The best weather in the country today, at least as it concerns the world of horse racing, will be in Florida. This seems fitting, as this is the week that pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Watching morning workouts at a spring training camp, and then going to the local racetrack to play the afternoon card, is a terrific way to spend a late winter Florida day; we cannot actually do that today, being stuck in the rainy and cold Northeast, but we will, through the magic of simulcasting, pretend we can, by playing a few races at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. We have a nice mix of races from both the East and West Coasts of Florida, on both dirt and turf. We expect fast firm conditions at both tracks, so let's go.
Gulfstream Park, Race 1, 1:00 pm ET
$16,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Gulfstream Park, Race 2, 1:30 pm ET
$12,500 Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
We've placed these races together for a reason, which we will explain below, but we're going to handicap them in reverse: we'll look at Race 2 first. It's a lower level claiming dirt sprint for 3-year-old fillies. 7-Miz Chaplain is the pick: she broke her maiden quite smartly last out, in a 5 1/2 furlong maiden claimer at Gulfstream Park West. She was claimed out of that race, but we view that as a positive: she makes her first start for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr., who has an outstanding 41% win rate with horses making their first start off the claim. Miz Chaplain has speed, but won her maiden race by sitting just off the pace; this was a new dimension for her, and something we like, as we think a stalking trip is the way to go for her today.
In the first race, we will be brutally honest: we have absolutely no clue who will win. It is a lower-level maiden claimer for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf, and it's as wide open a race as we have seen in some time. There are twelve fillies entered, plus a few also-eligibles, so a full field is a virtual certainty. A win by any of them would not be a shock. Picking any one of them would be throwing a dart at the program, as it were: these races are notoriously hard to handicap, and we are not even going to try to pick a winner. This gives us two opinions, one in each race: the first is wide open, and we like a runner in the second. We are going to leverage these opinions via the early Double: we will take our pick in the second race, play her with all in the first race, and hope for chaos, for a winner at a giant price, in Race 1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 1, $2 double, ALL with 7 (Miz Chaplain). This is 12 combinations, at $2 each, for a total wager of $24.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 3, 1:45 pm $32,000 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds
This is another maiden claiming race on the turf, but it's one we think we can decipher: we like 8-Bronx Rumble, who starts for Michael Stidham. Bronx Rumble has one career start under his belt, a decent second at the $16k maiden claiming level on January 15, and we like the fact that he was able to close well in that race. We also like that Stidham jumped him in class, from $16k to $32k, off that effort. Another good sign is that Stidham has a very good 24% win rate with horses making the second start of their career. We like Bronx Rumble to win: he's 5-1 on the morning line, and will almost certainly be a lower price at post time, but we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 2, $30 to win on 8-Bronx Rumble.
Gulfstream Park, Race 5, 3:03 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This is another race with a big field, with 11 older females lined up to go a mile on the grass. The wonderfully named 1-Tootsie is a strong play here: she has good cruising speed and a strong late kick, and that style will be just the ticket in a race that looks on paper to have enough early speed to favor a stretch-runner. Just as important is the post: Tootsie breaks from the rail, which should get her a good trip; saving ground in turf races is always important, but it is especially so in one-mile races at Gulfstream Park, where the start is very close to the first turn, and horses in outside post positions usually get hung wide. We think she'll get a good stalking trip along the rail, and hit the wire first after a strong late run. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 5, $30 to win on 1-Tootsie.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, 3:15 pm
$5,000 Claiming, 5 1/2 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, 3:45 pm Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up
This is another pair of races we are going to play together. In race 6, a sprint for older females at 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt, 6-Richie's Sister is a strong play at 9/5. She has been running on turf of late, but she has won on dirt before, and seems to outclass the field. She also makes her first start for high-percentage trainer Jose Delgado, who has a stratospheric 38% win rate with horses switching from turf to dirt. At 9/5, she is a strong play.
In race 7, an allowance/optional claiming turf sprint for older horses, we like 9-Midnight Blue Note, who has been running competitively against tougher horses, but here drops in for a $16,000 tag. He has a come-from-behind style, and that is a tough way to win races this short, because the pace really has to be fast to make up ground in the stretch of a 5 furlong race. But we think that he's going to get the pace he wants today, as the race is loaded with early speed, and we think that because he's competing at a lower level than he has been, he should be closer to the pace than he has been in his last few races. At 3-1, we like his prospects.
Rather than betting these two to win individually, we will bet them in the Double that comprises Races 6 and 7. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, $40 double, 6 (Richie's Sister) with 9 (Midnight Blue Note).
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.