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Last Saturday at Gulfstream Park trainer Chad Brown recorded an amazing sixth consecutive victory in the Sweetest Chant (G3). This Saturday last year’s Eclipse Award winning conditioner takes aim on a race that hasn’t been as kind to him, the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
In the last two runnings, Brown-trained horses suffered narrow defeats in the 1 1/8-mile race for 4 year olds and up. Slumber, the 2015 favorite, lost by a nose to Mshawish. Last year, Brown’s Shining Copper was beaten a neck after leading the field until he was collared by Lukes Alley in the shadow of the wire.
For this year’s 31st running, Brown has entered Shadwell Stable’s Almanaar, and Beach Patrol, who is owned in partnership by James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners and Head of Plains Partners LLC. The Brown duo are among eight entered, including the race’s defending champion, Lukes Alley.
Beach Patrol is the most accomplished of the Brown runners. The 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid earned nearly $700,000 during his sophomore campaign. The highlight of last year for Beach Patrol’s connections was his victory in the Secretariat (G1) at Arlington International Racecourse. He also finished either second or third in four other graded stakes attempts. He hasn’t competed since a runner-up finish in the Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar Dec. 3.
“I freshened him up a little bit. He’s been breezing nicely at Palm Meadows,” Brown said “It’s his first start of the year, and it’s a little bit hard to come off a bit of a break into a Grade 1 and face older horses for the first time, but I think he is a really talented horse. I think a mile and an eighth is perfect for him. He’s a really neat horse to be around; he has a lot of class.”
Brown said the key to a good performance from Beach Patrol, who will be ridden by Florent Geroux from post 4, is a good start.
“I think what we have learned with Beach Patrol is him getting a clean break. If the horse can get a clean break and be very forwardly placed, that is where he prefers to do his running,” he said.
Almanaar is coming off a second-place in the 1 1/16-mile Ft. Lauderdale (G2), where he was beaten a neck by Flatlined, who is among his rivals on Saturday.
A group 3 winner in France, Almanaar seeks his first win in the United States. Last year at Belmont Park, the son of Dubawi finished fourth and then third in a pair of allowance optional claimers.
“The horse has really hit his stride now and is training exceptionally well,” Brown said. “I thought his last race was very good and I think the added distance here will help him. I think if there is a stronger pace in front of him it also will help him.”
Joel Rosario has the mount on Almanaar who drew post 2.
Gunpowder Farms’ Divisdero finished third, beaten one length by Flatlined, as the favorite in the Fort Lauderdale. It was a super effort considering it was his first start since June, he was washy in the post parade, and ran wide, particularly in the stretch.
“He really ran well last time,” Divisdero’s trainer, Buff Bradley, said. “He didn’t have the best of trips like the two in front of him. He was wide and on a course like this, it’s tough … the turns are tighter. I’m hoping for a little better trip and with stretching out to a mile and an eighth that will help him as well and hopefully it will spread the horses out a little bit.
“He was very good in the paddock, which we worked on,” he added, referring to schooling sessions in the paddock before the Fort Lauderdale. “But when he got with the pony, he became a little bit washy. We’ll have a different plan with the pony this time, after the post parade. He’ll be with the pony through the post parade and may go to the backside and hang out there by himself.”
Edgar Prado, Divisidero’s regular pilot, has the mount from post 6.
The Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap’s 120-pound high weight, Flatlined, posted a 15-1 upset in the Fort Lauderdale. Ridden by Joe Bravo, who has the return mount, the 5-year-old gelding was moved off the rail and split horses in the stretch and was up just in time for a neck victory over Almanaar.
#6 Divisidero – It was an extremely difficult decision choosing between Divisidero, Beach Patrol, and Almanaar for the top spot in this race. In the end it was the class of Divisidero that swayed me, and also the fact that he ran a very solid race last time out off of a 200+ day layoff in the Grade 2 For Lauderdale when he finished third. If horses like Flatlined and Almanaar were going to be beat him that was going to be a day, and even though they did it was only by a neck. I think we’ll see a sharper horse this time out, and I think he’ll be good enough to get the job done.
#4 Beach Patrol – This guy had a great three year old campaign, and there is no reason to think he won’t progress even further as a four year old with trainer Chad Brown on his side. He was a Grade 1 winner in 2016, and he also hit the board in two other Grade 1’s including last time out at Del Mar. This will be his first test against older horses which was my main reason for not putting him on top in this race. Curious to see how he matches up now that he’s out of his own age group and up against the older horses.
#2 Almanaar – Showed up to the United Stakes in September of last year and really ran two average races at Belmont Park in the Fall, however last time out ran super sharp to finish second in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale. Trainer Chad Brown has obviously figured some things out with this horse, and he has to be taken seriously from now on. If the horse makes another improvement today he’ll be awfully tough to beat, and there is a good chance he could do just that. Interesting prospect moving forward.
#5 Flatlined – This may be my dumbest move ever, but I am not going to play the winner of the Grade 2 For Lauderdale in this race. I’m actually a fan of this horse, but I’ll make him prove it to me again before I play him in a Grade 1 race of this caliber. There is no debating his last two races have been very solid, but I don’t think he’ll be able to beat all three of the ones I have listed ahead of him. Very good underneath candidate though.
#3 Lukes Alley – The defending champion of this race will try to go back to back, and will most likely be a similar if not bigger price than last year. Last time out was he was a disappointing 7th in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale, but it’s important to note that he was only beaten by a little over two lengths in that race. They could have been using that effort as a prep for this one so I am looking for improvement this time out. Worth a hard look as this horse has shown that he likes the Gulfstream Park surface.
#8 All Included – You always hate leaving off Pletcher at Gulfstream Park, and last time out he returned from a long layoff to finish second in an allowance race. That race was certainly encouraging, but I’m not sure he is as good as the top few in here this time.
#7 Eirigh – Won after a very long layoff last time out in an allowance race over War Correspondent at Gulfstream Park. That seemed to be a monster race for him so I’m skeptical he can come with that kind of effort again in this spot. If he can then he will have a chance.
#1 War Correspondent – Very tough race as I have this horse ranked last of the eight, but I do have respect for him. The bottom line is he just hasn’t shown enough to warrant giving him a strong look against this group.
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