Analysis: Bodexpress the right bet in Harlan's Holiday Stakes

December 12, 2019 02:18pm
With an eye toward the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Bodexpress takes his next step Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park, where he'll face a few seasoned older foes.

Given Bodexpress' sharp form and early speed, however, he is the choice to win it.

Bodexpress isn't a 3-year-old who needs much introduction, but his progress continues to be notable. This is a horse who took eight starts to break his maiden, appearing along the way in maiden flights won by Hidden Scroll and Shancelot, then finished second by 3 ½ lengths in the Florida Derby (G1) to Maximum Security.

After folding in the Kentucky Derby and unseating his rider in the Preakness Stakes, Bodexpress returned on Oct. 14 at Gulfstream Park West, finally winning a race by three lengths over a weak field. He moved forward in his Nov. 20 allowance win over the same course, crushing them easily by 6 ¾ lengths.



This time, Bodexpress defeated notable names including Moretti, Gump and Union's Destiny. He earned a 111 figure on TimeformUS, adjusted from a 115.

Those numbers might sound low, especially if most of Saturday's Harlan's Holiday field is capable of running a 115. In fact, the morning line favorite Prince Lucky ran a 121 and 125 on TimeformUS in his past two starts, seemingly giving him the edge.

The difference is that Bodexpress is developing, while Prince Lucky has likely already peaked. Bodexpress did not have try his best in the allowance win, yet took down a longstanding track record.

Bodexpress is the kind of runner who will move on to bigger races, while Prince Lucky is established as a Grade 3-quality horse. If anything, Bodexpress' backers should feel grateful for Prince Lucky's presence as the 2-1 morning line favorite. He'll keep 4-1 Bodexpress from getting hammered at the windows.

My second choice is Realm, who placed in Belmont optional claimers in his past two starts, losing to Bon Raison and American Tattoo. The replay shows Bon Raison getting away with an uncontested lead.

As for Realm's two-turn form, he won the Alydar Stakes over nine furlongs at Saratoga last summer and also placed third in the Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream and the Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2) at Belmont.

Realm's lone knock is the lack of a win at Gulfstream. But he only lost the Skip Away by ¾ of a length, evidencing that he handles the course.

Third is War Story. Now, this 7-year-old gelding is getting up there in age and probably lost a step compared to his younger years. But he is still capable as his strong win in the Monmouth Cup (G3) indicates.

War Story and Bal Harbour cleared the field by 12 lengths.



Afterward, War Story turned in a clunker in the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar, running a dismal sixth by 14 lengths. In fairness, a few other big names such as Pavel, Seeking the Soul and Quip oddly struggled, too.

In his most recent start, War Story made a mild rebound in the 1 ½-mile Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing, finishing second after contesting the pace.

Note the barn change to Elizabeth Dobles. But War Story gets Luis Saez again. With some luck on his side, War Story can win.

For a longshot, the best option is Red Crescent. This gelding won his last two starts at Gulfstream Park West, including the Millions Classic Preview Stakes. He closed to beat a nice horse in Art G Is Back by 1 ¼ lengths.

Red Crescent cannot win against these horses. But he is the type of runner to spice up the exotics payouts.

As for Prince Lucky, I'm hoping he's overrated. First of all, he lacks a two-turn win in three attempts. He hit the board in one of them due to a short field.

This year, the connections kept Prince Lucky around one turn. While Prince Lucky did win the Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) on this course by six lengths, he beat a washed-up Copper Town. He also won the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), but the field was only Grade 2 in name with no real stars lined up.

More recently, Prince Lucky finished fourth in the Bold Ruler Stakes (G3), five lengths behind Maximum Security. He failed to secure second despite clear sailing. He also finished second in the Kelso Handicap (G2) at 6/5.

Perhaps Prince Lucky wakes up while running at Gulfstream and wins his first two-turn race. But he is a likely underlay against Bodexpress.

Therefore, Bodexpress is the choice. The morning line odds as seen on TimeformUS list him at 4-1. If Bodexpress remains 5/2 or higher, that is fair enough. Realm, War Story and Prince Lucky are best used as backups.

 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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