Gulfstream is Serving Surf and Turf
Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff: $300,000, four year old fillies and mares going 1 1/8th. Todd Pletcher has #1 Sweet N Discreet here with Joe Bravo in the irons. Paco Lopez gets the mount on #5 Sky Skier and I have to go with Eclipse nominee Joel Rosario on #4 Devil’s Cave, the current favorite. The only thing that makes me nervous is that Jose Ortiz kid is on #2 Toasting for trainer Albertrani and West Point Thoroughbreds and could be the spoiler. (1, 5, 4 and maybe 2)
Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf: Proctor flies in Gary Stevens for a couple stakes mounts on Saturday. His first is on #3 Wishing Gate in this race, and she’s a good one. Pletcher also has #5 Silsita entered here with Eclipse nominee Javier Castellano in the irons. I’ll fill the Trifecta with #1 Parranda. NOTE: #7 Millennia finished fourth in this race last year. (3, 5, 1)
Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint: Six furlongs for $150,000. For me, there’s only one clear winner in this and that’s #4 Ullapool – Peach Tree Stables, Kenneally and Lezcano. Pletcher has Sweet N Discreet listed in this one too, if she’s in I’ll take her, but if not I’m going with the #1 Salamera who has a win at Gulfstream, her only race and only win in 2013. Castellano gets the ride … and your luck gets better. From there, I’ll take #5 R Free Roll to fill the Trifecta. (4, 5, 1)
Florida Sunshine Millions Turf: $150,000 on the turf for four year olds and up. This is Stevens second stakes ride for Proctor on #10 Old Time Hockey. He might get caught by Rosario on #7 Bad Debt. Kenneally and Lezcano team up again on #5 Star Channel and should be in the pace. I want to take the Sadler horse, #2 Spring Up, so I might take a Superfecta. (7, 10, 5, 2). Can I give a shout out to the #9 here? Racing Aptitude… which we all should have.
Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint: Six furlongs for $150,000 on the main track. You can have some of the best jockeys in a race but the fact remains someone has to lose. I’m sticking with Paco Lopez, Rosario and Luis Saez in the Sprint. Paco has won on #3 Ribo Bobo and knows this horse well. Rosario is a brilliant rider and has #7 Star Harbour in this one. Luis Saez, who recently celebrated his 1,000th win, is on #8 Apriority, and I think Saez will make this stakes race a priority. Hopefully, this is a good battle between these three. (7, 3, 8)
Florida Sunshine Millions Classic: Oh that Mucho Macho Man loves the Classics! Kathy Ritvo and Gary Stevens team up again to attempt to recreate the magic they had in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Going for the $400,000 a 1 1/8th on the main track shouldn’t have the nail biting finish that the Breeders’ Cup Classic had, but who knows! Mike Maker has #5 Bernie the Maestro for the Ramseys (a rare non-Kitten) ridden by Rosario to give “The Man” a challenge. After that, the rest of the field would have to sprout wings to beat MMM. I hate the name of the #6 in this race, Gourmet Dinner, but this this lucky horse has the top jockey in the country on his back, Javier Castellano, who might be enjoying a gourmet dinner himself after picking up his Eclipse award later that night. (4, 5, 6)
Santa Anita is Serving Black and Blue
The Megahertz: A mile on the turf for $75,000. Seven of the best trainers and jockeys in the business. Santa Anita is tough. However, Proctor, Mike Smith and a European horse bred for turf, yeah, I’m going with #1 Gulsary. Has races all over California in 2013, four starts and three in the money, including a 3rd place finish in the Bobby Frankel Stakes in December at Santa Anita. Gary Stevens usually rides Gulsary, but he’ll be in Florida for Surf and Turf. Mike Smith certainly has a good record on the turf at Santa Anita so this should work out just fine for Mr. Proctor. From there, I’ll take #2 Moone’s My Name with Bejarano in the irons. I usually don’t give Bejarano second chances, but I will in this race. This horse has excellent past performances and can do better. The #4 Dancingtothestars has the loyal combination of O’Neill and Gutierrez but that’s about it. There’s no argument that Gutierrez has been on a less-than-glorious journey since I’ll Have Another, but Mario is one of the most well-liked jockeys out there and I’m gonna keep giving him a chance as long as Mr. O’Neill does. I looked at the Baffert horse #5 Lady Ten but this horse has two starts in 2013 and two fifth place finishes. Can’t do it. (1, 2, 4)
Oaklawn is Serving Razorback Ribeye
The Pippin: $100,000, four year olds and up, fillies and mares, going 1 1/16th. Asmussen and Casse each have runners in this race. Ricardo Santana, Jr. rides #1 Sister Ginger for Asmussen and Eurico Rosa De Silva rides #6 Dixie Strike for Casse. I’ll take them both. All Kentucky bred except for Dixie Strike (ironic). #3 Don’t Tell Sophia is the favorite in this race and Channing Hill gets the leg up. (3, 1, 6)
Fair Grounds is Serving Cajun 5 Ways
The Louisiana Handicap: $100,000 for four year olds and up going 1 1/16th on the main track. Asmussen has #4 Prayer for Relief for Zayat Stables in this one, ridden by Rosie Napravnik. Greg Geier has two here and both are good, #1 Fordubai and #3 Street Spice. Robby Albarado rides on Fordubai, but I’m going with Street Spice. The #5 is Voodoo Storm, and being in Louisiana, I would guess this horse will get bet down on Saturday. But I’ll go with the Thomas Amoss horse #6 Grand Contender to fill the board. Grand Contender is listed twice on Saturday’s card but is bet 3/1 in this race. If he scratches, I’ll take the #5. (4, 3, 6)
The Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap (Gr. III): $125,000 for four year olds and up going 1 1/16th on the main track. Full field of 12. Although, Agent Di Nozzo and Grand Contender are listed in the Louisiana as well. Asmussen and Napravnik team up again for the #9 Daddy Nose Best. Everyone will be watching this horse. As noted above, European horses on turf … so #10 Speaking of Which is bet to 4/1. Christophe Clement and Shaun Bridgmohan should have a good run with this horse. #3 String King is also getting some play. The Minnesota connection here is Alex Canchari who takes a break from Oaklawn to ride for Hugh Robertson at Fair Grounds. He’s on the #2 Slip and Drive. It seems like all these other random horses will just be in Daddy Nose Best’s way. (9, 10, 3) NOTE: #8 Zenji is owned by Sheikh Abdullah Almaddah.
The Marie G. Krantz Memorial: Another full field for $75,000 for four year old fillies and mares and up going 1 1/16th on the turf. Several Minnesota connections here. Hugh Robertson teams up with Alex Canchari again on #9 Starry Eyed Kate, a horse Canchari has won on; Richard Scherer enters #8 Grandma’s Rules. Unfortunately for both, the Ramseys have #11 Always Kitten trained by Mike Maker, ridden by Bridgmohan. Calumet Farm has two entered here as well, #10 Channel Lady and #6 Starstruck (IRE). Starstruck has impressive past perfs. First race on U.S. soil was May 1, 2013 at Churchill Downs for a victory, and she never stopped after that, six starts and four in the money. The other two were fourth place finishes. #12 Eden Prairie ran in Minnesota and flopped. However, she’s one of the favorites in this race and with seasoned rider Napravnik, I’ll try again. Besides, my office is in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, so I’ll stick with the connection. Since it’s a large field, my ticket’s a Superfecta. Both #9 Starry Eyed Kate and #8 Grandma’s Rules are in the middle-range odds. I’ll take the “Minnesota Kid” Canchari on #9 Starry Eyed Kate. (6, 11, 12, 9)
The Silverbulletday: Three year old fillies for $125,000 non-graded stakes on the main track. Whenever there’s a race between all three year olds, all eyes will be watching. Speculation is this will be between #2 Unbridled Forever and #6 Divine Beauty, however, the current favorite is #4 Istanford. Three starts in 2013 and all three in the money including a win at Fair Grounds on December 19. I’m going with #4 Istanford over the #6 Divine Beauty. I would really like to see the Vashchenko horse #3 Army at least to show, but is currently 20/1. Such a strong, mighty name for a little filly. I like it. (4, 6, 2)
The LeComte (Gr. III): More three year olds, this time the boys, in the $200,000 Grade III on the main track. All eyes on #4 Gold Hawk with the team of Asmussen and Bridgmohan again and is a heavy favorite, and should be. #6 Albano is a good horse. In 2013, went 3-for-3 in the money. #7 Vicar’s in Trouble is the Mike Maker horse, ridden by Napravnik, but this horse is 2-for-2 in the money and that just doesn’t seem “tested” enough for me but still a 9/2 favorite, so far. Both #3 Got Shades and #5 Smarty’s Echo have more races under them, and could be considered the more experienced three years old in the race. Got Shades was 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and has top 3 finishes in his other four races in 2013. Smarty’s Echo has four races in 2013 and three top 3 finishes with his worst performance in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Smarty’s Echo cost me some points by finishing second in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity but I’m all about second chances today. (4, 6, 5)
Turf Paradise is Serving Potatoes on the Side
The Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile: One mile on the turf in the desert for $75,000. This little horseplayer learned her lesson about European horses on the turf after the 2013 Breeders’ Cup. So, as fitting as it is, I’m going with the horse from Ireland #6 Tones. Giovanni Franco (Minnesota connection) gets the mount and has been riding well this meet. McFarlane brings two in this race and one is my favorite big boy Red Zeus at #2. The son of Red Sky’s – Crimson Cricket, by Crimson Slew runs well in the heat. This will be his first race in 2014 after ending 2013 with three stakes races at Turf Paradise, winning the Walter R. Cluer Memorial Stakes and Jack Coady, Sr. & Jeff Coady Stakes and a second place finish in the Luke Kruytbosch Stakes. I’m swaying between #3 Fire with Fire, #9 Hammers Terror and #10 For Cash, but For Cash is ridden by another Minnesota rider Scott Stevens. The current favorite is actually the other McFarlane horse, #1 Az Ridge, at 5/2. NOTE: Another Minnesota connection – Patrick Canchari is riding #4 Pastero for his dad, Luis Canchari.