Weekend Plays: A Davona Dale alternative to Spice is Nice

Weekend Plays: A Davona Dale alternative to Spice is Nice
Photo: Courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Last Friday, Jackson at 13-1 and Tough Love at 4-1 made for some nice scores out of this column. Both winners displayed the profitable Z pattern, which has proven a strong angle. I haven't identified any similar opportunities in these five selections for Saturday, but the handicapping goes on for the Fountain of Youth (G2) undercard.

The hyped filly Spice Is Nice faces a field of nine in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. She is 7/5 on the morning line, but with Todd Pletcher training this $1 million foal out of Grade 1 winner Dame Dorothy, Spice Is Nice could fall even lower.

The race contains another promising contender with an undefeated record. She kicks off the Weekend Plays. 

Gulfstream Race 10: Davona Dale Stakes (G2)

Spice Is Nice deserves the heavy favorite role after a local 12-length maiden win on debut. She earned a 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which puts her ahead.

Bayerness is no pushover either. She broke her maiden at Keeneland last October by 4 ¼ lengths with a 95 on TimeformUS before winning a Churchill Downs allowance optional claimer by half a length with a credible 91 over Swiss Skydiver. The latter race came over slop.

In both cases, Bayerness worked hard for the win. But that is forgivable as long as the price is right. Do not take the 95 and 91 figures too seriously, either, as she's eligible to go faster at age 3.

Only two weeks ago, Swiss Skydiver ran third in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds, 1 ¾ lengths behind champion British Idiom in second.

With Spice Is Nice probable to drop down, the 9/2 odds on Bayerness will hold. At that price or higher, Bayerness is one to think about for the upset.

Gulfstream Race 3: Hutcheson Stakes

Smash Factor goes for his second win in a row after taking a local seven-furlong optional claimer. On paper, this looks like a promising 3-year-old sprinter who the connections hoped would route, as seen by his failure in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes against Chance It and As Seen On Tv.

In the recent win, Smash Factor received early pressure from the Jorge Navarro-trained Conquest Day, who flanked him on the backside and even met Smash Factor eye-to-eye on the turn. But Smash Factor repelled him.

Also, note Smash Factor's second in the Juvenile Sprint Stakes last November to Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) contender As Seen On Tv.

Smash Factor actually beat another Fountain of Youth contender in Chance It when the two juveniles initially hooked up last June.

Cross out Smash Factor's two route attempts. Based on his sprint races alone, he is the choice.

Gulfstream Race 6: Allowance Optional Claimer

McErin's Feb. 2 optional claiming attempt is tough.

After setting a fast pace for nine furlongs, McErin faded in the stretch to third as Trophy Chaser powered home to an 8 ¼-length victory. The 9/5 favorite, Scars Are Cool, came late with a mild bid for second place. But the interesting part is that McErin did not give up that runner-up position easily, only finishing one length behind Scars Are Cool.

Furthermore, McErin still earned a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which is the highest last-race number. The returning Kentucky Derby runner Plus Que Parfait is second with a 115.

As two last points in McErin's corner, he shortens up to 1 1/16 miles in a race that TimeformUS Pace Projector labels as slow-paced.

At 9/2, McErin is a fair price to take them all the way.

Gulfstream Race 8: Maidens

Precise Dancer makes his second start for Navarro after finishing a mild third in his local Jan. 25 career debut. For his first start, he ran well.

After racing in mid-pack in the early parts of the race, Precise Dancer made a move on the turn and took aim at the highly-touted Market Analysis. But Precise Dancer stalled with his bid as Market Analysis continued on to win by ¾ of a length over a closing Attachment Rate who took second.

Market Analysis has not started since then, but he holds a bright future.

The runner-up Attachment Rate went on to break his maiden by 6 ¼ lengths on Feb. 15 and become a contender for the Gotham Stakes (G3). Also, the sixth-place Unconquered Lea broke his maiden in a Feb. 22 turf race. Both of them back up the theory that Market Analysis beat a strong field.

At 4-1, Precise Dancer is fair value to break his maiden here.

Gulfstream Race 11: Canadian Turf Stakes (G3)

When switching to turf last summer at Saratoga, Sombeyay improved. After finishing a good fourth in the 5 ½-furlong Quick Call Stakes (G3), he went on to stretch out and finish second in the Hall of Fame Stakes (G2).

Last month, Sombeyay returned in fine form with another runner-up finish in a local Jan. 26 allowance optional claimer. He chased a fast pace in third for the most part and only lost by ¾ of a length to Hay Dakota, who lagged towards the back in the first half-mile and took advantage of the pace.

Despite his recent loss, Sombeyay's tactical speed is useful in this spot.

If Gemonteer and Gidu decide to go crazy, Sombeyay can sit a few lengths off them. But if the pace goes slower, he is right there.

Furthermore, Pletcher gets the services of top turf jockey Flavien Prat as many regular Gulfstream riders travel to the Middle East for the Saudi Cup.

At 9/2, Sombeyay is a must-use.

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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