Handicapping At Gulfstream


From a handicapping perspective, the most significant development over the last month of the Gulfstream meet will be the imminent return of jockey Paco Lopez.

Lopez, the top jock at Gulf last year, and the leader this year until Feb. 18 when he sustained an elbow injury in the spill that sidelined Eibar Coa with a severe back injury, is due back next Wednesday.

That would mean Lopez will be out exactly one month.

When he went down, Lopez held a commanding lead in the standings with 38 winners from 212 mounts. In his absence, he has dropped to  third behind jockeys Castellano (42) and Velazquez (40).

The Florida-based trainers love Lopez, and Paco has a special affinity for Gulfstream. He is a master judge of pace at the Gulf. When the pace is  slow, he's sure to be on or near the lead. When the pace is fast, he'll rate early, and come on late. The kid is absolutely fearless. And patient to no end.

Assuming he comes back healthy, look for him to dominate the last month of the meet...and then continue to thrive at Monmouth Park.

Otherwise, the best "value" riders at Gulfstream are Alan Garcia, Rajiv and Jose Lezcano.

And you need to include Joe Bravo in the gimmicks. Jersey Joe is enjoying his best Gulf meeting ever, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Todd Pletcher, as usual, will be leading trainer. With 24 winners from his first 102 starters, he holds a commanding lead over Wes Ward and  Nick Canani in the standings.

Wayne Catalano and Pete Walder are quietly having good meetings, and Ed Broome has caught fire in the last two weeks.

The outside posts are dominating sprint races. Nothing unusual there. And there is no post-position bias going long.

Gulf has always been a speed-favoring track, and this year is no exception.

John Piesen's Derby Top Ten:


Dialed In 

That losing prep race will help down the line.

Uncle Mo 

Can an Indian Charlie get 10 furlongs?


Sway Away 

May be a modern-day Gato Del Sol.



Dutrow colt looks the one to catch.


Stay Thirsty

The Hot Springs route is always effective.



May be better than big brother Super Saver.



Very impressive winning Fountain of Youth.


Mucho Macho Man

The most consistent 3-year-old of the bunch.


Gourmet Dinner

Has the right running style for the Derby.


The Factor

The fastest gun in the west. Barn always tough.

Joyful Victory flies home in Honeybee

Fox Hill Farms' JOYFUL VICTORY (Tapit) was content to track behind the early pace in Saturday's $125,000 Honeybee S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park, but asserted her superiority in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile test. Coming wide around the turn, the gray lass quickly took command and easily drew off to be 8 3/4 lengths clear on the wire while stopping the clock in 1:44 4/5 in her three-year-old bow.

Joyful Victory settled into fifth under jockey Mike Smith for the opening half-mile as Rigoletta (Concerto) set splits of :22 3/5 and :45 4/5 while pressured the entire time by Norma's Dream (Awesome Again). Ranging up three wide while rounding the turn, Joyful Victory simply took over and was ridden out to the wire as the 3-2 favorite.

The gray filly paid $5, $3.40 and $2.60 for her score, with last-out Martha Washington S. victress Holy Heavens (Holy Bull) easily best of the rest in second. It was another three lengths back to Dixie City (Dixie Union), who returned here off a win in the November 27 Demoiselle S. (G2). Salty Strike (Smart Strike), Jazzin' Okie (Candy Ride [Arg]), Rigoletta and Norma's Dream completed the order under the wire after Hearts on Fire (Lion Heart) and Summer Soiree (War Front) were withdrawn.

Joyful Victory earned only her second career win when taking the Honeybee. While under the tutelage of trainer Tony Dutrow she broke her maiden at first asking in September, then posted a third-place run in the Frizette S. (G1) one month later. The filly took on the Breeders' Cup in only her third lifetime start and finished a decent fifth in the Juvenile Fillies (G1) to close out her two-year-old campaign. Since that race, Joyful Victory has taken up residence in conditioner Larry Jones' shedrow and gave her new barn a fourth consecutive Honeybee win following the exploits of Eight Belles (2008), Just Jenda (2009) and No Such Word (Canadian Frontier) (2010).

Joyful Victory has passed through the sales ring twice, bringing $60,000 as a Keeneland January yearling and $400,000 as a Fasig-Tipton February two-year-old. She's now earned about half of her Fasig-Tipton purchase price back, boastings $200,100 in earnings to go along with a 4-2-0-1 career mark.

The gray sophomore is the first stakes scorer out of the winning Wild Again mare Wild Lucy Black, who has since produced a juvenile filly named Why Lucy Why (Whywhywhy). Joyful Victory's third dam is Black Eyed Lucy (*Prince Royal II), who is best known for foaling 1982 champion two-year-old colt Roving Boy (Olden Times) as well as the unraced Sally's Ride (Inverness Drive), herself the dam of dual Grade 1 heroine A Wild Ride (Wild Again).

This is the same family as Grade 2 victress Irguns Angel (Irgun) and Canadian Grade 3 winner Artie Hot (Black Minnaloushe).

It Happened Again captures Razorback

Maggi Moss' IT HAPPENED AGAIN (Proud Citizen) tracked the pace in second until upper stretch and went on to post a half-length victory in Saturday's $125,000 Razorback H. (G3) at Oaklawn Park. The five-year-old gelding registered his first graded stakes win and keyed a Steve Asmussen exacta with Thiskyhasnolimit (Sky Mesa), who made a late run at his stablemate but could never draw on even terms.

Jockey Michael Baze put It Happened Again in a perfect spot during the early stages, about a length behind Kate's Main Man (Bernstein), who established set slow fractions of :23 4/5, :48 and 1:12 1/5 over the fast Hot Springs, Arkansas, oval. The pacesetter began to weaken turning for home, allowing It Happened Again to seize the advantage. Thiskyhasnolimit, who was stalking about a length behind the eventual winner in third down the backstretch, moved up as well in upper stretch and easily held the place over Win Willy (Monarchos), who finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in third following a belated rally down the middle of the track.

It Happened Again completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 2/5, and paid $9.40, $5.20 and $3.60 as the 7-2 fourth choice among seven rivals.

Double Threat (Smarty Jones), Kate's Main Man, 9-5 favorite Winslow Homer (Unbridled's Song) and Golden Yank (Yankee Gentleman) rounded out the order of finish.

Bred in Kentucky by Dede McGehee, It Happened Again captured the Triple Sec S. at Delta Downs and recorded a second in the Barbaro S. (G3) at Delaware Park in 2009. He also placed in the Canadian Derby (Can-G3) and Spend a Buck S. that season, but the chestnut dropped into the claiming ranks in 2010. He was acquired by his current connections for a $20,000 tag at Woodbine last October, and his form began to turn around this year at Oaklawn, with a pair of convincing wins over allowance/optional claiming rivals. With Saturday's third straight victory, It Happened Again has now earned $333,078 from a 23-7-3-3 ledger.

He's out of the winning Quiet Lucky (Quiet American), who is also the dam of stakes victor Lucky Sam (Pembroke). His second dam is the stakes-winning Lucky Lydia (Lydian [Fr]), and this is also the female family of Grade 3 queen Cellars Shiraz (Kissin Kris).

from brisnet.com


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