Champagne Picks 01/04: Gulfstream Park
It’s a new year, and with that comes a slightly different focus for my twice-a-week columns. I’d been handicapping 2-year-old races, but now my attention shifts to the road to the Kentucky Derby. Those 2-year-olds have turned three, and all roads lead to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
We might see some horses to keep an eye on in Saturday’s 10th race at Gulfstream Park. It’s the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, and it’s drawn seven 3-year-olds that will go a one-turn mile. I think this is a tremendous betting race for a few different reasons, and I look forward to explaining them below!
The 10-1 Top Pick
See? I told you this was going to be fun.
There appears to be a lot of early speed signed on, and I’m not sure how many of those horses really want to go a mile. With that in mind, I want a closer, and even though we may not get his 10-1 morning line odds, I’m picking #5 ASHAAR on top. He looked pretty good in his debut win at Belmont, where he sat back and made one run. He was then favored in the Grade 3 Nashua, where he was very green and took himself out of the race.
Watch Ashaar in the pre-race warm-up. If he’s settled down, I think he’s the one they have to hold off late. I think it’s more likely we get odds in the 6-1 range or so, but that would still hit me as a very fair price.
The Inside Threat
#1 SOUTH BEND is another that could make his presence felt late, and while the rail draw is a concern, there’s plenty of talent here. He won his first three starts, including the Street Sense Stakes, which was contested at a similar one-turn mile route at Churchill. He then contested the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, a two-turn race over a sloppy main track. His effort there wasn’t good, but given the situation and the things he was trying for the first time, I’m more than willing to draw a line through the race.
Post position aside, this seems like the right setup for South Bend. He’s certainly talented enough to win this, and the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be.
The Well-Bet Florida-Breds
#2 CHANCE IT and #4 AS SEEN ON TV may be the top two betting choices in the race. Neither runner has finished worse than second, and the former was very impressive in taking a restricted stakes race back in September.
I have my doubts about them, though. Chance It has been working well, but this is a big step up in class. As Seen On Tv, meanwhile, hasn’t been further than 6 ½ furlongs, and while he’s got an OK distance pedigree, whether or not he can stretch his sprinter speed out to a mile is a big-time concern. I’m using both underneath, but if one of them wins, they’ll beat me doing it.
How I’ll Play It
I’ll use the two closers on top in exactas, with the two likely favorites underneath. Additionally, if Ashaar is anywhere close to his morning line price, I need to have some win money on him.