SUPER SATURDAY AT THE GULF
ON SUPER SATURDAY AT THE GULF...
MY GULFSTREAM LONGSHOT II READY TO WIN BIG
Can't think of a racing person who has had more of an up-and-down career than Angel Cordero Jr.
Love him or hate him, Cordero is still the best race-rider I've seen in my 30-odd years on the beat, and, 15 years after his injury-forced retirement, he's still on top of his game -- booking mounts for Johnny Velazquez.
You need look no further than the stakes-filled Saturday program at Gulfstream Park.
They will run five stakes in succession, from the fifth through the ninth races, and you will find Johnny V on four favorites and a second choice. From an agent's perspective, you can't do much better than that.
Obviously, there are no guarantees in racing. Johnny V, the early leader in the Gulfstream standings with six winners in three days, very well could go 0-for-5, but I wouldn't count on it.
He's on one live horse after another, and for that, he can thank his agent.
There are two other fascinating aspects to this stakes package.
In one race, seven of the eight trainers bettered 20 per cent last year, and, in another race, seven of the 11 starters are unbeaten. Exempting 2-year-old races, that's something I've never seen before or likely will ever see again.
So let's take a look at this all-sprints five-pack...
THE SPECTACULAR BID (Race Five)
Velazquez comes through the back door to ride the favored Discreetly Mine in this $100,000 ungraded stake for 3-year-olds at six furlongs.
As a 2-year-old, Discreetly Mine, a son of Horse of the Year Mineshaft, capped his season with seconds at Belmont Park in the Futurity (Grade 2) and Champagne (Grade 1) for trainer Stan Hough.
The Robshams thanked Hough by giving him a pink slip, and turning their horses over to (who else?) Todd Pletcher. And since Johnny V. has been the go-to rider for The Toddster for years, he gets to ride Discreetly Mine, replacing Cornelio Velasquez.
The main threat to Discreetly Mine no doubt will be Wildcat Frankie, a 15-length front-end winner of his lone start at 2 for Calder-based James Hatchett. Paco Lopez has the return call on Frankie, whom I would imagine is now worth a lot more than the 25K they paid for him as a yearling.
Pletcher and Hackett are two of the seven 20-percenters in this race. The others are Wayne Catalano (Call Shot); Marty Wolfson (Mr. Green); Wesley Ward (Grand Times); Bill White (Sum Champ), and Tony Dutrow (Westover Wildcat and the uncoupled A Little Warm).
That leaves Barry Rose (Barry's Money) on the outside looking in.
THE SUGAR SWIRL (Race Six)
Velazquez pilots Thunders Dove for Nick Zito in the Sugar Swirl (formerly the Forward Gal), a $100,000 Grade 3 for fillies and mares, 4 and up, at six furlongs.
The 6-year-old Thunders Dove is 7-for-13 lifetime, including a five-race win streak bridging '08 and '09, three of the five stakes. She worked a bullet :59 for her first start since September, when she finished fourth to multi-champion Indian Blessing in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont.
Thunders Dove, drawn in post eight in a nine-mare field, figures to get the stalking trip off the multiple stakes-winner Bold Union, who'll break from the one-hole under Joe Bravo.
A reminder: Judging by the early returns, speed from the outside appears the way to go at Gulfstream.
How did Rick Porter let Warbling get away? The 260K daughter of Unbridled's Song won her first two starts at odds-on in Kentucky for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Julian Leparoux, the like Eclipse winner, has the return call from the three-hole.
D'wild Ride, Castellano riding for Orseno, is the lone runner with a winning race over the track.
Tar Heel Mom last out was a four-length winner in a Big A stake, beating Awesome Ashley, our Horse of the Year who has since been retired.
THE MR. PROSPECTOR (Race Seven)
If the racetrack comes up fast. Munnings, a two-time Grade 2 winner for Pletcher and Velazquez, will be odds-on in this $100,000 Grade 3 for 4-and-up at six furlongs.
Munnings, training lights-out at Palm Meadows since a third to likely Eclipse sprinter Kodiak Kowboy in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in early October at Belmont, is 3-for-6 on fast strips, 0-for-4 on the wet. He'll leave from the four-hole in a field of nine.
The competition should come from the inside -- Past the Point (Prado riding for the Sheiks), and Custom for Carlos (Kenneally-Leparoux).
Carlos is 3-for-4 at the distance, but was no match for Munnings last spring in a six-panel Churchill allowance.
Presto Change O, first-time Tony Dutrow, exits a six-furlong blowout over The Meadowlands slop in seven and change. The Grand Slam colt is drawn well on the outside with Jeremy Rose.
THE GULFSTREAM PARK TURF SPRINT (Race Eight)
Another stake, another odds-on favorite with Velazquez.
In Tuesday's column we mentioned that Wes Ward regards Hockeythehayman as the most talented horse he's ever trained.
We'll find out if Ward's confidence is justified when the unbeaten 4-year-old gelding makes his stakes debut in the initial running of this ungraded $75,000 event for 4-and-up at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass.
At 3, under jockeys Smith, Gomez and Baird, Hockeythehayman won his four starts with his numbers improving each time. The son of Songandaprayer, who ran the fastest first quarter in Kentucky Derby history, capped his year with a five-length blowout on the Keeneland grass, getting the five-and-a-half in 1:03 2/5, equating to a 101 Beyer number.
Elusive Warning, training well for the Sheiks for his first race in 18 months, gets Garcia and the one-hole.
Hatfield exits a close-up third in the Fall Highweight at Aqueduct. Castellano rides for Contessa.
T.D. Vance, a winner of his last two for new trainer Mott, has a puncher's chance with Desormeaux from the six-hole in the field of 10.
THE OLD HAT (Race Nine)
This $100,000 Grade 3 for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs is the race with seven unbeatens.
Dominguez gives up no doubt four or five winners at Aqueduct to ride Cuff Me, 3-for-3 by a combined 22 lengths for Tony Dutrow. The Officer filly will be favored from post five in a field of 11.
He'll be nicely placed on the outside with second-choice Carphonic, who is 2-2 by a combined 11 lengths for trainer White.
Malibu Legacy, Richiegirlgonewild, Dances With Ashley and Female Drama are likewise 2-for-2, and My Jen is 3-for-3.
Too bad six of the seven unbeatens have to emerge once-beaten.
Zenyatta, this writer's choice for Horse of the Year, Awesome Ashley notwithstanding, sure has a funny way of being retired. On Wednesday, she worked a :48 half-mile at Hollywood Park.
Jockey Desormeaux, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, has committed to Piscatelli through the Derby. The Greg Sacco-trained colt, who completed his 2-year-old campaign with a close-up fourth in the BC Juvenile, on Wednesday worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 at Palm Meadows for his 3-year-old debut in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream.
Fuzzy Britches, an allowance winner Wednesday at Aqueduct, will be wheeled right back by Rick Dutrow on Saturday in the $65,000 Busanda for 3-year-old fillies at a mile/70.
Jara replaces Dominguez, who will be at Gulfstream.
Fuzzy will be favored in a field of five for the Busanda, which is carded as race three on the nine-race program.
All this of course is weather permitting.
See you back here Tuesday.
I CASHED IN HUGE ON OPENING DAY
Ponce de Leon called Florida "The Fountain Of Youth."
I've made money at every track you can name, but Gulfstream is the end of the rainbow! Here on the scene, (before I move to Oaklawn for their Opening Day next weekend), I confer directly with trainers, jockeys, clockers and trip mavens, and NEVER have I had such good information on the shape of upcoming races.
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