It's a weekday in the middle of winter, and, like many in the Northeast, we have, on days like these, looked out the window and thought of warmer climes. We cannot physically go somewhere warmer today, but we can scratch this itch via simulcasting: we will play a couple of races from the Sun Belt, from Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, and Turf Paradise in Phoenix. There may not be palm trees outside our back door, but we can look at railbirds in shorts on our television and imagine that there are. We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere. Let's go.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 2, 12:54 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3-year-olds
This turf route for 3-year-olds drew a field of only six, but we like it as a betting race. We like it because of the expected pace: we expect the pace to be hot, with three speed horses, 2-Bye Bye Melvin, 3-Me and Mr. C, and 6-Much More than This, all vying for the early lead. A speed duel usually cooks the front-runners, but we think the pace meltdown in this one will be even more dramatic, as these horses all just turned 3, are all very young and still developing. Even on the Tampa Bay turf course, which has been kind to speed in recent days, we cannot see the pace setters being able to finish strongly.
That will set the race up for our pick, 1-Matty's Express. He broke his maiden last month, at this track and at this distance, and he did so by rallying from the back of the pack. We think the race shape will favor this running style, and we see him making a big move down the stretch. We will bet him to win at 10-1. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 2, $30 to win on 1-Matty's Express.
Gulfstream Park, Race 2, 1:35 pm ET
Starter Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Only five horses go in this one, and while we normally skip races with short fields, we can't pass this one up, as we like a shipper who may get overlooked in the betting. It's 3-Suz, who has been racing in Illinois, at Hawthorne and Fairmount Park, for the past year, and who has been sizzling from the gate in doing so: he has had the lead at the first call in 10 of his 11 last starts. We expect the same thing today: we'd bet our lungs that this 5-year-old goes right to the front.
The 9/5 favorite in the race is 2-Same Kinda Crazy, and while her speed figures are a bit better than those earned by Suz, she has a late-running style that is going to be an enormous liability in a race at this distance, and especially in a field this small: it's enormously difficult to chase down lone speed under any circumstances, but it's doubly so in a short field. Because Same Kinda Crazy is is a known commodity, having run in South Florida since June, whereas Suz is a bit of an unknown, coming from the hinterlands of Illinois, we think that the bettors will favor the former, and underbet the latter. But we see Suz going right to the front and never looking back. We will take 4-1 at the proposition, and we will do so enthusiastically: we will bet Suz to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 2, $40 to win on 3-Suz.
Turf Paradise, Race 2, 3:12 pm ET
$3,500 Claiming, 4 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Seven females go in this dirt sprint in the Arizona desert. The tepid 2-1 morning line choice is 2-Calm Down Lady, a 4-year-old filly who starts for trainer Jonathan Nance. She's a speed horse, and her race record is pretty clear: when she gets a comfortable early lead, she wins; when she has to fight for the lead, she fades badly and loses.
She is going to get the lead today, and we think she is going to do so rather easily. She has an enormous edge in early pace figures, and we think that she will make the front without having to try hard at all. From there, the rest of the field will not be able to catch her, especially in a race this short. We see a comfortable victory for Calm Down Lady, and we will bet her to win. The bet: Turf Paradise, Race 2, $40 to win on 2-Calm Down Lady.
Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:41 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Gulfstream kicks off another week with a good card, and this is the race in the lineup that we like the most: it's a starter allowance for older female turf runners, and it drew a field of eight.
We like the favorite, 2-Codrington. This 5-year-old mare is has only two wins in 23 career starts, which is not good, but her recent form is pretty clearly superior to the rest of the field. She's coming off a claim, and makes her first start for trainer Elizabeth Dobles, who has a very, very high 36% win rate with horses making their first start in her barn. We like that, but we like even more the fact that Dobles has placed her aggressively: she could have entered Codrington in another claiming race, but she opted for this starter allowance, where she cannot be claimed away from her, instead. That is to us a sign of positive trainer intent. We'll take 5/2, and we will bet Codrington to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 2-Codrington.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.