First post time is 2:46 pm EDT.
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Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs have races scheduled today. We will play a few races at each, if only because we do not know how much longer each will be running: Both are under pressure to cease racing, especially Gulfstream, which is located in Broward County, a coronavirus hot zone.
Weather on both Florida coasts today looks ideal. We have handicapped the races for fast dirt and firm turf. Let’s go.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 5, 2:46 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
This allowance/optional claiming dirt sprint for older horses drew a field of eight. 4-Town Classic is a strong play: the pace in this race looks fast to us, and Town Classic is a stalker/stretch runner with very, very solid recent form. He just missed at this level on March 9, getting the lead at the top of the stretch, getting caught, and finishing second, a half-length behind the winner, but we think he will not miss today. Look for Town Classic to be midpack early, and to cruise past the pacesetters at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win, and we will bet him (see below) with 2-North Dakota in the Race 5 Double. The bets: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 5, $20 to win on 4-Town Classic; $50 double, 4 (Town Classic) with 2 (North Dakota).
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, 3:18 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up
Eleven maidens will go eight and a half furlongs on the Tampa Bay turf course. There’s one who sticks out: it’s 2-North Dakota, who’s a 4-year-old trained by Shug McGaughey. He has a name that any Carson Wentz fan will love, but more important than that is that his record is far, far superior to any runner in the field. Any of his last three or four races would probably win this, but we particularly like his last race, when he finished fifth in a very tough maiden race at Gulfstream Park. The winner of that race, Golden Tapit, came back to win his next start, an allowance race, on Saturday, so North Dakota is coming out of a key race, and should be able to handle this modest field very comfortably.
North Dakota is 8/5 on the morning line, and will likely be shorter at post time. We see a little bit of value on him in the win pool, but we see much more value combining him with Town Classic in the Daily Double comprising Races 5 and 6. We will bet him to win here. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, $40 to win on 2-North Dakota.
Gulfstream Park, Race 6, 3:34 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This dirt sprint for older females drew a field of seven. At first, we found this race pretty easy to handicap: 9/5 morning line favorite 5-Liza Star drops in here after running in four consecutive stakes races, and seems to outclass the field. But a closer dig into the past performances shows that there is a lot of speed in here, and Liza Star is a speedy 6-year-old mare who is not going to get the early lead -- there are a couple of runners in here with more early zip -- and may get caught going too fast early.
We are betting on a pace meltdown, and we think that there is an entrant who will be ideally situated to take advantage of it: it’s 1-Misschief Maas, a stretch-runner who is also coming out of a stakes race. Her last couple of races were not that great, but we think she can rebound here, as the pace scenario we are expecting will flatter her running style. At 8-1, she is worth a play; we will bet her to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 6, $25 to win on 1-Misschief Maas.
Gulfstream, Race 8, 4:36 pm
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
This non-winners-of-three allowance drew a field of seven. These kinds of races typically draw very tough fields, very good horses, and while this is a pretty salty group, the field lacks the kind of early speed one would expect to see at this level. There’s so little speed, in fact, that we think a horse who last started at Thistledown in Ohio is going to take this: it’s 1-The Tabulator, a 5-year-old trained by Larry Rivelli, who has abundant early speed, and figures to use it: we think he pops out of the gate on the rail, goes right to front, and doesn’t look back. Other horses have a bit better overall credentials, which is why The Tabulator is 4-1, but speed is always dangerous, and The Tabulator’s speed gives him the edge here, we think. We will bet him to win. Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $30 to win on 1-The Tabulator.
Gulfstream, Race 9, 5:07 pm
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
We go from sprinting on the dirt to a marathon on the turf: ten older horses will go twelve furlongs on the Gulfstream Park sod. We’re going with a pace play here: the Gulfstream turf course has been speed-favoring all meeting, and we think that 6-Vegas Kitten will be able to take advantage of that tendency. We think he will get away with a walking lead here, setting very, very slow fractions for the first mile or so, and after that, he will be very, very tough to catch. Vegas Kitten has shown in the past that he can win this way: he won his last start, in fact, going wire-to-wire on the Gulfstream Park turf; that race was at a mile and a sixteenth, but we think he can carry his speed the additional distance today. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 6-Vegas Kitten.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the racing, stay safe, and good luck at the windows.