The second stakes race of Gulfstream Park’s inaugural summer meet is the Cellars Shiraz for 3-year old fillies going 8.5 furlongs on the turf. Though Chantal has been downgraded from a tropical storm to a tropical wave, the system is still expected to bring even more rain (start building an ark!) to the Florida peninsula as well as the eastern seaboard. With that in mind, there is a strong chance that the Cellars Shiraz will be run over a yielding to soft turf course or will be taken off the turf and run over a sloppy main track.
Ashley: E B Ryder has been installed as the morning line favorite, and rightfully so, but I like the looks of “main track only” entrant Charm Cat. Since there is good reason to believe that this race will come off the turf, I have to give the Bwana Charlie filly a serious look. Despite a win on her record, she has never actually crossed the wire first, but she has 2 nice second place finishes at the Cellars Shiraz distance, one on the turf and one over a sloppy main track.
Laurie: I'm not sold on E B Ryder racing at Gulfstream. True, she was just nipped in the Calder Oaks over a sloppy track, but both of E B Ryder's starts over the main Gulfstream track leave something to be desired. Charm Cat, at an attractive 6-1, was named the winner of her debut through disqualification of the winner. She was all out to get up for second place in a slow 1:50 for 1 1/16 miles. Of the two, I think Charm Cat has the better chance in here.
Ashley: E B Ryder also has the tendency to start slow, and though she has managed to make that work recently, I don’t know that she can get away with that every time. With the projected conditions calling for a wet surface, Love to Score is worth looking at twice. She certainly doesn’t own the best record in the field, but she does have second place finishes on a sloppy track and wet turf. Unfortunately, she has more downside than upside for me. She comes in off a 3 week turnaround, and she tired badly at a mile last out.
Laurie: E B Ryder's stablemate Swinger's Party is worth a very hard look, even at 3-1. She's won her last two starts by a combined 13 ½ lengths, her speed figures are on the rise and she fired a last breeze bullet. Her sire Medaglia D'Oro gets 17% off track winners. Additionally, Swinger's Party hails from the high percentage barn if Marty Wolfson. So what's the drawback? Swinger's Party has finishing out of the money in three starts on Gulfstream's main track, including a race over a wet surface. Was it because she didn't like the surface or was too slow for the competition?
Ashley: I liked the look of Swinger’s Party, too, and despite her previous record at Gulfstream Park, I feel that all is not lost with this filly. Her previous 3 starts at this track saw her facing the likes of G2 Davona Dale winner Live Lively, G1 Ashland Stakes winner Emollient, and graded stakes placed Private Ensign. Compared to that trio, the Cellars Shiraz field is a huge step down for Swinger’s Party.
Laurie: With a victory in the Cassidy Stakes at Calder, Dreaming of Sophia is the only stakes winner in the field. The Cellars Shiraz is her two turn debut and she should love the extra distance. The Zaidie barn gets 40% winners with horses stretching out. The drawback? Dreaming of Sophia hasn't raced over a wet track, but she does own two very quick works over a wet-fast surface.
Ashley: Dreaming of Sophia was another filly that I initially liked the looks of, but I’m a bit on the fence about her right now. If by some miracle this race stays on the lawn, I think I’ll have to pass on her since this would be her first time start on that surface; however, even if it is moved to the main track, the fact remains that she has not raced anywhere but at Calder thus far in her short career. Another two that I feel I have to pass on are the two far outside entrants I Know It All and Retsina. They both exit the same race last out in which the former just lasted by a nose at a mile and the latter couldn’t sustain her bid. Interesting to note is that Charm Cat was also in that race and tired badly after pressing the pace.
Laurie: There are a couple of fillies in here whose pedigree for the mud caught my eye. Brainy may be ignored by bettors. She's bred top and bottom for the mud. Both her sire Lemon Drop Kid and damsire A.P. Indy are superior producers of mudders. Brainy is a half sister to the G-3 winner Verdana Bold. Brainy was whipped 11 lengths by Swinger's Party in an off the turf allowance last time out. Despite this, she owns the second highest late pace figure in the field and this will be the filly's first time over the slop. At 8-1, with her pedigree, she is very playable.
Ashley: At 15-1, Stars Collide is the longest shot in the field, but I rather like the looks of this Strong Contender filly. She gets a high percentage jockey with Jilver Chamafi. In four starts over the Gulfstream lawn, she has never finished off the board, and she has only one off the board finish at the Cellars Shiraz distance. She does, however, only have one career win and that was at 9 furlongs. I really think the distance might be too short for her, but if the rest of the field is getting leg weary in the final stages, she could pass them all late.
Laurie: Twice Told Tale is a logical long-shot at 10-1. She hasn't encountered a wet track, but her pedigree indicates that she should love getting her hooves dirty. Her sire Tale of the Cat has 16% mud winners and Twice Told Tale's dam Dance to Dawn (by Louis Quatorze) is 2-2 in the mud. Twice Told Tale's half sister Dance to Bristol (by Speightstown) won the Bed o'Roses Handicap (G-3) and is also 2-2 on an off track. Twice Told Tale owns the highest late pace speed figure in the field. So if the pretty gray filly has all of this going for her, why is she 10-1? Trainer Ralph Nicks is 0-13 in non-graded stakes.
Ashley: I have to go with Swinger’s Party over Charm Cat; both fillies should have a good chance of winning on turf or dirt. I also like Stars Collide for the potential upset.
Laurie: If the race stays on the turf, I agree with Ashley that Swinger's Party is the one to beat. If we head to the dirt, I'll go with Twice Told Tale over Brainy with Swinger's Party in third.