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Andrew Champagne delivers his best picks for Gulfstream Park

Sunday’s ninth race at Gulfstream Park features several quirky conditions. It’s a starter optional claiming race, which means the 2-year-old fillies entered to run must have either run for a claiming price or be entered for one in this spot.

The race has drawn a field of eight horses, and your guess is as good as mine with regard to which of them will go off favored. Six of them are between 7/2 and 6-1 on the morning line, so this has the potential to be an excellent betting race. Let’s take a look!

The Flashy Debut Winner

#6 FAST VENEZUELA splashed home clear by nearly four lengths in the slop at first asking. The track condition may give some handicappers pause, but she beat a big field and it helps that the race’s runner-up has since come back to win. Additionally, she’s worked well over fast surfaces in the past, and she gets a big rider switch to Emisael Jaramillo.

Fast Venezuela is 6-1 on the morning line. I don’t know if we’ll get that price, but at anywhere near it, I’ll have some money on her to win. Maybe she loved the mud, which she may not get here, but there’s also a chance she’s simply a talented 2-year-old that’s figured things out early.

The Returner

#3 JOPLIN had a troubled trip at first asking. She didn’t break well, spotted the leaders a half-dozen lengths early, and still salvaged fourth while showing some late interest. She put it all together at second asking, when she overcame a slow pace and rallied from pretty far back.

She hasn’t run in two months, but I don’t think that’s an issue. 2-year-olds don’t often show an affinity for rallying from behind, and this one did. Her last-out Beyer Speed Figure is the second-highest such number in the field, and she’s worked consistently for trainer Stanley Gold ahead of this event. She’s one of two horses I’m keying in exactas, and it wouldn’t shock me if she drifted down from her 9/2 morning line price.

The Stakes Veterans

A number of these runners exit one of two stakes races run earlier this summer, both of which were won by the promising Lenzi’s Lucky Lady. Of the runners that fit that group, the ones I’m most interested in are #2 RAVEN and #5 LUCKY MILADY. The former had a horrible start last time out and was second in the Golden Isles two back, while the latter romped two starts back, may have simply bounced when entered in stakes company, and has worked pretty well ahead of this event.

I don’t think either stakes race was the strongest spot, and I think Raven, in particular, may be a hair overbet simply because of the assumed back class she has. However, it’s not like either horse is completely illogical.

Betting Strategy

I’ll key Fast Venezuela and Joplin in exactas. With money likely to be spread out, exactas may provide a healthy return on investment if we can come up with the right two-horse combination. Additionally, I’ll have a win bet on Fast Venezuela if she’s anywhere close to her early 6-1 odds (I think 4-1 odds would be fair, so I’ll use that as the number).

2 units: Exacta key, 3,6 with 2,3,5,6

1 unit: Exacta key, 2,3,5,6 with 3,6

2 units: Win, 6 (if 4-1 or higher)

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