Greetings from the after party of the 2017 Beemie Awards! I’ve beaten most of the crowd out of the venue, including Vic Stauffer and Andy Asaro, who may still be trading punches on the stage after reluctantly posing together with the Best Fight trophy. While I’m happy for the winners, I’m not over getting snubbed for the Mike Joyce Award for Handicapping Excellence and Bravery given the summer I had at Saratoga.
— Andrew Champagne (@AndrewChampagne) December 16, 2017
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Saturday’s card at Gulfstream Park is a good one. It’s filled with graded stakes races, and the early races make the preliminary Pick Five very challenging. I’ve got a few multi-race tickets lined up, and I’ll dive into them next!
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
108 Bets, $54
I try to keep the cost of my tickets down to around a $40 maximum, but I wanted as much coverage as I could feasibly have. My only single comes on the end, and it’ll be a popular one. If this is too expensive, and you’d like to cut my ticket down to an early Pick Four that starts in the second race, it’s currently an $18 investment (potentially less, but we’ll get to that).
I’m going against a morning line favorite right away. #3 LIGHTHOUSE SOUND is the tepid 7/2 choice, but he hasn’t won in a while and has floundered at this level at Presque Isle. I understand that those races are on synthetic tracks, but I’ll go elsewhere. One of my three is a big price. #11 VIGAS hasn’t run well at Gulfstream Park West and will need to negotiate a trip, but his races at this route from earlier this summer were pretty sharp. He’s 15-1 on the morning line, and I think he’s a must-use.
The second is a maiden claimer, and this is another race where one of the horses I’m using could be a price. My top pick is #11 LIL BAY CORVETTE, who’s a square 12-1 on the morning line. His trainer is off to a tremendous start to this meet, and the most recent workout was encouraging. She may not need to be much to beat this group, and I need to have her on the ticket.
I was able to narrow things down a bit in the third. #1 WEEZA GONE GRAY was nearly a single for me, as he gets a cushy inside draw and should be the main speed in the race. However, I also needed to use #7 LITTLE BALTAR, who takes a major class drop and has run several sharp races at this route against much better company.
For me, the fourth race was by far the trickiest race of the entire sequence. #13 UNCLE JUNIOR was my top pick, but she didn’t draw in off the AE list. As a result, I’m going six-deep, and hopefully, I’ve gone deep enough. If you’ve got deeper pockets, this is probably your “ALL” race.
I’m finishing things off by singling #1 CURLIN’S APPROVAL in the Grade 3 Rampart. She returns to her favorite track, and that should make a big difference. The distance isn’t ideal, but her standard race should put her in the winner’s circle, and if that happens, we could be in line for a nice score.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #7
45 Bets, $22.50
I usually put together a late Pick Four ticket, but my late Pick Four is pretty affordable. If you want to play my suggested ticket in that sequence, it’s only a $7.50 investment thanks to two singles, and if it hits, it’ll probably be pretty chalky. With that in mind, I’ll suggest a Pick Five.
It starts in the seventh, the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl. #1 DEAREST figures to be favored, and for good reason, but I can’t single her given that she’s making her first start since July. I’ll also use #2 MISS HOLLYWOOD (making her first start for Mark Casse) and #5 TRUE ROMANCE (who’s run several strong races against good competition and gets Paco Lopez).
My cold double starts in the eighth, and I think #5 ON LEAVE will be very tough to beat in the Grade 3 My Charmer. She generally runs the same high-quality race every time out, and there are no monsters lining up against her here. She was a solid third in the Grade 2 Goldikova last time out, and those were faster horses than what she’ll go against in this spot.
The ninth is the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday, and this is another spot where I think the favorite will be tough. #3 DESTIN won the Grade 2 Marathon last time out, and he ran into some strong horses last time out in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap. He gets significant class relief, and while I respect the likes of #5 PAGE MCKENNEY and #7 FEAR THE COWBOY, Destin’s best race would mean others would have to improve to beat him.
I’m spreading in the 10th, the Grade 3 Tropical Turf. I’ll use five of the nine horses signed on, and that includes likely favorite #7 BLACKTYPE. I don’t think he’s a cinch, but he’s probably the horse to beat. The horse to bet, however, may be #1 TOWER OF TEXAS, who could get a very fast pace in front of him. If he brings his Woodbine form with him, he could pose a real threat when the field turns for home.
The Saturday finale is a maiden special weight for 2-year-olds going long on the turf. Todd Pletcher saddles #9 HYNDFORD, and that first-time starter will likely be favored. However, I’ll also throw in #2 FORGOTTEN COAST (who has solid two-turn form) and #11 DR. BOMBAY (who’s bred to be a good one and has been working well, but will have to negotiate a trip from the far outside). Hopefully, we can beat a favorite in one of the “spread” races and manage a reasonable return on our investment.