8th Race Gulfstream Park - The Very One (G3)
In a race devoid of any true speed, I always give an extra look to the horse who figures to be on the early lead. In the case of Viva Rafaela, I really like what I see. Not only do I expect her to be at least the 8-1 which she’s listed on the morning line, but I also see some excellent distance form back in her native Brazil. There is also class to be found from the winner of the Brazilian Oaks, at ten furlongs, a little more than a year ago. The daughter of Know Heights is only 1-for-4 since arriving to the United States, but that’s why we are going to see some nice odds. Keep in mind, all of those U.S. races came at middle distances that I don’t believe to be her game. Look for some nice slow fractions early as the field waits patiently in the early part of this eleven furlong marathon, with Viva Rafaela out winging on the lead. By the time the rest of the field is ready to make their move, she could well prove surprisingly brave at a distance that should be right up her alley. Excellent pace rider, John Velazquez sitting on her back just makes the whole proposition all the more enticing.
9th Race Laurel Park - Barbara Fritchie Handicap (G2)
We go from an almost paceless race, to a race with too much early speed. I can see why mares like La Verdad, Winning Image, Centrique, and Villette will garner strong support from the bettors; they are all good sprinters. But here’s the problem, not only are they all speed types, but they are running at the extended sprint distance of seven furlongs. That distance is fine if they have things their own way early, but there will be absolutely no chance for a breather in this grade 2 affair. It should be the perfect storm for a closer, and of those, I like Flattering Bea, and at 20-1 on the morning line, she could be a taxman special. A confirmed late runner, she has already demonstrated the ability to run with good horses, as pointed out by her big performance in last spring’s Ms. Preakness. She gets a favorable rider to switch to Sheldon Russel, and when you throw out her sloppy track race two starts back, she shows a lot of good form. Hopefully, good enough to pick up all the pieces as this early pace implodes.
10th Race Gulfstream Park - Mac Diarmida (G2)
He’s only listed at 6-1 on the morning line, but I have a sneaky suspicion that you will get better odds than that on Suntracer. Or at least I’m hoping we do. Throw that last one completely out, as the Illinois-bred son on Kitten’s Joy does not want dirt, so the ugly looking result should only serve to beef up his odds. The consistent rallier always makes his run on turf for trainer Chris Block, and while he is nice enough in shorter races, I believe him to be best at the longer distances like he will see tomorrow. He is also that rare come from behind runner who does not seem to require fast early fractions to kick it in late. Having said that, if the first-time turfer, Alpha, can keep the horse to beat, Twilight Eclipse, busy for the first mile or more, all the better for Suntracer’s chances to not only rally into the picture, but run right by to pull off the upset.
8th Race Golden Gate Fields - El Camino Real Derby (G3)
I’ve seen in several places where the signature three-year-old event in the Bay Area boils down to the three favorites; Tamarando, Enterprising, and Dance With Fate; I’m not buying what they are selling. My top pick instead, will be the Irish import, Craftsman. A well-bred son of Mastercraftsman, he had an excellent juvenile year in Europe highlighted by a group 3 score at Leopardstown. His one race in America did not go well, as he dropped to last early off slow early fractions, and his late run could only get him within 4 ¼ lengths at the finish. Look for things to be markedly different in his second U.S. start. He’s working well for trainer Simon Callaghan, he’s bred to enjoy his first try on a synthetic surface, and he is getting blinkers for the first time. That all should point to him showing much more speed this time, which should suit him well in a race with very little early speed. Note that he was successful in Ireland while on or near the early lead. As no better than the fourth choice in here, I look for him to give the big three all they can handle.