Pace could help longshot Sunshine Millions Classic closer

January 19, 2018 08:16am
Mr. Jordan Pegasus 615 X 400
Photo: Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Beating the favorite is not easy, nor should bettors try to force a crazy pick on top. But what if there is a way to zero in on the longshot and still include the favorite? What if the horse receiving the pace advantage is unreliable for the win spot? Handicapping is not always about picking who runs first. 

On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, there is one horse in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic who fits the above description perfectly. For a bonus, this article will also include an overview of the $100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint. Yes, the favorites can win both, but prices can be found underneath. 

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. does not believe Mr. Jordan will face the same kind of pace he did in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes last month. 

“I don’t think the race will come up like that. I think, tactically, this race will come up more to benefit him than the last race,” Plesa said.

While Plesa is a fantastic trainer, he could be wrong on his pace prediction. 

For instance, the rail horse, Crocodile Charlie, comes out of a seven-furlong sprint where he sparred for the lead and won. The Sunshine Millions Classic is a challenging nine-furlong event. 

Two gate spots to the right, Flemish Cap also offers speed. He just won a one-mile race while racing up front. Furthermore, he has been less than a length off the lead at the first call in his last three starts. 

Next to him, Jay’s Way is similar in that he likes to be on the lead or pressing closely as well. He led at nearly every call in his local Dec. 26 win at 1 1/16 miles, only losing it briefly in the stretch before fighting back. He will bring company to Mr. Jordan, Crocodile Charlie and Flemish Cap. 

On the outside, Richard the Great will show speed, too. He raced a little more than two lengths off the pace in two straight 1 1/16-mile races, and made an early move in both. Add him to the early mix.

Now, Mr. Jordan could simply possess too much class for this field, even if the pace is quick. But, he could fade. This is a horse known for quitting badly from time to time. 

No matter which speed horses guts out a victory though, it is unlikely all of them last up front. Pressuring Mr. Jordan is not an easy task, and it will leave a few of them completely spent. 

Subsequently, the setup favors Catholic Cowboy, a 10-1 closer who could make noise late. 

Sure, he ran evenly on Dec. 7 going seven furlongs, but that is seven furlongs. Running evenly at a sprint usually means improving going longer. His Oct. 22 two-turn route effort at Keeneland might be knocked too. But, study the chart. The top two horses ran 1-2 the entire way on a slow pace. 

With a little help up front, Catholic Cowboy is the kind of horse who will be able to “clunk” his way onto the board. Can he win? Well, trainer Nick Zito is 1 for 27 at this Gulfstream meet according to BRIS. So, a little bit of caution is advised, as statistics just do not favor this legendary horseman on top. 

Yet, the 8-year-old Heatseeker gelding can certainly complete the exacta. If there are no scratches and the odds stay around 10-1 or higher, Catholic Cowboy is a horse with enough value to key underneath. 

Finding an alternative to heavy favorite X Y Jet in the sprint event is not simple. However, observers might argue he won his comeback race in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on a biased speed-favoring track. 

There are two horses with some reasonable value set to take advantage if the favorite fails. 

If the top choice is pressured this time, a possible closer with ability is Quijote, who finished a distant seventh to X Y Jet last month. Did the biased racetrack affect his effort? He offers speed, too. This is a versatile horse with 10 top-two finishes out of 16 starts, so he deserves consideration. 

Sheikh of Sheikhs has a shot as well, if he can find a cozy position stalking from the outside. Although this gelding displayed speed earlier in his career, he relaxed two lengths off slow fractions on Dec. 20. It is also notable he raced against stiff competition in 2015 through early 2016, so there is backclass. 

Both runners are 8-1 on the morning line. 

Not convinced X Y Jet can lose? Using the logic from the previous race, placing Quijote and/or Sheikh of Sheikhs underneath is not the worst idea either (if they really are the fourth and fifth betting choices). 

Regardless of who wins, it should be a great day of racing at Gulfstream Park.


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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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