Gulfstream Park’s Saturday card is a really fun one to handicap. In addition to the Grade 2 Holy Bull (which awards 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner), there are also four other graded events on the docket, and the 12-race card contains three different Pick Four sequences. I’ve got three tickets I’ll dive into, and my best bet of the day ends one sequence and starts another. Let’s get to it!
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2
72 Bets, $36
There’s a Pick Five sequence that starts in the opener, but I want absolutely no part of it. From a handicapping perspective, the second race is a mess, and the first one’s not much clearer.
I’m buying the aforementioned second race, a starter/optional claiming event with many horses that seem to take turns beating one another and a few horses dropping in class. It’s tough to get excited about any of the eight runners in this race, and I’m hitting the “ALL” button, hoping a price kicks this off.
The third is a maiden claiming event going 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass. #12 CABIN JOHN is the 9/5 favorite on the morning line, but the post is dreadful given the short run to the first turn. I’m using him defensively, and my top pick is actually #4 GOING TO THE BEACH, who had a wide trip last time out and should sit a better trip in this spot. I’ll also take a swing and use #1 CREST OF EDEN, a horse bred to love the turf and one that should be forwardly-placed early on.
The fourth is the first graded stakes race of the day. It’s the Grade 3 Swale, and while it only drew a six-horse field, some promising horses showed up. #2 TRICKS TO DOO and #6 STRIKE POWER both come in off of impressive victories, and I’m using both, but don’t sleep on #5 PIVEN, especially given the likely race shape. Unlike many of these runners, Piven has shown an ability to rate, and that could be extremely useful given the seven-furlong distance.
I can afford to spread early, because my best bet of the day runs in the fifth. That’s #6 LITTLE BALTAR, who ran a gigantic race in defeat last time out. He broke from the far outside post in a field of 11, and because of that, he lost ground and had to make a premature move. He was beaten a half-length that day, but here, he gets a favorable draw and should be rolling late over his favorite turf course beneath regular rider Nik Juarez.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5
80 Bets, $40
The way I’m constructing these tickets, if Little Baltar wins, I could have a big day. He’s a single on this Pick Four ticket as well, and that’s good because the other three races are far from easy.
The sixth is the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant. Trainer Chad Brown has two in here, and if he wins, it’ll be his seventh consecutive score in this race. I’m using both #4 DATA DEPENDENT and #5 SALSA BELLA, and I’ll throw in the 1-3 finishers from last month’s Ginger Brew as well. #1 THEWAYIAM was the winner that day, but #2 ANDINA DEL SUR raced incredibly wide in what was just her second career start, and she’s certainly eligible to improve off of that effort.
We’ll stay on the turf for the seventh, a tricky maiden event. Many of these horses are debuting in this spot, and my top pick is actually a first-time starter. That’s #3 MARCH TO THE ARCH, who’s bred to be a good one. His dam was a Group 2 winner on turf, and his second dam is a full sister to Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. If he runs to his pedigree, 8-1 is a big overlay, but given all the unknowns in play, I felt a need to spread.
As if that race wasn’t tough enough, the eighth is another maiden race with many firsters. Nine of the 11 entrants are debuting in this spot, which makes for a very tough payoff leg to this sequence. #3 WISELY narrowly gets my top selection. He’s been working very well, and recently drilled with Cache, who was an impressive maiden winner recently. If his morning form comes with him, Wisely could very well be a horse to watch. If not, well, thankfully I’ve got the room to spread a bit.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9
R9: 1,2,6,9 (13)
64 Bets, $32
This sequence has a guaranteed pool of $500,000, and chances are they’ll soar past it. I like this sequence a fair bit, as the field sizes are large and we could see a nice payoff even if four logical horses win.
The ninth is an optional claiming event, and my top pick is a price. That’s 8-1 shot #6 J. S. CHOICE, who I’ve been chasing for a while. He faltered badly last time out, and it’s safe to assume something went wrong because we haven’t seen him in five months. He’s been working well of late, and a repeat of either of his races two or three back against strong, stakes-quality horses would be good enough to put him right there at a nice number. One note: If #13 CONQUEST SANDMAN draws in off the AE list, I’d recommend using him, as his best race is good enough to get him home.
The first of three straight graded stakes races that end the card is the Grade 3 Forward Gal, and I’m against a favorite. #7 MISS MO MENTUM’s three wins came on turf, in an off-the-turf event, and over a very sloppy track. 9/5 seems like way too short a price, and I’ll try to beat her. #3 HEAVENHASMYNIKKI has long been highly thought of by her connections and has run like it, while #4 TAKE CHARGE PAULA won three stakes races last year and #6 VIOLENT TIMES and #8 MY MISS LILLY were both impressive debut winners.
The third leg is the Grade 3 Dania Beach, and #6 UNTAMED DOMAIN figures to be one of the shortest-priced favorites on the card. He was beaten just a length in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, which has proven to be a very live race. He’ll be a popular single, but I also have to use likely second choice #7 GIDU, who ran into a nice horse in his debut and came back to smash maidens at second asking in a very fast time. In case Untamed Domain isn’t fully-cranked (which is possible since the connections have mentioned Derby preps could be in his future), I want some security.
We’ll finish off the card with the Grade 2 Holy Bull. It’s unfortunate that #11 MISSISSIPPI will likely scratch, as I thought he was the best horse in the race (and one that would’ve provided a bit of value to boot). With him out, I can’t get too creative, as I think #1 ENTICED will be tough to beat. Everything about him says he’ll get better as he gets older, and he draws very favorably compared to other horses with some speed. I’ll also use #7 TIZ MISCHIEF, who was second to Enticed last time out and has been working well since arriving in Florida.