J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
another exceptional weekend of racing is coming up on February 11th
and 12th, with nine graded stakes races and an impressive group of
smaller stakes races on the agenda. The race drawing the most attention is the
$250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs (you can read my analysis
on the America's Best Racing website), but we'll focus our attention on the
$350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. I), the week's most prestigious
race in terms of grading. Let's start handicapping!
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. I)
second Grade 1 race of the year has attracted a competitive field of eight
accomplished turf runners, and while anything can happen in turf racing, I
would be very surprised if Divisidero loses
this race. The son of Kitten's Joy has shown significant talent throughout his
career and is capable of producing a breathtaking turn-of-foot on his best day.
Last year, he won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs,
and following a long layoff, he returned to action last month with a solid
third-place finish in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream.
first glance, that effort might not look like anything special, but in my
opinion Divisidero's performance was nothing short of sensational. Reserved in
last place through a slow opening half-mile in :48.30, Divisidero had to rally
extremely wide on the far turn and lost significant ground, but still managed
to run the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a rapid :28.49 to be beaten just
to data from Trakus, Divisidero ran between four to five lengths farther than
the two horses that beat him in the Ft. Lauderdale, and with a better trip on
Saturday, he should turn the tables. The smaller field (eight horses in the
Gulfstream Park Turf versus twelve in the Ft. Lauderdale) should help him get a
better trip and save more ground, and it could also allow him to race a little
closer to the early pace, much like he did in the 2016 Woodford Reserve Turf
Classic. He should also be sharper in his second start of the season, and with
anything resembling a good trip, I think Divisidero will swallow this field to
with the best chance to pull off an upset is probably Beach Patrol, a newly-turned four-year-old trained by Chad Brown.
Beach Patrol won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. I) at Arlington last summer and is
very consistent, but he has shown a tendency to finish second or third more often
than not, and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap will mark his first race
outside of his own age group. Still, his tactical speed could be a valuable
asset, and he should give a good account of himself. How about a straight Divisidero/Beach
it's your turn! Who do you like in the weekend stakes races?
Saint's Fan Returns at Delta Downs
readers of this blog know that I'm very excited about Saint's Fan, a three-year-old colt that went 2-for-2 last year. Owned,
bred, and trained by Dallas Stewart, Saint's Fan was impressive in his debut at
Churchill Downs--defeating a quality field that included future stakes winner
Proforma--and he was even better in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes
a month later, overcoming a poor start to win going away by two lengths. Notably,
the runner-up--Laughingsaintssong--came right back to win two straight races,
including the Space City Stakes at Sam Houston.
Saturday, Saint's Fan will return to action in the $100,000 Louisiana Premiere
Night Prince Stakes, where he will face ten rivals while stretching out to a
mile. I think this is a perfect spot for Saint's Fan to make his two-turn
debut, and while he won't offer much value in the wagering (he's 6-5 on the
morning line), I'm looking forward to seeing how he performs. Another strong
effort should launch him into a Kentucky Derby prep race.
Elate Could Be Something Special
much of the Kentucky Oaks attention has been focused on the spectacular Unique Bella (and deservedly so!), it
could be wise to keep an eye on the Bill Mott-trained filly Elate, who will make her three-year-old
debut in the Suncoast Stakes on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.
has only run once so far, but she was terrific in that lone run, winning a
one-mile maiden special weight on November 26th at Aqueduct by 12 ½ lengths.
Given that Mott generally isn't known for scoring big wins with first-time
starters, Elate's performance was even more eye-catching, and her final time of
1:38.32 was excellent on a day when the track was playing slow. She earned a
Beyer speed figure of 88, one of the better numbers of the year for a
possible that Elate won't win the Suncoast Stakes, as she'll be facing a solid
field while coming off a layoff, and she's posted only four workouts in
preparation for this race. But whether she wins or loses on Saturday, I believe
that Elate could something special--perhaps a future graded stakes winner and a
major Kentucky Oaks contender.
The Unlocking Winners Road to the Kentucky Derby Handicapping Challenge is back for a third consecutive year! Please be sure to post all entries, prime horses, and stable additions on the official contest page. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.