We're headed south today: there are playable cards at Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Sam Houston Race Park. The weather in Florida will be ideal; in Texas, the forecast is iffy, but we've hoping the rain there holds off, as we've handicapped all races for fast dirt and firm turf. We have five races in just under two hours, four of them on grass, so if nothing else, it will be a run way to blow an afternoon. Let's go. .
Gulfstream Park, Race 4, 2:31 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Dirt, Florida-bred 3-year-old Fillies
Seven lightly-raced state-bred sophomore fillies go in this one-turn mile on the Gulfstream Park main track. We think 2-1 morning line favorite 5-Shazzy B is a strong play here: she has run twice, finishing second both times, but those races were at 6 furlongs, and we think she will like stretching out to a mile. She also has a tactical advantage in this race, as she has by far the most early speed in the race, so she may just find herself in the best possible position, which is loose on a very easy lead. We think the third time is the charm for her, that she breaks her maiden today by taking the prize here. We will bet her to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 4, $35 to win on 5-Shazzy B.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, 3:15 pm ET
$16,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up
This claiming race drew a deep and evenly matched field of ten. It's a good betting race. We like 5-Travel Agent, a stretch runner who needs a hot pace to set up his late charge. We think he'll get that in this race, as there are quite a few runners who like to go fast early. We see a good mid-pack trip from this guy, and a winning move at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, $30 to win on 5-Travel Agent.
Gulfstream Park, Race 6, 3:34 pm ET
$40,000 Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 4 & Up
The turf course at Gulftream park has been extremely speed-favoring -- over the weekend, it was playing like a conveyor belt, with the horse on the lead winning almost automatically -- and we are expecting that trend to continue today. That makes 2-New York Style a strong pick here: the 4-year-old Jorge Navarro trainee has a mammoth edge in early pace figures, so big that we'd bet our left leg that he will have the early lead, and he will probably get it without having to run all that hard. He's a talented colt, and when you get a good horse who will be favored by a track bias, there's only one thing to do: go to the windows. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 2-New York Style.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, 4:15 pm ET
$16,000 Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A full field of ten will go to the starting gate in this turf claimer. We like a mare on the inside, 2-Itsagimme's Girl. She spent last summer in the pleasant environs of Delaware Park, and returned from a six-month layoff to finish second in a very similar spot on February 8. Running the second time off the layoff, she should improve today. She just missed last time, losing by just a neck; she will not miss today. We will bet her to win. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Itsagimme's Girl.
Sam Houston Race Park, Race 7, 4:24 pm ET
Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This first-level allowance race for older females drew a field of seven, and it has the strongest favorite of any of the races we're playing: 5-Amandrea is even money on the morning line, and may be even shorter at post time. We don't like betting odds-on horses to win, but we picked this race because we think we can beat the chalk: we think Amandrea is a very vulnerable favorite.
We like 4-Leather and Lace, who runs for trainer Ronnie Cravens and who will be ridden by Ernesto Valdez-Jimenez. She is in razor-sharp form, having won three in a row since Cravens claimed her for $7,500 in November. We see her stalking the pace, which should be set by Amandrea, and getting to the winner's circle with a move at the top of the stretch. She's 4-1 on the morning line, and may be higher at post; we think she offers real value, and will therefore bet her to win. The bet: Sam Houston, Race 7, $40 to win on 4-Leather and Lace.
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.