Now that my move from SoCal to NorCal is mostly complete, I’ve got some time to put pen to paper on some betting strategies for Saturday’s racing action. Gulfstream has a mammoth, 13-race card with three Pick Four sequences, while Santa Anita’s program is headlined by the return of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal in the Grade 3 Daytona. Here’s how I’ll be playing!
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2
48 Bets, $24
If I had to guess, I’d say that my opening single in the early Pick Four will likely be the shortest price on the card. That’s #5 KING POWER, who certainly seems like the main speed in this bottom-level claiming event. If he’s allowed to dictate terms on the front end, I think he’ll be very tough to beat, and singling him allows me to spread elsewhere at a fairly-low cost.
The third is a two-turn event on grass, and I almost singled here as well. #8 GRACE’S DRAMA makes her second start off a long layoff, and her return came against much better horses. She showed some speed in a starter allowance before fading in a race she clearly needed, and this seems like a much softer spot for a horse that should be ready to progress. I reluctantly included morning line choice #1 PLEIN AIR, simply because there’s a fair amount of speed signed on that could set things up for her late kick, but Grace’s Drama is my top pick.
I have no such convictions about the fourth, an optional claiming race on the lawn where there doesn’t appear to be a standout. #2 BINGO KITTEN is favored, and his race two back was very good, but his recent dud can’t be ignored, and the claiming tag he’s entered with could be a red flag. I’m buying the race and hoping we get a price home.
The payoff leg is a maiden claimer for female sprinters, and I’m three-deep. #1 Y’ALL’s lone dirt race came in a tough straight maiden event, and she was a respectable fourth. The runner-up has since come back to win, and she’s a legitimate favorite. I’ll also use #3 QUICKLUCKYCOCO, who adds blinkers and has shown some life since dropping to this level three back, and #9 SENZA TE, who returns off a long layoff for Wesley Ward and sports several sharp drills at Palm Meadows.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6
48 Bets, $24
I have no singles in this sequence, one that contains races with an average field size of 11 horses. If you hit, chances are you’ll get paid handsomely.
It starts with a minor stakes race, the Texas Glitter for turf sprinters. #2 BARBAROSSA has hinted at talent for Todd Pletcher and merits respect cutting back to one turn. I’ll use him, but I can’t ignore #6 REED KAN, whose lone turf race back in December was an excellent performance. That one seems like the main speed in here, and he could be the one they have to run down turning for home.
The seventh is a bottom-level claimer, and I found this race pretty tricky. I’m going against morning line choice #10 STARSHIP APOLLO, who’s on a four-race losing streak here and may prefer Gulfstream Park West. Additionally, while I used #5 MITOS Y LEYENDAS, 2-1 seems like a short price on a horse that hasn’t won since 2016. Of the four I’m using, the biggest price is #7 HORSE SPOTTER CARL, who won two back before getting off to a rough start last time out at this level. 15-1 seems like an overlay if you draw a line through that race.
I’m also going against the morning line choice in the eighth. That’s #9 FLIRTY, who takes a huge drop for high-profile connections after two misfires against straight maidens. I’ll try to beat her, and my top pick is #7 SOMEWHATOPTIMISTIC, who improved last time out in her second career start. She was beaten less than a length, and the top two finishers from that race have both come back to win. Further improvement in start number three would make her tough, and those 8-1 odds look juicy. I’ll also use second choice #12 TRUMP THAT and #13 SECOND ILLUSION, who missed the break in her debut but showed some life in rallying for third money.
The ninth is a turf route for older claimers, and it’s drawn a strong field for the level. I highly doubt we’ll get 5-1 on #9 RAY’S THE BAR, who was an impressive winner last time out on the drop in class. Jose Ortiz stays on, and I think he’ll probably be your post-time favorite. I’ll also throw in #2 MEGEVE, who ran two very good races two and three back before throwing in a clunker last time out. I can excuse that race, since he was marooned on the far outside with a short run into the first turn. He draws more favorably here in his first start for the strong David Fawkes outfit, and Luis Saez riding back is a plus.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #10
80 Bets, $40
In order to play this ticket for a reasonable amount of money, you need to single somewhere. The question is, where do you do it? The bookends of the sequence feature a number of first-time starters that will take money, the Hal’s Hope seems competitive, and the second leg is a claiming event with many horses that look similar to one another. If you’re right in taking a stand, though, you could be in line for a windfall.
The 10th is a maiden event for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs, and pedigree folks ought to be chomping at the bit. #5 BAIL OUT is a half to several graded stakes winners, and #7 RULER OF THE NILE was a million-dollar purchase at last year’s OBS sale. I’ll use them both, while also throwing in second-time starter #1 KING ZACHARY (who ran into Principe Guilherme in his debut) and #13 ARK IN THE DARK (who’s been working well at Palm Meadows for Kelly Breen and draws a cushy outside post).
My stand comes in the 11th. I’m far from crazy about it, but if I’m right on #4 ZEFIRO, I’ve got plenty of coverage elsewhere to potentially get paid. He was claimed last time out by Robert Dibona, who has run a smaller barn with great success over the past few years. His strike rate first off the claim is excellent, and note the presence of Javier Castellano, who doesn’t ride for him very often.
I couldn’t take any sort of a stand in the Hal’s Hope, and if you can, more power to you. #1 IRISH WAR CRY makes his 2018 debut, but it’s not like he HAS to win this event, and his best races have come around two turns. I needed coverage here, and my top pick is #6 MALAGACY, who almost certainly needed the race last time out going six furlongs. He didn’t run terribly that day, and he should be much more fit in this spot.
We finish with a real puzzler in the form of a maiden race for 3-year-olds going a mile on turf. #7 RHODE ISLAND and #9 VEGAS KITTEN are both first-time starters that will take money. I’ve used them both, but I much prefer two horses with experience, and one of them is a crazy price. #12 ROSE’S VISION will have to work out a trip, but he’s got plenty of turf form from last year and needed the race last time out. He could go off favored, and he’d be far from shocking. My big price is #1 TOP SECRET INDY, who debuted going a mile and was eased. However, Bill Mott’s horses usually need a race to get going, and the 316 turf Tomlinson number indicates he could relish the lawn. His second dam, Winendynme, was a multiple stakes winner on turf, and for all of these reasons, it wouldn’t be stunning if he took a major step forward in this spot. I have to use him, especially given his 20-1 morning line price.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2
32 Bets, $16
Of the five sequences I’ve dissected, this is the one where I’m least optimistic about a huge payoff. It seems chalky on paper, especially if the likely favorite wins the feature, but maybe there’s a way we can extract some value.
I’m singling #2 GIFT OF A STAR in the second, a $16,000 claiming event. She comes back to dirt and drops in class, and her recent form looks much better if you cross out the turf races. This isn’t a stellar group, and this one’s usual dirt race should be good enough to beat this bunch.
I’m four-deep in both the second and third legs. The second leg is a sprint, and while I’m using likely favorite #5 HERE AND THERE and possible second choice #6 CLASSICO, I’m also going to throw in a few prices. #2 BEAR SKINNED drops in class a bit and has some competitive back form, while #3 CHROMIUM was claimed last time out following an uncharacteristic dud.
The fourth race is the Grade 3 Daytona, and it features the return of #7 STORMY LIBERAL. Trainer Peter Miller, though, saddles two others in here, and that makes me a bit apprehensive about the likely favorite’s chances. I’m using the other two Miller charges, as well as #6 PERFECTLY MAJESTIC, who could get an ideal setup rating off a hot pace beneath Kent Desormeaux.
The payoff leg features another possibly-heavy favorite. That’s #4 MONDAYMORNINGBLUES, who drops in for a tag for the first time. It wouldn’t be shocking if she won, but I also need to use #8 ALLIE’S LOVE, who’s been competitive at this level in two straight starts and draws a nice outside post. Whichever one of those two makes the lead should be tough to run down late.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7
42 Bets, $21
By contrast to the early Pick Four, the late Pick Four could pay pretty well, even if shorter-priced horses find the winner’s circle. The fields are large, and that bodes well for the potential payoff.
We start with the seventh, and I needed to spread in this two-turn turf route. I almost punched the “ALL” button, but was at least able to whittle it down to seven horses in this 12-horse group. If you’ve got deeper pockets, buying the race may not be a bad idea, as it’s tough to separate this bunch.
The eighth is a maiden special weight event for older fillies and mares. #2 GET YOURSELF HOME is the morning line choice, but the relative lack of early speed she’s shown is a bit problematic. I used her, but I’m more focused on #5 ZILLINDA and #10 KARMIC AFFINITY. Those two have significantly more early speed, and, to me, they seem more logical.
I’m two-deep in the ninth, a classy optional claimer. #7 LIFE’S BLESSINGS will be a popular single, but I have to go deeper than just her. #5 POWDER got very good last fall, winning three in a row before a failed turf experiment. She’s working well ahead of her 2018 debut, and, on figures, she’s right with the likely favorite.
My single comes in the Saturday finale, the Wishing Well Stakes. #4 BENDABLE made her downhill debut last time out in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas and ran well, finishing second behind a classy mare. This seems like a softer spot, and she should be ready to take a step forward second off the bench. While I think she’s imposing, and while she’ll likely be a short price, I think there’s value in the exotics. #9 BARBARA BEATRICE, #10 ALGORITHMIC, and #11 MONGOLIAN SHOPPER all love this route of ground, and they’ll all be square prices that could shake things up by hitting the board.