Best Bet – #2 Mission Impazible
Best Longshot – #4 Redeemed
Top 4 – 2,7,9,3
About the Race: Where do you even start with this one? I think any of these can win this race, and the morning line favorite Shackleford seems very vulnerable. It’s a race that I can’t wait to watch, but handicapping it will drive you insane. Last year the older handicap division was wide open, and this year looks no different. The Donn drew a great field last year, but its winner Giant Oak didn’t do much the rest of the year. This year’s field is stronger, and I expect it to produce some nice older horses for the rest of the year.
1 – Where’s Sterling (KY) – There is plenty to like about Where’s Sterling. He always gives you an honest effort, and he’s been facing some pretty fair competition in his last few. Last time out he was closing the gap against highly thought of Boys At Toscanova, finishing just one length behind him. I think Where’s Sterling fits this distance pretty well, and while I don’t have him in my top 4, he can’t be ignored.
2 – Mission Impazible (KY) – This is my pick to win, but I’ll be honest it’s by default, mainly because he’s proven he can run with this kind of class and should have no problems with the distance. I really like his “grind it out” style, and with the odds you are likely to get I just feel he’s your best bet. He’s another horse that usually gives you an honest effort so he might give you quite a thrill Saturday if you back him. One bonus, you’ve got Todd Pletcher training him and he has dominated at Gulfstream this year.
3 – Ruler On Ice (KY) – No matter how many times I look at Ruler On Ice, I just can’t get myself to pick him. The distance should be right up his alley in this one, and he won’t be intimidated by this group as he’s been in some heavy hitting races. Still, I just can’t pick him to win. Put him in your exotics though.
4 – Redeemed (VA) – Yet another horse that has a big chance at a big price. Redeemed has been picture perfect in his last two races. Two back he won the Oklahoma Derby over Alternation, who came back to dominate The Essex Stakes at Oaklawn, earning a beyer of 100. Last race he won the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct pretty easily. There really is no reason why he can’t win this one, which is why I listed him at my best longshot.
5 –Soaring Empire (KY) – I’ll keep it really simple with this one. There are two reasons why Soaring Empire is dangerous: 1. He loves the Gulfstream main track. 2. He is making his second start off a layoff, and should be ready for a big effort. I expect him to make some noise in this one.
6 – Al Khali (KY) – He’s also entered in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, and I expect him to run in that one. He mainly is a turf horse, and this would be a very tough spot to try the dirt.
7 – Flat Out (FL) – I’m going to be honest with you here, I have no idea what to expect of Flat Out in this race. He was extremely hyped in the Breeders Cup Classic, but did not run well. He then was an overwhelming favorite in the Clark Handicap, but did not run well there either. His last race was an experiment on the turf, and THAT didn’t go well either. So what now? I have him listed as my 2nd choice, but how can you be confident in him? He’s a very classy horse, but I would take the wait and see approach with him in this one.
8 – Trickmeister (KY) – Well what can you say about this one? He’s a perfect five for five in his career, but this is by far the toughest race he’s ever been in. He’s never ran in any kind of graded stakes, let along a Grade 1. So I’ll pass on him here, but I can’t say I’d be shocked if he won.
9 – Shackleford (KY) – personally I have a ton of love and respect for this horse, but I do feel he is overrated from a handicapping perspective. You know he’s going to run his heart out for you, but I think he lacks a little in the talent department. He gets over the Gulfstream track pretty well though, and I think the his break after the Breeders Cup Mile was much deserved. Look for him to be on the lead, but I think he’ll fade late. Probably a decent show bet, but I don’t think he’ll win.
10 – Hymn Book (KY) – This is one of just a couple that I think might not be cut out for this race. Hymm Book hasn’t run against this type of field. Could be out-classed against these.
11 – Sangaree (KY) – He’s a lot like Hymn Book; out-classed in this one. One positive is his performance in the Hal’s Hope over this track, where he was beaten only a length by stand-out Jackson Bend. Still looks like he’s got a tough chore for him here.