Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
As we say our goodbyes to the holiday season and 2013, Gulfstream Park will help us ring in the New Year with the Gulfstream Park Derby for newly turned 3 year olds. A field of nine will celebrate their birthday by going 1 mile on the main track as the Derby Trail officially begins. From a handicapping perspective, this was a tricky nut to crack. Is it as easy as the two morning line favorites? Or can we expect improvement from a few prices? Let’s take a look at the field and try to figure this thing out.
1. Wildcat Red – I am viewing this one as a pace factor only. I have 2 major concerns with this guy. One, I don’t like the fact he has the rail. He may have to be sent early to secure position and I worry that may take its toll in the later stages of the race. And “B”, I’m not sure the extra distance will help. He seemed to get a little leg weary in his last which caused him to drift out and eventually get DQ’d from the win. He may cause trouble up front for the other speed horses, but I can’t see him taking top honors today.
2. Gone as Wind – I was kind of torn on this one. He ran ok in his last while racing in tight quarters where he sat pretty close to a decent pace up front. He goes 2nd off the layoff here and has a right to improve. With that said, I am still a little leery of his chances. I don’t like the fact he wore front bandages for the first time in his last. He still ran ok, but it’s still something that I do not like to see. He also has not posted a work since his last start. Although it’s only been couple of weeks, I would have liked to have seen him on the tab. I give him a small shot on the win end, but I will limit his use to underneath in the exotics personally.
3. Enthrone – I can’t make a case for this guy so I will save my breath. I could see him maybe rounding out the Tri or Super, but I feel like even that is a stretch.
4. Aarons Orient – This Pletcher trainee may hold the key to the race. He is coming in off of a freshening after he had horrendous trouble leaving the gate in his last. He gets the services of Javier Castellano here and has been working well for his return. He should set the pace or be right up on it. You must respect the connections here, he is a must use in multi-race wagers I believe. With that being said, and while I expect him to run well, there is cause for some concern. He may face some pressure up front and he has never been a mile before. We also don’t know how he came out of that bad stumble in his last. So, while I feel he is a must use in the multi-race wagers, he is no lock on the win end. It’s a very tricky call on this guy.
5. East Hall – I will use this one underneath in the exotics. I was tempted to make him a win candidate, but after watching the replays I wasn’t that impressed. I didn’t like the way he did not switch leads in his last start. So, while he does seem to like Gulfstream and he is proven at the trip, I think the best he can do is filling out the Tri and Super.
6. Pablo Del Monte – I am against this speedy Wesley Ward charge. He gets the shades off today while trying dirt for the 1st time and I’m just not sure how he’s going to handle it. When in doubt, you must leave out. I do feel he could reek havoc on the pace picture. If he reverts back to his tactics in his 1st 2 starts, that would hurt the chances of the other frontrunners. He also has the “cool name” factor going for him. Sometimes horses with cool names take more money than they should otherwise. With a name like Pablo Del Monte, you don’t get much cooler than that. I hope I’m right in being against his chances to win, and also that I’m right that he takes more cash at the windows than he deserves.
7. Best Plan Yet – I found this guy to be a pretty logical and deserving morning line favorite. He is coming in off a freshening for trainer Stanley Gold and he retains the services of Jeffrey Sanchez. He is definitely a win candidate and if he has moved forward and matured since October, he will be tough to beat. This race may be as easy as singling him, but my gut tells me he is no lock. Maybe he was just more mature than his foes this summer and fall at Calder. While a must use, he is no cinch.
8. Grand Arrival – Here is my long shot play. This Nick Zito trainee was facing much better in New York while trying his luck in the Champagne and Nashua, respectively. He did flash speed briefly in those 2 races and that may bode well for him today. I like that Jose Lezcano saw fit to get in the irons and I think he has a shot to make some noise at a huge price. He might have been thrust into stakes competition just a touch too soon, but what that says to me is that maybe the connections thought highly of him. While his only win came in the slop, I think we may have a live bomb on our hands here. At 20/1 on the ML, I am going to include him as a win contender.
9. General a Rod – I was baffled by this one, but I kind of like him. He got a perfect set up in his maiden breaking win while closing into a wicked pace at Keeneland. Then, they added blinkers (which I don’t like to see after a win) and he pressed a quick pace at Churchill while being 2nd best that day. Usually, I’d be against a horse with those credentials. But for some reason, I feel like he is going to run a nice one today. He drew well for this and I like the jockey switch to Joel Rosario. If Joel can get him to relax, sit right off the pace, I think he could be dangerous.
The Play – I found this race to be pretty tough and I have no super confident play here. I am hoping someone stands out in the paddock or post parade so I can feel a little better about my selections. As is though, in multi-race wagers, the only way I would be completely comfortable is if I went 4 deep. I would use Aarons Orient, Best Plan Yet, Grand Arrival, and General a Rod. As for playing it straight, I will play a small exacta keying Grand Arrival and General a Rod on top, with that pair along with Aarons Orient and Best Plan Yet underneath. I may throw a small win wager on Grand Arrival as well if he is anywhere near that 20/1 morning line.
As always, I hope I helped you folks sure up your own opinions or gave you something you may have missed. Happy New Year and best of luck, guys. I wish all of you a winning start to 2014.