One of the many positives of the new scheduling on Attheraces Stateside is some quality tracks are back on our screens. None more so than Gulfstream Park. Its prestigious Winter/Spring Meet starts on Saturday. As well as some of the best Kentucky Derby prep races, there is also some cracking action from two year olds and up to older horses on turf and dirt. On Opening Day, there are nine Starter Stakes on Claiming Crown Day. These are events with inflated purses for horses that have ran in claimers during 2015 and 2016. Some have improved massively for a trainer change. Others have just improved from humble beginnings. In some cases, connections played claiming poker and won. The flip side is some of them were caught stealing.
I have made selections (and shown my working out or at least a playable angle) in the nine Claiming Crown races. As this is Day One of this meet, it worth keeping an eye on what part of the racetrack the principals coming from and if speed is holding or otherwise. I am nailing my colours to the mast of trainer Jorge Navarro in a few of the early races. He is a trainer that can perform equine miracles. If he stinks, so will I.
As well as the action from Gulfstream, there are a trio of stakes previewed from Aqueduct and Tampa Bay Downs. The event in New York is a Grade 3 or fillies and mares. Top weight Bar Of Gold will be the deserving short priced favourite.
PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs
Saturday 3 December 2016
Gulfstream Park Race 3 (6.00pm)
The Claiming Crown Distaff - A starter stakes for fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 5 Furlongs - Turf
A few of these are likely to be knocking heads on the front end. That means the late running Forest Funds (3) should get plenty of speed to chase down. She followed up a stakes victory at Suffolk Downs with a near miss in another at Monmouth. The late runner has a fine local record and lack of a recent race is not a problem to her or her trainer.
Spectacular Me (6) was well held by Forest Funds at Suffolk. She ran better before and after that. Belladini (11) edged out the speedy Summer Rae (9) last time. The latter will have to deal with Eila (1) amongst others early on.
Forest Funds (3)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Forest Funds (3) and Spectacular Me (6)
Gulfstream Park Race 4 (6.30pm)
The Claiming Crown Rapid Transit - A starter stakes for 3 year olds and upwards - 7 Furlongs Dirt
There are plenty of front end types in this event but Shaft Of Light (4) looks like the speed of the speed. He's won four times this year, all in wire to wire fashion. Based on the early fractions he and the rest can run, he should get clear and his rider get him relaxed on the lead. He has rebound after a modest effort in September but a quartet of super workouts suggest he will do.
If Shaft Of Light is used up early on, those that are ridden cold may be the ones to benefit. Sharp Art (8) and It Behooves Me (9) have both returned to form since a trainer change. The last named had Fire Mission (6) over a length back in third last time.
Shaft Of Light (4)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Shaft Of Light (4) and Fire Mission (6)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Shaft Of Light (4) and Sharp Art (8)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Shaft Of Light (4) and It Behooves Me (9)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Fire Mission (6), Sharp Art (8) and It Behooves Me (9)
Gulfstream Park Race 5 (7.00pm)
The Claiming Crown Glass Slipper - A starter stakes for fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 Mile - Dirt
Moonshine Promise (11) won this race last year. She hasn't run to that level at Thistledown and Mountaineer this term. Maybe coming back to Gulfstream will wake her up. Littlemissperfect (1) and A Place To Shine (12) have some of the best form. The worry with particularly the former is they may be parked behind slow fractions here. Too Clever By Half (14) has speed. If her barn mates have performed well in the earlier stakes, she may be worth siding with.
In an open event, Concealedwithakiss (8) gets the vote. She has to rebound after being thrashed by a trio of these last month. That race came three weeks and too soon after she beat the same gals on her comeback. She will be on or near the lead. If the pace is modest, advantage her.
The hat-trick seeking Sweet Madea (9) can sit a lot closer than she did last time.
Gulfstream Park Race 6 (7.30pm)
The Claiming Crown Express - A starter stakes for 3 year olds and upwards - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
There are two ways to go here. Either thinking Defer Heaven (8) is quicker than the other speedsters or there will be a pace meltdown and the late runners are the ones to concentrate on. Defer Heaven has to rebound from a poor effort at Parx in September. He did earlier in the year winning an allowance event at Monmouth eight weeks after a poor run here. That was his only defeat in six starts at Gulfstream. He also draws outside most of the other speed.
Alfredo Romana (3) can front-run but has a stalking gear him. The contenders in The Late, Late Show are Express Jet (6), Mitos Y Leyendas (5) and Proper Freud (9). The last named will may close from a long way back. They may be worth a saver exacta combo.
Defer Heaven (8)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Express Jet (6), Mitos Y Leyendas (5) and Proper Freud (9)
Gulfstream Park Race 7 (8.01pm)
The Claiming Crown Iron Horse - A starter stakes for 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
With better draws Goodtimehadbyall (14) and Racetrack Romance (12) would top of the shortlist. The worry is the first turn comes soon after the start of this event and they may get hung wide. Chepstow (1) has the rail, early speed and is in fine form. He may be hard to reel in. Cheech Thunder (2) has outfinished him before. He may be a late threat along with No Brakes (8) and Papa Pig (9).
Francois (5) will be a price after running a bit below his best in two starts at Hawthorne. He was hung wide in both when in pretty deep. The 'in' with him is he ran a career best in one of only two starts at Gulfstream. That was when second in this race in 2014.
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Chepstow (1), Cheech Thunder (2) and Francois (5)
Tampa Bay Downs Race 7 (8.19pm)
The Inaugural - A stake for 2 year olds - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
There must have been a chance this race wouldn't get enough entries. That's why Jason DaCosta entered longshot Downtownbigbrown (6) to make the race go for barn mate Obvious One (5). He's unbeaten in two career races. They came by wide margins at Thistledown. As things stand, he has the best form by some way.
Barn mates Chance Of Luck (7) and Triumphant Joy (3) both won their only starts at Laurel and Delaware respectively. The former ran the better speed figure. As he was a 20/1 longshot, it may be safe to assume he will improve off that.
Stapleton (2) has been gelded after showing up early in a decent maiden at Churchill. Double Down Drama (8) makes his career debut here. His trainer had an impressive winning first time starter at this meet last Wednesday.
Obvious One (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Stapleton (2) and Obvious One (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Triumphant Joy (3) and Obvious One (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Obvious One (5) and Chance Of Luck (7)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Obvious One (5) and Double Down Drama (8)
Gulfstream Park Race 8 (8.32pm)
The Claiming Crown Canterbury - A starter stakes for 3 year olds and upwards - 5 Furlongs - Turf
Fast Flying Rumor (4) really improved at Tampa last winter and spring. He won a stake and was second in another. He went off form after running big at Parx in June. Two super workouts since returning to Florida are a hint he's back on his game.
The hat-trick seeking American Sailor (3) has won a stake before. The worry with him is all his victories have come when on the lead and he'll have to work hard to make the front here. Partly Mocha (7) is likely to figure if there is a pace meltdown.
Super Spender (10) had Doctor J Dub (11) back in third when running a career best at the start of the month. Divine Warrior (12) ran well in a deep event on the dirt at Churchill last time. The one time he tried sprinting on the turf, he was only beaten four lengths in a $300,000 stake at Kentucky Downs.
Fast Flying Rumor (4)
Aqueduct Race 8 (8.43pm)
The Go for Wand Handicap (Grade 3) - Fillies and Mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 Mile - Dirt
Bar Of Gold (3) ran freakishly well when slamming New York breds in a stake at Belmont in October. It came on a sloppy track. That makes her perfect in five starts on off going. She is winless in nine tries on dry tracks but that includes a pair of graded stakes places. On the balance of her form, Wonder Gal (4) can beat her if she brings her A game. She was in too deep in The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last time. She's likely to be a price after now two below par efforts since a wide margin comeback victory.
The rest of this field get a quite a few pounds off Bar Of Gold. That includes High Ridge Road (7). She went to the sidelines after running fourth in a stake at Monmouth in July. Linda Rice starts her off over a one turn mile, which saw her career best effort.
Wonder Gal (4)
Gulfstream Park Race 9 (9.03pm)
The Claiming Crown Tiara - A starter stakes for fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
Pace makes race and there's plenty of it in here. Kasuga (2) will likely be joined by Royal Jewely (4), Daddy's Boo (12) and Stormin Charlotte (14) in an overcrowded front end. Marabea (7) and Seeking Treasure (13) are a pair who could benefit. They ran one-two at Laurel at the start of the month. The winner was winning first time for new connections. The runner up who has arguably the better form was closer to the pace that fell apart late.
The three year old Temple Fur (8) won a stake in July and ran third in another on her return last month. Be Playful (10) also made an encouraging comeback and now runs for a sharp barn via a claim.
The deep closing Northern Smile (11) may get an ideal set up.
Combination Exacta (20 bets): Marabea (7), Temple Fur (8), Be Playful (10), Northern Smile (11) and Seeking Treasure (13)
Tampa Bay Downs Race 9 (9.20pm)
The Sandpiper - A stake for 2 year old fillies - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
R Angel Katelyn (6) won on her debut at Delaware and then ran second to La Key (10) at the same venue. That was on a track labeled as 'good'. She ran much better on a fast track next time taking a stake for Florida breds downstate. The margin of victory was half a length with Rashette (5) an improved run but well held third. She and Defining Hope (3) have to give between 4 and 6lbs all round. The latter is a two time stakes winner but against Indiana breds. She needs to improve a little.
Todd Pletcher's Jumby Bay (9) broke her maiden downstate in late October. That came in the slop by half a dozen lengths. She went close on her career debut at Saratoga the only time she raced on a fast dirt track. She looks a player here. The worry with her is she's likely to be more like 3/1 where she should be twice that price strictly on her form.
R Angel Katelyn (6)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): R Angel Katelyn (6) and Jumby Bay (9)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): R Angel Katelyn (6) and La Key (10)
Gulfstream Park Race 10 (9.34pm)
The Claiming Crown Jewel - A starter stakes for 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/8 Miles - Dirt
Royal Posse (3) won this race last year in the slop but has six career victories on fast tracks. He comes here after the same two stakes as 2015. The only difference is he won them both this time. The only slight knock is regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. is riding in a Grade 1 at Del Mar. Luis Saez is not a bad replacement.
Last time Grade 3 winner Bigger Picture (1) is a big danger if he can transfer his form to dirt. The surface is also a worry for the hat-trick seeking Diamond Bachelor (6). It's not for John Jones (7). He has won four straight races since claimed by his current trainer. He'll get first run on Royal Posse. He may not get the lead with the speedy Mr. Kisses (4) in this event.
Royal Posse (3)
Gulfstream Park Race 11 (10.05pm)
The Claiming Crown Emerald - A starter stakes for 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
This is a very tough finale. The dart has landed on Riviere Du Loup (8). He needs to rebound after a poor run in October. The good news for his backers is Jason Servis would have likely ran in a claimer and not shipped him here for this race if he wasn't confident about his chances. He won an allowance event at Monmouth in May. Prior to that, he ran third in a stake over this course and distance.
Class And Cash (11) narrowly beat Aire Bueno (14) with Bingo Bango Bongo (16) back in third last time. Cammack (13) didn't get a good ride when on seven timer at Keeneland last time. He now gets Julien Leparoux.
The much improved Music Critik (2) and late running Dream Man (7) have claims at prices.
Riviere Du Loup (8)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Music Critik (2), Riviere Du Loup (8) and Cammack (13)