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Slim Pickins is a new column from RacingDudes.com focusing on how to approach wagering on the biggest races during the weekend. We won’t just handicap the races, but look to provide you an approach where to focus your money, whether it be in multi-race or in-race wagers.
We’ll look at bets that can maximize strong opinions and how to manage your bankroll. We’ll try to keep the total wagers in the $50 range in the article and you can adjust to your budget accordingly. We’ll also provide YouTube links to key race replays for your quick review all in one place. Let’s jump right into the Gulfstream Park stakes races this Saturday!
Saturday, January 14 at Gulfstream Park
With maiden claiming races surrounding the early Grade-3 Marshua’s River Stakes and a maiden special weight turf sprint leading into the two later Stakes (Grade-2 Fort Lauderdale and Grade-3 Hal’s Hope), we’ll focus on only betting the three stakes races this week. The fields are deep enough with 8, 12 and 9 entries in these three stakes to make these good wagering opportunities.
What’s cool about these races is that in the two turf races, the defending champion from last year will return to defend their stakes titles with SANDIVA in the Marshua’s River and HEART TO HEART in the Fort Lauderdale. In the Hal’s Hope, TOMMY MACHO returns from his win in the similar Fred Hooper last year, so he is the “de-facto defending champion.”
Gulfstream Race #6 (Post Time 2:30 p.m. EDT): Grade-3 Marshua’s River, 4 year olds & up (Fillies & Mares), 1 & 1/16 Miles (Turf), $150K purse
As stated in the intro, #3 SANDIVA (3/1 morning line) won this race last year, as she sat on the rail on the pace and took over late, strongly holding off all challengers in the stretch. This will most likely be her last race as trainer Todd Pletcher has said that she will be retired to the breeding shed this year. After a long lay-off from the end of July when she was a bit flat finishing ninth behind a very strong field in the Grade-1 Diana at Saratoga, the Irish-bred returned in December in the non-graded South Beach at Gulfstream and placed second. Her return showed her grit and class, though, as she was headed by eventual winner Neck of the Moon in the stretch, but was fighting back late to narrow the winning margin to only a neck. Jockey Javier Castellano retains the mount on Sandiva.
Sandiva has shown the ability to get on the pace, but will not be the pacesetter in this group. #7 ISABELLA SINGS (9/5) “her swan song” too, as this will most likely be her last race for Pletcher before hitting the breeding shed. She will undoubtedly be the pace setter. Isabella Sings has led at the first call in 9 of her last 10 races and famously opened up 18 lengths last winter in the Grade-2 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs to only be run down by female turf champion Tepin. The key to this Marshua’s River is how much she’ll open up on this group and if anyone will press her early.
Besides Sandiva (who will probably not press her stablemate), #8 DICKINSON (9/2) looks like the only horse that may want to keep Isabella Sings company early from the outside post. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has gotten two wins out of the newly turned five-year old mare since she’s moved to turf. Both career turf wins were over only allowance company, but her last win at Belmont on October 20 was over Excily who ran only a half-length behind Sandiva in the South Beach, so Excily’s form can be used as a gauge here to show that Dickinson belongs in this group.
Another that belongs here is the Christophe Clement trainee #5 SEA COAST (7/2). Since coming to the United States, the Irish-bred has ran either first or second in six of her nine starts. In two of those second-place finishes, she was moving late to try to track down Isabella Sings including last-out in the Grade-3 My Charmer at Gulfstream Park West on November 26. That race earned her a Brisnet late pace of 101, the highest in the group, so she should be closing late to at least hit the board.
Wagering Strategy: I’ll take the approach that Dickinson will not press the pace enough to wear down Isabella Sings to get her out of the number, but do enough damage to set it up for Sea Coast. There is a very likely scenario that Isabella Sings just runs away and takes this field gate-to-wire, but with her at a 9/5 morning line likely to be bet down, I’ll lean on Sea Coast to be running late to either overtake her or get second.
TOP CHOICE: #5 SEA COAST
2nd CHOICE: #7 ISABELLA SINGS
Back-up / Protect Against Play: #3 SANDIVA
Wagers ($20 Budget)
$10 Win: #5 SEA COAST
$5 Exacta Box: #5 SEA COAST & #7 ISABELLA SINGS ($10 Bet)
Sandiva wins 2016 Marshua’s River:
Gulfstream Race #10 (Post Time 4:34 p.m. EDT): Grade-2 Fort Lauderdale, 4 year olds & up, 1 & 1/16 Miles (Turf), $200K purse
The same scenario exists in the Fort Lauderdale as we had in the Marshua’s River. #1 HEART TO HEART (3/1) wants to go gate-to-wire and he’s done it so many times that it makes a lot of handicappers want to scream. Most of the screaming is, “Can someone press this horse early?”
In his last-out, Heart to Heart set a decent enough pace in the 7½ furlong El Prado and had enough late to hold off the late run of #9 FLATLINED (15/1). The stretch out to 1 & 1/16 miles here shouldn’t be an issue for Heart to Heart since he won this race last year and is an undefeated 3-for-3 lifetime at this distance. He also is a perfect undefeated 3-for-3 lifetime on the Gulfstream Park turf. Leaving from the rail here, Heart to Heart will gun it with #3 DIAMOND BACHELOR (30/1) and #5 ROSE BRIER (15/1) being the likely pressers.
This race marks the long-awaited return of #7 DIVISIDERO (4/1) to the races after a 7-month lay-off caused by mild bone bruising. He could only muster a fifth-place finish last-out in the Grade-1 Manhattan behind turf superstars Flintshire and Ironicus, but won the Grade-1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day in his previous race. He has always had a liking for the Gulfstream turf, but the main question will be if he will need this race off the bench and will not be fully “cranked” with larger goals down the road. In his return off a similar 8-month lay-off last year in the Grade-3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream, Divisidero trailed the field early and closed like a machine to get third after Heart to Heart set a moderate pace. Jockey Edgar Prado was aboard that day and may try to get Divisidero more involved early in this spot.
#6 LUKE’S ALLEY (8/1) is another interesting prospect who has loved the Gulfstream turf coming in second off a long layoff. Last year after running second in this race behind Heart to Heart by a half-length, he took the Grade-1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. You can draw a line through his return race in November on the Woodbine synthetic, as he gets back to his favorite surface here.
It must be noted that top turf trainer Chad Brown has two in here with #2 NIGHT PROWLER (8/1) (dangerous with Castellano up) and #8 ALMANAAR (8/1) (third start in the U.S. for Brown).
Wagering Strategy: You can play this one of two ways: whether you think Heart to Heart is going to wire the field or not. If the morning line of 3/1 holds up on Heart to Heart, I’ll play it that he wires the field. With Divisidero taking a good deal of money in here, I think Heart to Heart may not even go off the favorite and money will be spread around with a deep field of 12 in here.
TOP CHOICE: #1 HEART TO HEART
2nd CHOICE: #7 DIVISIDERO
Plays underneath: #6 LUKE’S ALLEY, #2 NIGHT PROWLER, #9 FLATLINED, #8 ALMANAAR
Wagers ($20 Budget):
$10 Double: #1 HEART TO HEART with #4 REALM
$6 Double: #7 DIVISIDERO with #4 REALM
$2 Double: #1 HEART TO HEART & #7 DIVISIDERO with #2 TOMMY MACHO ($4 Total Bet)
Heart to Heart wins 2016 Fort Lauderdale (Luke’s Alley 2nd):
Heart to Heart wins 2016 Canadian Turf (Divisidero 3rd in 2016 return):
Gulfstream Race #11 (Post Time 5:05 p.m. EDT): Grade-3 Hal’s Hope, 4 year olds & up, 1 Mile, $150K purse
There should be a clear pace setter in the first two Stakes races on the card, but the major question is who will go to the lead in the Hal’s Hope. With a moderate pace expected, I like #4 REALM (3/1) to set up shop with a stalking trip and take over late. If he steps forward for trainer / part-owner Barclay Tagg off his good third place finish in the one-turn Grade-1 Cigar Mile, he can beat this field. In there he attended the pace and held off the late charges of next out winners War Story (narrowly), Ocean Knight and Tale of S’avall.
This is a wide-open race with many contenders, but one sticks out with back-class in #2 TOMMY MACHO (9/2) for Pletcher. If Tommy Macho runs back to his Grade-3 Fred Hooper win at Gulfstream last February, then this race is over. That race was so impressive that Tommy Macho actually hurt himself with a knee chip that required surgery. After eight months on the bench to recover, Tommy Macho has not looked like his old self in his two return races, but comes in here returning to same one-turn mile over this same Gulfstream dirt course that suited him perfectly.
#8 MR. JORDAN (5/2) may be vulnerable favorite in here with a suspect record over the Gulfstream dirt. #1 DOLPHUS, #3 BIRD SONG and #7 TEAM COLORS all may be ready to meet this step-up in class. #5 AMI’S FLATTER returns after going off form, but if he can get back to how he ran here in an allowance last on January 13, then he’ll be a player.
Wagering Strategy: It’s all about Realm for me, as I’ve been waiting for him to show up in a spot like this since he ran second to the highly touted Gift Box way back in May in an allowance at Belmont. I’m trying to get alive to him in doubles and will go straight up with a $10 win bet. If Tommy Macho goes off at 9/2 like his morning line, then he may provide value, too.
TOP CHOICE: #4 REALM
2nd CHOICE: #2 TOMMY MACHO
$10 Win: #4 REALM
$5 Exacta Box: #4 REALM & #2 TOMMY MACHO ($10 Bet)
Total Bets for card: $60
Realm runs third in 2016 Cigar Mile:
Tommy Macho wins 2016 Fred Hooper:
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