There are a few things that make Saturday’s Claiming Crown card at Gulfstream Park interesting and extra challenging from a handicapping perspective.
For one, it’s the first day of the Championship Meet, and knowing how the track will play might require observation for a few races. You can’t go back to yesterday, or even last month, as a point of reference. Secondly, we see so many horses coming into town from all over, so gauging their relative class will demand extra study time. And finally, given how challenging it can be to make a morning line under normal circumstances, all of the above will add a level of complexity to the mix, which means being prepared to shift gears when your top longshot play gets hammered.
For me, the Play of the Day covers Races 1 and 2. We start with a maiden special weight event for 2-year-olds going 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass. I think you need to watch the replay of #2 And She’s Gone’s career debut on Nov. 9 at Aqueduct.
Never mind the minor trouble at the break. To me, she wasn’t ridden to win. That’s not the fault of the jockey, mind you. But at no point did it appear to me that the goal that day was to cross the wire first.
She settled near the back early, ran wide all the way around the turn, and then was never once hit with the stick in the lane even as horses to her inside were being cracked repeatedly. It appeared to be nothing more than a public workout on the grass. In fact, if you look at the times for her works on the synthetic surface at Fair Hill, the approximately 1:13 final time for her race at Aqueduct is entirely consistent with her times in the morning. I’m thinking trainer Graham Motion wanted to get her some racing experience, and do it on the grass around one turn. And here she is in the opener at Gulfstream on Saturday, picking up hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione, and stretching out to two turns.
What price will we get? I really don’t think she’ll be favored. And I think most people will see that running line and go in another direction. But she was a $725,000 yearling purchase, and was actually bet to 4-1 odds on debut. So, again, what price we get might depend on who else sees what I see. I can imagine 4-1, but 10-1 would not shock me.
In the event And She’s Gone she gets played, let’s try to wheel her in a double to the first Claiming Crown race of the day, The Rapid Transit, in Race 2.
In the Rapid Transit, I suspect #1 Uno Mas Modelo is going to take the most support at the windows. He’s won four consecutive sprints, including two at this seven-furlong distance. His last effort was a stakes win at Churchill Downs in the mud, and he’s clearly got a big chance. But I just wonder if he might be slightly over-bet in this spot thanks to his Beyer Speed Figures and the obvious class edge over just about the entire field.
The horse that I think has the biggest chance to pull the upset is also likely to take support, and that’s #3 Cautious Giant. He’s won 5 of 9 at this specialist distance, and has never been off the board in 10 lifetime starts at Gulfstream. A review of his replays shows he’s got the toughness to get in a fight early and still fire at the end.
Can Cautious Giant hold off Uno Mas Modelo late? Well, that one breaks from the rail, and a slight regression after the Churchill romp wouldn’t be a surprise. So I think he can win here. And you know who seems a little sneaky in this spot? #10 Chunnel for Jorge Navarro. I really don’t think he’s quite the caliber of Uno Mas Modelo or Cautious Giant, but he’s turning back to seven panels for a trainer who knows how to win here. You can forgive his last because I don’t think he liked an off track.
So let’s do this…
Be open to a win wager on #2 And She’s Gone in Race 1. Watch the tote board, and be ready to shift gears, making it a double into #1 Uno Mas Modelo, #3 Cautious Giant, and #10 Chunnel if And She’s Gone gets pounded at the windows.
If we miss with And She’s Gone, perhaps the thing to do is get creative with our Top 3 in the Rapid Transit. I’ll probably key those three in first and second spots in the trifecta over ALL in the third spot in hopes that either Cautious Giant or Chunnel can take it on top, with one of the other two running second.
Good luck, and check out my website, LoneSpeed.com, for more wagering insights.