Horse Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.
Horse Racing at Tampa Bay Downs.|Tampa Bay Downs

On Friday, never hesitate: Garrity picks the horses at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs

The weather should be good on both the East and West Coast of Florida, and we’re expecting fast dirt and firm turf. First post is 1:35 pm EDT.

Chris Garrity

It’s an all-Florida lineup today, as the only two Thoroughbred ovals in action are Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. After a dreadful day at Gulfstream yesterday, we’re back in the saddle today, with a six pack of Friday plays, three from each track. The weather should be good on both the East and West Coast of Florida, and we’re expecting fast dirt and firm turf. Let’s go.

Gulfstream Park, Race 2, 1:35 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 4 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

Because of the short distance to the turn, these baby races at Gulfstream Park are limited to eight entrants, and they usually draw full fields, as this one has. Wesley Ward, the swami of the Florida 2-year-olds, saddles two of them, including favored 5-Breakthrough. Ward really is a wizard with these juveniles, but he’s been cold of late, with just one winner from eleven starters at the current Gulfstream meeting, including the beaten favorite in yesterday’s baby race. While Ward will absolutely heat up at some point, we are going to play against his horses until that happens -- especially in this race, where Breakthrough’s post-time odds will probably be even lower than his 6/5 morning line price.

We are going for a big price here, and it’s with 3-Gabriella Sunshine. He’s got good win-early breeding, but more importantly, he’s worked over this Gulfstream racing surface, and he’s worked very well, especially his April 26 drill, when he went three furlongs in 36 ⅖ seconds. This is very fast, especially for a 2-year-old, and that kind of speed, plus his inside draw, makes him a big threat here. We’ll think 15-1 is a very fair price on Gabriella Sunshine; we will bet him to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 2, $25 to win on 3-Gabriella Sunshine.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, 3:29 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile 40 yards, Dirt, 3 & Up

A field of eight lines up for this second-level allowance. A couple of them are speedballs who have been running in sprints, and we think their presence is going to result in a fast early pace and set the table for a horse coming from behind.

That makes the pick 7-I’m a G Six. He’s run two good races in a row since he was claimed by high-percentage trainer Darien Rodriguez, and we think he’ll make it three in a row today. He should get an ideal trip just behind the pacesetters, and pounce when they begin to shorten stride at the top of the stretch. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, $35 to win on 7-I’m a G Six.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, 4:33 pm ET

$5,000 Claiming, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

Twelve hard-knocking older claimers will line up to go seven furlongs here. 10-English Laughter is the pick: he won at the level and this distance two back, then jumped up in class, and moved from dirt to turf, to finish far back against $10,000 claimers. We think this is where he fits, back on dirt, and against $5k company. Look for him to stalk the leaders, and to make a move for the lead around the far turn. We will not say that English Laughter will win in a laugher, but do think he will win, and we will bet him at 3-1. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $30 to win on 10-English Laughter.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:48 pm ET

Starter Optional Claiming, 7 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

This is an interesting race to handicap, both for the oddball 7 ½ furlong distance, and because of the conditions: it’s for horses who have either started for a $50,000 claiming price, or who are in for a $50k tag in this race. We like a Todd Pletcher trainee, 5-Rhythm Section. He’s lightly raced, with only two career starts, and both of them were good: he finished second in his career debut, and then won last out with a strong stretch rally. He’s owned by the powerful Coolmore stable, and he’s by American Pharoah -- in fact, the two main questions we have about this colt are why he ran for a $50,000 tag in his first race, and why nobody claimed him. That’s water under the bridge now, but we think that he will take this race with another strong late move. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Rhythm Section.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, 5:04 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 3 & Up

Nine maidens line up for this nine-furlong grass race. The favorite, 7-Idle Time, is a strong play. He makes his second career start for trainer Christophe Clement, and the only thing Idle Time did wrong in the first was run into a buzz saw: he finished second to a horse named North Dakota, who has since come back to beat winners in an allowance race that came up very fast. There isn’t another North Dakota in this field, so we expect Idle Time to get his picture taken here. A repeat of his last would probably be good enough to win this race, but we actually think Idle Time will improve, which means the rest of the field is strictly running for second money. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, $50 to win on 7-Idle Time.

Gulfstream Park, Race 10, 5:49 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 5 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

This second-level allowance turf sprint drew a field of eleven. There were two of these yesterday, and they were both won by horses coming from just off the pace, and since the configuration of the Gulfstream turf course will be identical this afternoon to yesterday, we are looking for the same kind of running profile here, a horse that can stay reasonably close to the early pace, and from there launch a strong finishing rally.

5-Lady Grace fits this profile to a tee: she’s won three of her last four with exactly this style -- and her only loss was a good third in a stakes race at Woodbine. She’s run twice in 2020, and both were wins, so her current form is excellent. We think we will see her in stakes races this summer, and we think she will get there by taking today’s 10th at Gulfstream Park. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 5-Lady Grace.

That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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