Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 2018 Florida Derby Day, PLUS: A Disturbing Trend in Racing That Must End

Before we get into my analysis of Saturday’s Rainbow 6 and late Pick Four sequences at Gulfstream Park, I need to expound on something I’ve been witnessing more and more of as of late. It’s a plague on the sport we enjoy, and it needs to stop.

Earlier this week, the connections of Australian superstar Winx announced that the mare would not ship to Royal Ascot. All hell promptly broke loose on Twitter, with plenty of insult-lobbing from all corners of the world saying that Team Winx was ducking top-class competition.

Horse racing has a major problem, and this situation typifies it. We crave horses that turn into winning machines, ones that strut their stuff on a regular basis and leave no doubt about how good they are. However, when we get horses like that, we’re often very quick to tear them down.

I wrote at length about Wise Dan, who ran into this phenomenon when his connections opted to keep their turf buzzsaw on turf rather than try him on dirt. This is the same concept. Winx has mowed down all comers over the course of her 24-race win streak, including world-class horses like Highland Reel. Why can’t we simply appreciate her for what she’s doing and be glad that we’re seeing her do it?

In a bizarre twist, while some of us insist on this strange behavior, we also spend time building up horses that have lost. Zenyatta gained the most respect not for any of her victories, but in coming up short to Blame in her career finale. Many think Easy Goer was superior to Sunday Silence despite losing three out of four meetings with that rival. Heck, Bodemeister’s stud career was built not on his runaway win in the Arkansas Derby, but off of his LOSS in the Kentucky Derby.

To be fair, part of handicapping involves figuring out horses that can improve off of defeats, and ones coming off of wins that may be vulnerable. That’s part of the pursuit of value that every handicapper undertakes when dissecting a card. However, none of that has any bearing in assessing a horse’s accomplishments during that horse’s career.

Winx is great, and her bona fides are not lessened by her connections opting not to go to Royal Ascot. To those who hurled insults and think those connections owe anything to them beyond doing what they feel is best for their champion, shame on you. You’re pushing an ideology that results in no-win situations for the game, horses, and horsemen, one where champions somehow sully their reputations by not winning as authoritatively as fans think they should.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at Saturday’s Rainbow 6 sequence at Gulfstream. I’ll dissect the races involved, as well as offer a late Pick Four ticket that gives us a bit more coverage.

$0.20 Rainbow 6: Race #9

R9: 2,5,6,7,8
R10: 7
R11: 1,2,10
R12: 3,6,8,9,12
R13: 2,7,8
R14: 8

225 Bets, $45

If you’re going to play an economical ticket, I think you need at least two singles. I’ll take stands in the second and sixth legs, and hope that I’ve got enough coverage elsewhere.

The ninth is a maiden race going long on turf, and I wish I had the money to buy the race. I’m going five-deep, and while I’m using #7 ART COLLECTION (the 9/5 morning line favorite), I don’t think he’s any cinch, especially going to a cold barn. My top selection is actually #6 DAWOOD, who debuted going nine furlongs. That’s never an easy task, and rating well behind a slow pace certainly didn’t help. Dawood gets Luis Saez here, and he’s bred to be a good one. If he takes a step forward, he’s certainly good enough to win.

My first single comes in the 10th, an optional claiming event that’s drawn some classy horses. The one I really like is #7 READY FOR RYE, whose last race was too bad to be true. He’s shown plenty of ability, and if he’s back to his usual form, I think he’ll be tough to beat. He’s got enough tactical speed to sit close to the pace, and he may get first run turning for home beneath Jose Ortiz.

The third leg is the Grade 3 Honey Fox. #2 LULL and #10 ON LEAVE are both classy horses, but I also need to use #1 GLORY TO KITTEN, who has never lost over this turf course. She does take a step up in class, but I simply can’t throw a horse out that has never tasted defeat at Gulfstream.

The fourth leg is the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, and I’m taking the stance that this race sets up for a closer. My top pick (and not just because I used to work with a part-owner; hi, Drew!) is #9 PRINCESS WARRIOR, who prepped for this race with an OK effort in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on turf. Her record looks much better if you draw a line through the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and I think she’ll come rolling late.

The 13th is the Grade 2 Pan American, and I’m three-deep. #8 SADLER’S JOY will be favored, and I’m using him, but I hesitate to single a deep closer in spots like these. I’m also using #2 BULLARDS ALLEY and #7 BIGGER PICTURE, and I’m surprised the latter is 6-1 on the morning line. He won the Grade 1 United Nations last year, and while he’s got a strong closing kick, it helps that he can also sit fairly close to the pace.

We finish things off with the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and I’ll hope to cap things off with a single. #8 AUDIBLE ran really well in taking the Grade 2 Holy Bull, and a repeat effort would mean another horse likely has to take a big step forward to beat him. I think he’ll be very tough in here, and hopefully, he can get this ticket home.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race 11

R11: 1,2,3,10
R12: 3,5,6,8,9,12
R13: 2,3,7,8
R14: 8

96 Bets, $48

I’m still singling Audible to end this sequence, but I’ll add a few horses before that in hopes of getting to the payoff leg. I’ll throw in #3 STORMY VICTORIA in the 11th, #5 DAISY in the 12th, and #3 HI HAPPY in the 13th. If you’ve got the money to add these horses into the Rainbow 6, feel free. I wanted to keep the cost of that ticket down to a reasonable level, though, and this was the compromise I came up with.

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