of dead-on want the lead types or on the flip side, finding the lone hidden speed based on change of class, surface or even rider.

One thing is certain...there is always value to be found early in any race meet as the savvy bettors are always ahead of the public. I plan on being right on the lead out of the gate so maybe you should plan on joining me. Click here for my daily Preferred play featuring best bets and exotics.



Today’s Hot Plays