Garrity's first post is 1:15 pm EDT at Gulfstream Park.
It’s Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park again today. Other tracks are announcing opening dates, with Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park to start racing again in about a week’s time, but until then, we’re left with the racing in Florida. There’s even a little stakes today at Gulfstream. We’ve picked the five races we like, and we’ll try to improve on our results in Florida the past two days, which were thoroughly underwhelming. We’re playing for fast dirt and firm turf on both Florida coasts, so let’s go.
Gulfstream Park Race 2, 1:15 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 4 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds
Morning line favorite 4-Breakthrough was cross-entered in this race and yesterday’s baby race at Gulfstream, and trainer Wesley Ward opted to scratch from yesterday’s race in favor of this one. We think that was a good decision, as we like Breakthrough to take this. He is the first offspring of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist to get to the races, and while we don’t yet know if Nyquist’s sons and daughters will be precocious, we know that Nyquist was, as he won his career debut in a five-furlong race in June of 2015. We’ll wager that Breakthrough follows in his daddy’s footsteps, and will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 2, $25 to win on 4-Breakthrough.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, 4:06 pm
Starter Allowance, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
Ten older horses line up for this 11 furlong turf marathon. Most of them -- seven of the ten -- have never run at this distance and our pick is the lone entrant who has previously won a race this long. That horse is 9-Fast Fire, and his win at 11 furlongs was very conveniently his last start, which proves not only that he can get the distance, but that he is also in good form. He also ran well last year in races as long as two miles, so this 7-year-old gelding can run all day. Look for him to be toward the rear early, to make up ground steadily down the backstretch, and to take the prize with a sustained drive down the lane. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Fast Fire.
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:59 pm ET
$75,000 Sunshine Forever Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 4 & Up
Twelve older horses were entered in the Sunshine Forever stakes, with the headliner 12-War of Will, whom casual fans may remember from last year’s Triple Crown: He was involved in the incident that resulted in the first disqualification in the history of the Kentucky Derby, and rebounded to win the Preakness two weeks later. He hasn’t won since that Preakness triumph, and is running on grass, which does not seem to be his preferred surface. It’s always good to see horses with name recognition come back to the track, but War of Will is probably in this race to get some conditioning under his belt, not to win, so we will be looking elsewhere for a winner.
We’re projecting a fast pace here, and a winner coming from off it, which makes the pick 11-Admissions Office. This Brian Lynch trainee has been running against much, much tougher, in graded stakes going back over a year, and we think he’s going to get an ideal setup today, with several speed types setting a quick early pace that should perfectly set up his late charge. He’s lost to Zulu Alpha, a world-class turf runner, in his last two starts; there’s no Zulu Alpha in this field, so Admissions Office is going to take the prize here. Look for him to sit toward the rear of the field early, and blow ‘em away late. We will bet him to win at 5/2, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 11-Admissions Office.
Gulfstream Park, Race 10, 5:30 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 4 & Up
This is another race with a big field, with twelve lining up to go a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf. This is another turf race where we’re expecting a winner coming from behind, and our pick is 11-Shootin the Breeze, who starts for trainer Graham Motion. This 4-year-old is not exactly a win machine, with one victory in eleven career starts, but he’s run in some pretty tough races, including his last, when he returned from a layoff to run fourth in a very tough Gulfstream allowance race on March 21. He probably needed that race, and we’re looking for him to take a step forward today. We think the pace will favor his closing running style, and at 8-1, he’s a square price. Look for him to sit midpack, and to get to the front at the top of the stretch: from there, it’s just a matter of whether he is good enough. We think he is, so we will bet him to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 10, $35 to win on 11-Shootin the Breeze.
Gulfstream Park, Race 11, 6:01 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Florida-breds 3 & Up
This dirt sprint drew a field of twelve, and as a group they are very, very strong, much better than we would normally expect in this kind of state-bred allowance race.
We don’t remember the last time we picked a horse who lost his last two starts by a combined 64 lengths, but that’s what we’re doing here: The choice is 3-Tap It To Win, a 3-year-old trained by Mark Casse. This colt started his career in very promising fashion: he won a tough maiden race at Saratoga in August -- juvenile maiden races are probably harder to win at Saratoga than anywhere else in the country -- and did so very impressively, earning an 86 Beyer Speed Figure, which is very good for a 2-year-old before Labor Day. His connections were so impressed with him that they ran him next in the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland in October, where he did a speed-and-fade, finishing last, 43 lengths behind the winner. They tried him next in a one-turn mile stakes at Churchill Downs a few weeks later, but the results were similar to the race at Keeneland: he pressed the pace, and faded badly, finishing last again, over 21 lengths behind the winner.
Tap It to Win returns today off a layoff, with his last race the one at Churchill, which was on October 27, and while we think the rest will have done him a lot of good, the main reason we like him today is that he’s returning to sprinting here. He has a very good pedigree to be a dirt sprinter, and we think that last year his bad results were dictated by distance: He faltered when the races became too long for his liking. This phenomenon is as old as horse racing: some precocious juveniles fall by the wayside as the distances of the major races increases.
With the cutback to a sprint, and the added physical maturity that horses get from the fall of their 2-year-old season to the spring of their 3-year-old season, we expect a big effort from Tap It to Win today, and his recent morning workouts, which have been somewhere between very good and sensational, hint that he’s sitting on a big one. Look for him to be forwardly placed, just off the early leaders, and to seize control of the race as the field turns for home. We will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 11, $50 to win on 3-Tap It to Win.
We’ll throw in two additional plays today: we like our picks in Races 9-10-11 at Gulfstream enough that we will play them in both the Pick 3 comprising the three races, but also in the late Pick 4, which covers races 9-12. Race 12 is absolutely wide open, so we’ll hit the “all” button. The two plays are as follows:
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $10 Pick 3, 11 (Admissions Office) with 11 (Shootin the Breeze) with 3 (Tap It to Win).
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 50-cent Pick 4, 11 (Admissions Office) with 11 (Shootin the Breeze) with 3 (Tap It to Win) with ALL.
The Pick 3 ticket will cost $10, and the Pick 4 ticket $6. If we get races 9, 10, and 11 exactly right, it will be a big afternoon, parimutuelly speaking.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.