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On Saturday, April 2, Gulfstream Park will host two huge Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby prep races in the form of the Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Florida Derby. Get my analysis and selections for each graded stakes race.
ANALYSIS

Saturday Free Horse Racing Picks: Florida Derby and Gulfstream Park

On Saturday, April 2, Gulfstream Park will host two huge Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby prep races in the form of the Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Florida Derby. The winners will receive 100 points toward qualifying for the big races the first weekend in May. In total Gulfstream Park will feature six graded stakes races on their Saturday card.

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Race 3

  • Distance: 1 ½ miles
  • Name: The Orchid – Grade III
  • Age: 4-years-old and up (F&M)
  • Surface: Turf

One thing to keep in mind for Saturday at Gulfstream is that due to weather, it’s possible they may not be able to run on turf, which means they would run these races on their all-weather synthetic surface referred to as tapeta. For now, we’ll assume they run on grass, and this is a race with three heavy favorites: Harajuku (9-5), Family Way (2-1), and Beautiful Lover (3-1). Beautiful Lover is likely running her last race and while it’s sentimental to pick the Christophe Clement horse, the reality is that she does not win regularly enough to pick in this spot. Additionally, her recently speed figures over the last year are a cut below the other two favorites.

Therefore, I’ll look to the outside in Family Way who ran impressively last time out in a second-place finish in the Grade III Very One Stakes. That was her first race in five months, so I believe she’ll only improve in her second race back from the rest. Her trainer Brendan Walsh is winning 21% of the time in those conditions and she’s got Tyler Gaffalione aboard for the ride. She also has versatility as she can sit off the pace before making a move late. Harajulu ran right behind Family Way in the Very One last time out but her workouts since they appear sluggish and she’s only 2-14 winning, so I do not like her at that short of a price.

Look for Scarabea (8-1) to provide some great value in your exotics. She’s a game filly who may not win often but is always around the board in big races. Last time out she finished fourth by less than a length. She’s never finished worse than fifth and she’s hit the board in five of nine career starts. It’s unlikely all three favorites fire and Scarabea is the horse most likely to break up the chalk. I do think Beautiful Lover gives a strong effort to close out her illustrious career but it won’t be enough for the win.

Race 3 Picks

  • Win: Family Way
  • Place: Scarabea
  • Show: Beautiful Lover

Race 6

  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Name: The Ghostzapper – Grade III
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Dirt

This race features an overwhelming favorite in the form of Fearless (4-5) and there is good reason. This Todd Pletcher gelding is running in a race named after his sire and he’s hit the board in 11 of 13 career races while winning five. He’s a perfect seven for seven hitting the board at Gulfstream with four wins. However, distance is an issue as he’s never won at 9 furlongs and only hit the board once. To his benefit, the field is not overwhelming as his closest competitor based on the morning line odds, Greatest Honour (3-1), is a deep closer in a race where there is not much speed up front for him to run into. That said, he can do the distance and his pedigree will overtake the field late. He’s got a much better track record than Fearless at this distance and the class to win.

However, I think there is still value to be found in this race in the form of the lone speed, Laughing Boy (8-1), who will be able to set a reasonable pace up front and save enough in the tank to kick for home. He’s the only horse with early speed and should not be contested through his trip. While he’s coming off a significantly layoff, he’s been training well, and he has won races on the lead at a longer distance.

The other value horse that should be consider in deeper exotic tickets is Capocostello (10-1) who is making his second start in North America, which is an angle I like playing as it often takes a race for international horses to get their bearings in the United States. He was a 11-time winner in Panama and ran respectably in his first start. This is a step up in class, but he’s got Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard and Irad is not the type of jockey to take a flyer riding a horse he feels does not have a shot to win.

Race 6 Picks

  • Win: Greatest Honour
  • Place: Laughing Boy
  • Show: Fearless

Race 9

  • Distance: 1 ½ miles
  • Name: Pan American Stakes – Grade II
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Turf

Typically, it’s the dirt races at Gulfstream Park that result in chalky finishes but in the Pan American Stakes, it’s hard to get past the three big favorites: Abaan (8-5), Gufo (9-5), and Temple (5-2). Abaan has a miserable trip last time out and was in trouble the entire time. He still managed to finish fourth, but now that he’s breaking further outside, jockey Luis Saez will make sure he’s more forwardly place. Abaan is one of favorites I’m most confident in winning their race because if you look beyond his most recent effort, he’s easily the class of the field. Gufo (9-5) is a spirited horse but is coming off a five-month layoff after running a grueling Breeders’ Cup Turf where he finished 10th. His blinkers are coming off and he’s a perfect three for three winning at Gulfstream Park, but he’s never run against horses of this caliber here before. Finally, Temple got the perfect trip last time out and capitalized with a rare victory. He’s a horse that reliably hits the board almost every time out but does not win at this level very often. I think with Abaan getting a better trip, Temple will fall back into old habits of running a strong race but coming up short.

If you’re looking for value to play underneath, think about including Mid Day Image (12-1) with Paco Lopez aboard in deeper exotics. Paco is an aggressive rider, sometimes too aggressive, but he will take this horse to the lead with Abaan sitting in stalking position. He’s stretching out but he has won wiring the field at 1-3/8ths miles so it’s not that much further to cover the mile and a half distance.

Race 9 Picks

  • Win: Abaan
  • Place: Temple
  • Show: Mid Day Image

Race 12 – Kentucky Oaks Prep Race (100 points to winner)

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: Gulfstream Park Oaks – Grade II
  • Age: 3-years-old (F)
  • Surface: Dirt

A lot of attention this weekend will on the filly Secret Oath as she takes on the boys at the Arkansas Derby for a shot to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Last weekend people were clamoring to see the return of Echo Zulu. Meanwhile, the 3-year-old filly that intrigues me the most is Kathleen O. (4-5). She has displayed a dazzling burst and has managed to overcome terrible starts in all three of her career races, each of which she has won. Her last race was the Grade II Davona Dale where she blew the break from the far inside post and forfeited seven lengths to the rest of the field. No matter. She simply tracked them down and then burst past them all in about five strides coming down the stretch. That last effort was her first race in over two months, so she’ll be fresher this time around. Additionally, she’s breaking from the far outside post position which means that even if she blows the break again, she’ll easily be able to get herself in position to make another hard-charging bit coming for home. She’s stretching out over a mile for the first time, but based upon how she gobbles up ground late, I cannot imagine that will be an issue.

Goddess Fire (9-5) has not won a race since her maiden but has acquitted herself well in graded stakes competition over the last several months with a third place at the Grade III Pocahontas last September and then against last time out at the Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes where she finished second by less than a length to Turnerloose. Last week we saw Turnerloose finish fourth in another Kentucky Oaks prep race at the Fair Grounds so it’s fair to wonder whether Goddess of Fire will be able to match up against the undefeated Kathleen O.

The horse I would be interested in playing for some value is Catiche (6-1) who represents the best, and only, early speed in the field. She just broke her maiden and while this is a massive step up, she’s already run the distance and has shown steady improvement every time out. With no other horse challenging her for the early lead, I believe she will have enough left to hit the board and she has posted the best speed figures in the field behind the two favorites.

Race 12 Picks

  • Win: Kathleen O.
  • Place: Catiche
  • Show: Goddess of Fire

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Race 13

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: The Kitten’s Joy Appleton – Grade III
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Turf

After a few races with short prices in the top three, the Appleton feels like a spot where you can get a big price. English Bee (7-2) is a nice horse who has proven capable at this level, but he’s only won once in her last seven races. That said, he’s the only horse in the field who run well at the graded stakes level in recent months. Morning line favorite, Phantom Currency (3-1), has not run in over a year and while he’s been working out spectacularly, he will likely need a race to get back into form. Scarlett Sky (6-1) is coming back from an eight-month layoff and Wolfie’s Dynaghost (9-2) has folded every time he’s run against tougher competition.

Therefore, I really like for Safe Conduct (15-1) to get a piece of the board. This will be his second start back from a layoff and and he’s shortening up to only running a mile, which should suit his forwardly placed style. He’s turned in solid performances in stakes races in the past and has been churning out crisp workouts on the synthetic surface. I like this horse if the race is on turf, but I love this horse if it takes taken off the grass and put on the tapeta.

The other longshot to consider in Noble Indy (12-1) who quietly finished just behind English Bee last time out. While his jockey, Emisael Jaramillo, may not be a household name, he’s one of the strong jockeys at Gulfstream as he’s winning 15% of his mounts. Noble Indy should get a nice trip sitting third or fourth most of the way around before kicking for home. While this is another step up in class, he’s been done well at Gulfstream Park were he’s finished in the top three in six of nine races and finishing in the top three 60% of the time when running a mile.

Race 13 Picks

  • Win: English Bee
  • Place: Safe Conduct
  • Show: Noble Indy

Race 14 – Kentucky Derby Prep Race (100 points to winner)

  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Name: Florida Derby – Grade I
  • Age: 3-years-old
  • Surface: Dirt

The headlining race is a four-horse affair between Simplification (5-2), White Abarrio (3-1), Classic Causeway (7-2), and Charge It (7-2). The next closest horse on the morning line odds is Pappacap at 10-1. Among the favorites, all four have early speed, but expect for White Abarrio, Classic Causeway, and Charge It to press the pace early and try to get to the lead. Classic Causeway is coming off consecutive Derby prep wins at Tampa Bay Downs and he’s as smooth of a horse out of the gate as you’ll see, but he’s never been pressed with the type of quality speed he will see on Saturday. Meanwhile, White Abarrio got the perfect trip at the Holy Bull Stakes in Feburary and road that to a victory but has not run since. The two-month layoff is a slight concern but he’s been working out great for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. Then there is Charge It, the Todd Pletcher horse who just broke his maiden last time out but did so in impressive fashion while posting a 93 Beyer speed figure.

Here's the thing. Classic Causeway, White Abarrio, and Charge It have not shown the ability to win races while coming from off the pace, which means they will run aggressive early fractions and none of them is likely to get an unpressured lead all while running a longer distance than they have ever run before. This scenario sets up perfectly for Simplification who has developed a mid-pack running style that propelled him to an easy victory at the Grade II Fountain of Youth last month. His pedigree and performances indicate that he will like the extra distance and will be able to start picking off horses down the stretch as the fatigued leaders give ground coming for home.

Since the race sets up well for closers, I love two longshot plays underneath as both Strike Hard (20-1) and O Captain (20-1) give you great value and plenty like. Strike Hard ran right behind Simplification at the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and hung tough with White Abarrio as a juvenile. His last race at the Sam F. Davis was a poor trip and he got strung out wide but he was making up ground and passing horses coming down the stretch. His workouts have looked crisp and he should be able to save plenty of ground with the inside post while sitting mid-pack.

Meanwhile, O Captain will be breaking from further outside, but the late run he made from last at the Fountain of Youth would indicate he will also like the added distance to the race. For a horse that has only run three career races with significant layoffs between each race, he’s shown incredible progression each time out. Now he’s finally healthy and coming back a month after his last effort where he hit the board as an 87-1 longshot. Rosario may very well take him to the back of the pack again to move him inside to save some ground but there is not a jockey in the world I trust more weaving horses through traffic coming for home than Rosario and I would expect another big run from O Captain late.

Race 14 Picks

  • Win: Simplification
  • Place: Strike Hard
  • Show: O Captain

Article Author

Horse Racing

Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.

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