By many measures, #11 Gunnevera is the best horse in the race. He was a runaway winner of the Fountain of Youth, and he should have plenty of pace in front of him to set up for his late kick. However, the post position fogs things up just a bit. With such a short run to the first turn, it will be imperative for all-world jockey Javier Castellano to get inside quickly and save as much ground as possible.
As such, Gunnevera, while imposing, is no cinch, and my strategy will be to use him, but not key him. The other horse I will use heavily is #1 State of Honor, who draws very favorably given his early speed. The Mark Casse trainee ran third behind McCraken two back and second behind Tapwrit last out, so there’s back class here. I’m not quite sure we’ll get his 8-1 morning line odds, but he won’t be one of the top two choices, and if he can capitalize on Three Rules’s outside post position and get a jump on that rival, he could lead them a long way.
I will key those two horses on top of a few others in the exotics. I’m by no means in love with likely second choice #4 Always Dreaming, who has had perfect trips in his last two outings, but it’s prudent to use that one underneath as a saver. I’ll round out some of my wagers with a few longshots, one of whom is a big price. #7 Unbridled Holiday was third behind Always Dreaming in that one’s last race, but surrendered a lot of ground while racing wide that day. He’s 30-1 on the morning line and may go off a bigger price than that, but he adds blinkers, had a big work on March 25th, and could absolutely clunk up for a piece of it. Additionally, #8 Impressive Edge tries two turns for the first time after an impressive win going seven furlongs last time out. If there’s competition up front, he’ll certainly be one of the ones to benefit the most.
BETTING ON A $20(ish) BUDGET
$4 exacta box: 1,11 – $8
$1 exacta key: 1,11/1,4,7,8,11 – $8
$0.10 superfecta: 1,11/1,4,7,8,11/1,4,7,8,11/1,4,7,8,11 – $4.80
This one seems pretty formful on paper. #8 Girvin won the Risen Star by a clear margin, and he’s very much the horse to beat. The third and fourth-place finishers will try him again in this spot, as will a few new shooters.
I can only see one horse in here potentially beating your likely heavy favorite. That’s #6 Guest Suite, who was left with far too much to do in the Risen Star. He rallied to finish fourth, but seems to have come out of the race extremely well. He’s posted three excellent works for trainer Neil Howard, and it’s not illogical to think that a horse who has improved in every race to date will continue to do so.
BETTING ON A $20 BUDGET
$10 exacta box: 6,8 – $20
PICK FOUR TICKETS
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2, Gulfstream Park
40 bets, $20
RATIONALE: The second at Gulfstream may be the best betting race on the card, with several class-droppers getting horrible posts. Meanwhile, I think a few longshots, specifically #3 Bella Sunrise and #4 Lover’s Key, have big shots in there. The second leg is a tough race to decipher, but #1 Capital City is very appealing if you can forgive his last-out clunker, and #6 Over the Limit cuts back to a sprint and won three in a row very recently. If the last two races are formful, I think this could be a fruitful Pick Four.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7, Gulfstream Park
12 bets, $6
RATIONALE: I think the first leg sets up for a stone closer, and my top pick is actually #6 The Truth or Else, who sits at a square 10-1 on the morning line. If you toss out his two-turn races, which are mostly duds, you’re left with a horse that stacks up much more favorably than what his standing will likely be on the tote board. I’m spreading in the eighth (if you want to spend a few extra bucks and hit the “ALL” button, go ahead), and I’m finishing with two popular singles. #6 Luke’s Alley goes in allowance company in the ninth, while #5 Celestine looms large in the 10th given her talent and likely nature as the race’s lone speed. It may not pay much, but if we get some value in the first two legs, I think the payoff could surprise you.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8, Fair Grounds
80 bets, $40
RATIONALE: I’m maxing out my usual $40 budget here, because the first two races are TOUGH. There are 10 runners in the New Orleans, and I could make a convincing case for seven or eight of them. The Muniz Memorial Handicap is no joke, either, and while I like #8 Kasaqui a fair bit, there are others there you need to use that have ample experience over this turf course (plus 15-1 shot #11 Special Ops, since his last two races have been excellent and he should be flying late). I’ll single #6 Farrell in the Fair Grounds Oaks, and I’ll use my top two in the Louisiana Derby to finish things out.