Gulfstream / Tampa Bay / Santa Anita
There's a decent slate of stakes races today, with one graded stakes race at Gulfstream Park, three at Santa Anita Park, and three at Tampa Bay Downs, which also throws in an overnight stakes as well. We will look at them all.
The Suwannee River Stakes (post time: 2:27 pm Eastern) is a Grade 3 race featuring older fillies and mares going a mile and an eighth on turf. It drew a field of eight, and it is a race to watch, not to bet: #5 Rymska, a French-bred filly out of the Chad Brown barn, lays over this field, but will be an miserly price: she's 3/5 on the morning line, and figures to go off even shorter. We cannot make a case for any of the other runners, so we will pass on the race.
TAMPA BAY DOWNS
The four stakes at Tampa Bay Downs are run consecutively, as races 8, 9, 10, and 11. They are, in order, the Grade 3 Tampa Bay (older horses going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf), The overnight Suncoast Stakes (three-year-old fillies going a mile and 40 yards on dirt), the Grade 3 Endeavor (older females at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf), and the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis, which is for three-year-old males, and which is the day's only race awarding Kentucky Derby starting points. Post time for the 8th is 3:50 Eastern, and they go every half hour thereafter.
The Tampa Bay came up with an incredibly good field for a Grade 3 in Tampa: this is more like the field for a Grade 2 race. One can make a case for most of these eight runners, with Inspector Lynley, Qurbaan, and 9/5 favorite Heart to Heart all having fine attributes, but we like #3 Divisidero: this seven-year-old horse out of the Kelly Rubley barn has run well in his last two, despite the fact that they were on softer surfaces than he likes. His last two firm-turf races were a good 5th in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, and a win in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in Chicago. Today will get the firm turf he wants, and we like him on top at 4-1.
Out of the nine lightly raced runners in the Suncoast, we like #9, Sweet Diane. Her speed figures fit, and her racing pattern suggests she will improve here. She's also got a style that should work: she's a stalker in a race filled with early speed. We'll take her to win at 3-1.
The Endeavor is an interesting race: Rymska was cross-entered here and in the Suwanee River at Gulfstream, but trainer Chad Brown said on Friday that she'd be running in Miami instead of Tampa. Rymksa's defection in the Endeavor leaves a field of 10, with #2 Get Explicit, probably looking the best, but her deep, deep closing style -- she comes from out of the clouds -- gives us pause, as these horses sometimes win, but more usually finish second or third. The rest of the field looks pretty evenly matched; one of them will probably win, but don't ask us who, because we don't have a clue.
In the Sam Davis, we do not like the favorite Knicks Go: we think his runner-up finish in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last fall was an aberration; it was a fluky result on a day filled with fluky results. We like #6 Kentucky Wildcat: his form pattern is excellent, with each race better than the last, and another improvement today puts him in the winner's circle. We will take 9/2 on him all day long.
We like and support tracks who stack stakes races the way Tampa Bay has today: putting them in succession, rather than sprinkling them intermittently through the card, gives the player more pariumutel options. This sequence is a good example: we have picks in three of these races, but are at sea in the other. But with multi-race exotics, we can try to leverage the opinions in the races we like.
We will do so here with a couple of Pick 3 tickets, one on races 8-9-10, and the other on races 9-10-11. The tickets are as follows:
Race 8: $1 Pick 3, #3 (Divisidero) with #9 (Sweet Diane) with ALL ($10 ticket)
Race 9: $1 Pick 3, #9 (Sweet Diane) with ALL with $6, Kentucky Wildcat ($10 ticket)
We will also bet $10 to win on each of our singles, Divisidero in Tampa Bay, Sweet Diane in the Suncoast, and Kentucky Wildcat in the Sam F. Davis.
Rain is in the forecast there, but it should not be enough to affect the track. We are handicapping the races expecting fast dirt and firm turf. The Las Virgenes goes as Race 5, the Thunder Road as Race 7, and the San Marcos as Race 9. Post times are 4:35, 5:39, and 6:42 Eastern.
The Las Virgenes is for three-year-old fillies at a mile on dirt; it has five runners and an overwhelming favorite: #3 Bellafina, is 2/5 on the morning line, and will be even shorter when the gates open, probably 1/5 or even 1/9. She figures to dominate the race at a miserly price. Watch the race -- she's very, very good -- but don't bet it.
The Thunder Road is older horses going a mile on turf. This is another Santa Anita stakes with a short field -- only six -- and as such, it is unappealing from a betting standpoint. River Boyne, Ohio, and Desert Stone are evenly matched; we'd give the nod to River Boyne, but we don't like the race enough to make a play in it.
The San Marcos is a mile and a quarter for older horses on turf. Unlike the Las Virgenes and the Thunder Road, it's a good betting race, with a deep and talented field of 13 runners before scratches. Several look like logical contenders, but we fancy a long shot: we like #6 Sejo, and we like him very much. He's making his first North American start after a handful of races in France last year, and he seems to want firmer ground: he won two starts in France on firm going, and finished far back when the grass was soft. Moreover, his running style -- he's got a good late kick -- fits in a race filled with early speed. Trained by the very competent John Sadler, Sejo is a go -- he'll get the firm turf he wants, and we get 12-1 odds. He will probably go off at a bit shorter price, but that won't stop us: we will bet $25 to win on Sejo.