TimeformUS Saturday Stakes Plays from Gulfstream and Fair Grounds

The G1 Florida Derby
Gulfstream, Race 14
By Alan Mann

In the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream (Race 14, Scheduled Post Time 6:48 PM ET), Cairo Prince (#3, 9-5) comes in off a layoff -- well, we don't consider 63 days to be a layoff in this day and age, so you won't see a layoff line in our PPs.  Suffice to say that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin gave him a break after he drew away to crush his opponents in the Holy Bull, his 4th race in the 111 days since his debut win at Belmont in October. Cairo Prince earned a TFUS speed figure of 107 for the Holy Bull, the best number that anybody in this field has ever run.  After three weeks off to frolic in the sun, he's worked out at the Palm Meadows training facility every Saturday.

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The risk with the strategy is that Cairo Prince, sitting just two points above what is currently the cutoff line to qualify for the Derby, needs to finish at least 4th, which would earn him ten points (the distribution is 100-40-20-10), and most likely assure him of a spot.   McLaughlin doesn't seem too worried though.

"We're in a good spot (in post No. 3) with speed on the inside and outside of us. We're happy. He's doing well." [Lexington Herald-Leader]

Now, we love our Pace Projector.  We think it's awesome.  We also think it's wrong as far as this race is concerned.

Pace Projector

Cairo Prince is projected to be the early leader.  As his trainer indicates, it seems far more likely that he will let the speed inside (Wildcat Red [#1, 3-1]) and outside (General a Rod [#6, 7-2]) do what they do best, and be perfectly content with a perfectly perfect trip tucked in behind them.  Cairo Prince, as per our style designation, is a tracker.

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He tracked the fast paces of the Nashua and the Holy Bull, running fast enough early to earn him the top early pace figure (and thus, front-running status in the Pace Projector) in the race.  But he also tracked the absurdly slow pace of the Remsen.  Some criticized jockey Luis Saez for his ride in the latter. But the horse was running according to his style.  There's little reason to expect anything different here unless extraordinary circumstances dictate.  On paper --and forgetting for now the possibility of a pervasive speed bias like the one we saw on Fountain of Youth day --this race sets up perfectly for him.

Downside for Cairo Prince?  Well, he did have a pretty perfect trip in the Holy Bull. And other than third-place finisher Intense Holiday, who went on to win the Risen Star, the horses who have run back have not particularly distinguished themselves.  Considering the way he powerfully strode away from them though, that seems a minor criticism.  He figures, with his tactical speed, to have a perfect trip again.  And the quality of these opponents remains to be seen.

General a Rod and Wildcat Red pulled an Alydar-Affirmed, hooking up for virtually the entire length of the Fountain of Youth.  They each earned TFUS speed figures of 103.  They have identical early pace figures of 100 (note that they are rated dead even in Pace Projector). We ourselves can only guess as to whether either of them will attempt to alter his strategy, so let's hear what the trainers have to say.  Trainer Jose Garoffalo, noting that Wildcat Red drew the rail, told Clocker Mike Welsch in the Form: “He’s going to be the speed of the race, so the post position is going to favor him.” While Michael Maker said of General a Rod:

“I’m very pleased to be able to sit outside Wildcat Red again...I’ll leave it up to Joel [Rosario], but if Constitution pushes Wildcat Red early, we’ll be able to sit behind him this time.”

Well, there you go.  Straight from the horses' mouths, so to speak. Since we feel that the lightly raced Constitution (4-1) has yet to show the kind of speed that he'd need to run with the two confirmed speedballs, and figuring that Javier Castellano will not make an extra effort to do so, let's presume that the race will unfold as the trainers said. We still believe that General a Rod is the more likely of the two to last the nine furlongs.  Besides his having the better pedigree rating for dirt routes--75 to 66--he's a son of the Haskell winner Roman Ruler out of a mare by the major distance influence Dynaformer.  We look for him to turn the table on his rival with the added ground.

The aforementioned Constitution is unbeaten in two career tries, earning TFUS speed figures (98 and 97) that are a notch below the aforementioned top contenders.  He earned the latter figure when setting a slow pace in his allowance win on the speed-favoring track in his allowance win on Fountain of Youth day.  Obviously highly regarded by his connections, this son of Tapit, out of a Distorted Humor half-sister to the G1 (sprint) winner Emcee, is eligible to improve.  But we would reserve him for use underneath.

When Spot (8-1) won the Swale earlier this month, trainer Nick Zito seemed hesitant about the Derby Trail.  But Derby Fever hits hard. Here he is, stretching out beyond seven furlongs on dirt for the first time.  (An attempt last year at a mile on turf resulted in dismal failure.)  Zito surely has a history of success in this race, but his last two winners, Ice Box and Dialed In, both came into the race after already having run well at this very distance.  How do I remember that?  I don't.  But monthly unlimited subscribers can access race charts going back to 2004.  Just for fun.

TimeformUS Chart

Spot, by Pulpit out of a Quiet American mare, has a fine pedigree rating of 89 for dirt routes.  But with a career-best speed figure of 89, he has a long way to move up in order to challenge these.

Any of the other three would be quite a surprise should he land anywhere in the money; but we will point out, in case the Pace Projector proves us wrong and the pace completely melts down, that Matador (#2, 15-1) and East Hall (#5, 20-1) own the top late pace ratings in the field.

Selections:  We'll try a cold exacta of Cairo Prince over General a Rod if the price is sufficient, and consider reversing should the usual big race day speed bias appear to be pervasive.

The G2 Pan American
Gulfstream, Race 13
By Jason Perlmutter

The Grade 2 Pan American features a field of ten horses (Amira's Prince will run in the Muniz at Fairgrounds) running 12 furlongs on the turf.  Morning line favorite #5 Admiral Kitten figures to be bet down to the 2-1 range.   Thus far, this colt has had a wonderfully consistent career on the grass, finishing no worse than second in nine career starts.  However, he has found the winner's circle in only three of those nine starts, and his speed figures, while solid, do not stand out from the rest of this field.  Additionally, this is Admiral Kitten's first try at a distance longer than 10 furlongs.  With all these question marks, we still expect him to uncork that ferocious late kick and gobble up ground in the final strides, but we won't key him.

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What about the other kitten? The Pletcher-trained  #6 Charming Kitten (10-1 ML) intrigues us.  Charming Kitten is every bit as fast as, if not faster than, Admiral Kitten on paper.  He has plenty of time coming into this race (48 days), and he gets a jockey upgrade to the tenacious Javier Castellano.  The other thing that intrigues us about Charming Kitten is the pace set-up.  The Pace Projector indicates an honest pace and a spread-out field. 

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Charming Kitten projects to sit in the clear in fourth place behind longshot Joe's Blazing Aaron, Joha (more on him in a moment), and Russian Greek.  Charming Kitten has never been 12 furlongs, but his only effort at 10 furlongs was a good one, and we think he may be able to run on (84 pedigree rating).  He will surely get first run on Admiral Kitten and a number of others in here.  Charming Kitten is our key, but this is a tough race, so let's make sure we get a fair price (8-1+).

TimeformUS PPs

Of the others, #8 Joha (12-1 ML) is another who is stretching out to 12f for the first time.   We are skeptical that he wants the distance, but the breeding isn't bad.  Joha was a very fast two-year-old.  Let's include him at the expected long odds.  #10 Newsdad is a useful sort who was on his way to being one of the best turf marathoners in the country two years ago, before he ran into a horse named Point Of Entry.  This is his second race off a return-from-layoff race that was better than it looked on paper.

The Wager:  #6 Charming Kitten to win.  Charming Kitten in exotics up and down with #5 Admiral Kitten, #8 Joha, and #10 Newsdad.

The G2 Gulfstream Oaks
Gulfstream, Race 6
By Robert Finnegan

Eight fillies will be going a mile and one-eighth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks, and the favorites on the morning line are In Tune, House Rules, and Whomping Willow.

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According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, In Tune and Whomping Willow will be running 1-2 at the opening half, and it will be a good distance back to Penwith in 3rd, followed closely by the magnificently named Camille Claudel (the 1989 movie, starring the stunning Isabelle Adjani, is not to be missed; an imperishable look at Grade 1 torment).

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We believe that the value in this race, at morning line odds, lies with Joint Return at 10-1: to either spring the upset or at least get on the board underneath.
Joint Return makes her fifth start today. She has improved her speed figure in every start. And she'll have to improve again to contend today. But she has marched straight through every number to date. None has held her back in the least. And her last race, while far from fast, was visually impressive in its wide, sweeping move around the far turn. And as a daughter of Include, a sire of late-bloomers, she is certainly eligible to have more improvement in the tank.
Joint Return is a deep closer. Indeed, her Late Pace rating, an 88, is the best in the field by a clear margin. But she will need some pace to run at. However, it seems quite likely that In Tune, who has led at every call in both her races, and the sprinter Whomping Willow will ensure an adequate pace.

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Joint Return will also need a racetrack that permits horses to close from far back, and given that this is Gulfstream Park, this could prove problematic. Fortunately, there will be four dirt races on Saturday before the Oaks. So we should be able to get a decent read on the racetrack.
As far as the rest of this field is concerned: In Tune has done nothing wrong in two starts. She's run two strong speed figures (100 and 101), the latter after fighting off an early challenge from a very rank Camille Claudel, and is a deserving favorite. Whomping Willow is bred for the route (Pedigree Rating of 92), and her best speed figure is a match for the best that we have seen from In Tune so far.
Penwith is a threat if one is willing to toss her last race, a sort of leniency that is often good practice with fillies who, like Penwith, seemed to be developing healthfully before the clunker.
The Play:
Win bet on Joint Return.
Exactas: Whomping Willow and In Tune over Joint Return.
Trifectas: Whomping Willow and In Tune over Whomping Willow, In Tune, Penwith, Camille Claudel, and House Rules, over Joint Return. 


 The G2 Louisiana Derby
Oaklawn, Race 11
By Craig Milkowski

The 2014 Louisiana Derby drew a field of 10 for the mile and an eighth race on the dirt track.  The top two from this race are virtually assured a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby via the points system in use, which awards 100 for a win and 40 for a runner-up finish.  The third-place finisher receives 20 points and will have a very good chance at a Derby start as well.  If history is any indication, a TimeformUS final-time figure of at least 105 will be needed to win this race.  The previous three winners were Revolutionary (108), Hero of Order (109), and Pants On Fire (110).  It is important to remember that these are rapidly maturing horses.   Two of these winners ran career- best figures in the Louisiana Derby.

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The field includes Grade 2 (G2) winners Intense Holiday, Rise Up, and In Trouble.  It also includes G3 winner Vicar’s in Trouble, as well as ungraded-stakes winners Louies Flower and Albano.   Of the 10 entrants, three were assigned a TimeformUS running style of “Leader,” and another was labeled as “Speed."   A contested pace is the most likely scenario, and the Pace Projector indicates as much.  The race displays the “Hot Pace” designation.

TimeformUS Pace Projector

Intense Holiday drew the rail post.  His last start was a win in the G2 Risen Star S. over this track.  He raced in the middle of the 14-horse field early, closed late, and got up to win by a nose with a TimeformUS speed figure of 97.  His style should be aided by the likely pace, and his rail post position will ensure a ground-saving trip on the first turn.

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King Cyrus drew the two post position and enters off a career-best effort.  He was assigned an 86 for his second-place finish in the Smooth Air S. at Calder, and earned this number running against a track that appeared to favor speed strongly.  Even so, he would need to improve immensely to be a factor in this race.  Louies Flower will occupy the third stall.  He figures to be a part of the early pace, and did annex the $250,000 Springboard Mile S. at Remington Park as a two-year-old.  His initial entry into graded stakes competition resulted in a last-place finish in the Southwest S. at Oaklawn.  His career-best speed figure of 91 won’t make a dent in this race, and the likely pressured pace won’t help his cause either.

Flat Gone draws the four hole and is rated at 50 to 1 by the morning line odds maker.  That seems a pretty accurate assessment based on his record.  The horse has little early speed, but does make a late run on occasion.  He is rated fourth-best in the field on late speed, and if a hot pace does materialize, perhaps he could clunk up for a minor placing.  Gold Hawk draws alongside and shows a career-best 90 TimeformUS speed figure in his last, though it was a distant fifth-place finish in the Risen Star S.  He is another that will need to improve several lengths to contend late.

Vicar’s in Trouble was a distant third in the Risen Star, but his 94 was a length better than his easy score in the G3 LeComte S. on this oval.  He had a wide journey in the Risen Star, losing ground on both turns.  If he can secure better position from the number six post position early, another improved effort can be expected.  He made a nice run to get within a length with a furlong to go before tiring late.  He had won his previous two starts by nearly 20 lengths combined, so he obviously has talent.  

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Commanding Curve will exit the seven stall.  He ran an 89 speed figure in the Risen Star despite a clean trip while finishing a distant 6th. He needs a major step forward to be a contender in this field.

Delta Jackpot winner Rise Up is the projected early leader and will need to use his speed from the eight post position.  His race in the Risen Star was disappointing.  He pressed the pace, which was average, not fast, and retreated steadily late.  It was his first race after a layoff of three months. So perhaps that can be used as an excuse.  His Jackpot win did earn a TimeformUS speed figure of 98, meaning the talent is there if he can get back to that form. 

Perhaps the most intriguing horse in the race will be next in the starting gate.  In Trouble won the G2 Futurity S. at Belmont as a two-year-old and did so easily, scoring by over two lengths with a 98.  But something apparently went amiss, as he wasn’t seen again for five months.  He was aggressively spotted in his return, running in the G3 Gotham S. at Aqueduct.  He battled the very good Uncle Sigh the entire mile, and even when those two were engaged by eventual winner Samraat in the stretch, he dug in and was beaten less than a length for the win while finishing third.  He was rated a 108 for the race, clearly the fastest any horse in this race has run to date.

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The field is rounded out by Risen Star runner-up Albano.  He was pushed to the lead from the start, and maintained the lead for every stride but the last.  His speed figure of 98 was a career-best.  However, drawing the 10 post position and facing tougher competition will make it much tougher to get the lead.  It will be interesting to see if different tactics are used for this race, or if he will stick to those of his best race: going for the front.

Despite the probable contested pace, In Trouble appears to be the fastest horse in the field by a substantial margin.  If he is able to rate somewhat and save something for the finish, he will prove very difficult to beat.  The two most likely to beat him are Intense Holiday and Vicar’s in Trouble.  Intense Holiday should get a nice trip and a good pace scenario for his late run.  Vicar’s in Trouble ran deceptively well in the Risen Star and should run another lifetime-best if able to avoid trouble and save ground early.

Top 3:  In Trouble, Intense Holiday, Vicar’s in Trouble.

The G2 Fair Grounds Oaks
Oaklawn, Race 7
By Robert Finnegan

With only five fillies set to go in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, and two of them looking overmatched, this does not look like much of a betting race from our perspective.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector projects that after the first four furlongs of this 1m1/16th race, Fiftyshadesofgold will be on a clear early lead, followed, in order, by Unbridled Forever, Mary Rita, Untapable, and Artist Cry.

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Let's go over the field in post position order, with the morning line odds in parentheses:
Untapable (4-5): As a two-year-old, she won a Grade 2, earning a speed figure of 86, and finished third in a Grade 1, earning a speed figure of 88. Then she returned to the races as a three-year-old, following a short break, and turned in a freakish performance over this racetrack in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra, winning by almost 10 lengths, with apparent ease, and recording a speed figure of 106, which is 15 points faster than the best number any of her opponents has ever run. If she repeats that huge effort today, it is exceedingly unlikely that she will lose this race. But will she repeat it? On the negative side, it's a fast number and an 18-point new top--a hard number to take in stride. It could well produce a negative reaction. On the positive side, talented three-year-olds at this time of year often repeat (or come close to repeating) big jump-up efforts. Untapable's trainer, the ever-controversial Steve Asmussen, gets a strong rating of 89 when attempting repeat victories and a 90 rating with spacing similar to today's. Untapable is the most likely winner of this race--and she seems certain to go to post at an unbettable price.

TimeformUS PPs   
Mary Rita (20-1): A frontrunner whom the Pace Projector expects to be unable to make the lead. Overmatched on speed figures.
Fiftyshadesofgold (3-1): Draw a line through her race in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga, in which she had a brutal trip. What's left? Three sprints. Three easy victories. Three speed figures between 86 and 89. Her Pedigree Rating for this dirt route, a 64, is not all that encouraging, but Calhoun gets a solid 84 rating second off the layoff and a 79 going sprint to route. If the Pace Projector is right about her having a clear early lead in this short field, she has a shot at the minor upset.

TimeformUS PPs
Artist Cry (20-1): Plodder seems way too slow in here.
Unbridled Forever (9-5): Improving figures: 72 84 91. Handled her first route as her pedigree suggested she would. Needs a big jump today if Untapable runs anything like the way she did in her last race, but figures to fire off the nice pattern of speed figures. Obvious contender. 

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