And more graded stakes races from Gulfstream Park
Gulfstream Park plays host to the only Graded-stakes action of the weekend and the last before Christmas, with four big races on dirt and turf packing out the Saturday card. The most prestigious is the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale S, in which the ex-European Space Traveller bids to land his first victory Stateside. Track specialists Shifty She (Grade 3 Suwannee River) and Eye Of A Jedi (Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday) are out to embellish their already excellent records at the Miami venue, while many will have their fingers crossed that Bronx Beauty can make it fourth time lucky in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl.
Suwannee River S
Trainer Brendan Walsh, who has prospects of ending the day with a big win courtesy of an ex-European runner – Space Traveller in the Ft. Lauderdale – can also count on assistance from across the pond in the Suwannee River, the first of the four Graded stakes on the card.
The former Irish runner Keeper Of Time is his representative, and on her second start of the year sprang an 80-1 upset in a Group 3 at Leopardstown over seven furlongs, all out to win by a head with a host of past-and-future Group 1 winners behind her, including French Oaks winner Joan Of Arc and Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Empress Josephine.
There needs to be a pinch of salt sprinkled on that form but Keeper Of Time clearly has her share of ability, and last time out at Belmont Park, on her second start for Walsh, she was beaten only a length and a half into third in a stakes race over seven furlongs, keeping on late as though the step back up to a mile might be welcome.
Course-and-distance stakes winner Shifty She brings the best form to the table, with her gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont Park last time out – In A Hurry fourth – standing out from the crowd. She’s four-for-six at Gulfstream and figures to be on the front end, forcing the fractions, and if she can repeat that Belmont form – or improve on it, as she is very much on the upgrade after missing all of 2020 – then she is the one to beat.
The lightly raced Classic Lady has made six starts since the beginning of 2020, five of them in stakes, with her victory last time out at Belmont over a mile-sixteenth arguably her lifetime best, grinding it out through the stretch to win by a length and a quarter. She’s ready to step up in class, a remark that also applies to Alms, whose narrow defeat in a stakes at Fair Grounds last month indicated that she might be returning to the form that brought her two Grade 3 wins as a juvenile in 2019.
It’s been seven races winless for Sweet Melania, who seems to have lost the sparkle that took her into third place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf two years ago, while the sterling effort produced by Kelsey’s Cross to be a longshot fourth in the Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland two starts ago was rather devalued by her lacklustre showing next time out, when she was last of six in a handicap over course and distance, although that was on the main track and a return to the weeds is a good move.
Before that Dowager run, Kelsey’s Cross had finished a seven-length third behind Summering in another handicap over course and distance, a career-best performance from the winner, whose record also includes a stakes victory at Tampa Bay. Summering needs a break between her races and has had three months off since that success, and on that showing merits another try at Graded level.
Princess Causeway has run seven times in Graded stakes and never finished closer than fifth, and although she has twice hit the board in stakes this year she has never won anything better than an allowance optional claimer, which also goes for Quiet Company and La Babia, depending on how one views the latter’s victory last time out in a stakes restricted to horses who had run at Delaware Park in 2021, in which she got home by three-quarters of a length. It’s officially a stakes, but not as generally accepted.
|Horse||Jockey||Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|Dawn’s Dancer||Junior Alvarado||+3000|
|In a Hurry||Javier Castellano||+500|
|Shifty She||Edwin Gonzalez||+300|
|Keeper of Time||Tyler Gaffalione||+1500|
|La Babia||Rafael Manuel Hernandez||+2000|
|Classic Lady||Paco Lopez||+1500|
|Kelsey’s Cross||Romero Ramsay Maragh||+2000|
|Sweet Melania||John R. Velazquez||+600|
|Princess Causeway||Corey J. Lanerie||+600|
|Quiet Company||Julien R. Leparoux||+3000|
Betting Prediction The Suwannee River may not be as competitive as its big field suggests, and recent Grade 3 winner SHIFTY SHE is the choice to improve her already excellent record here.
Sugar Swirl S
Given the absence of credible form among several of the eight contenders for the Sugar Swirl, it might again be a case of flipping through the calendar to the last three runnings of the race, and a horse making her fourth stab at getting her nose in front. If at first you don’t succeed, and all that.
Fourth place for Bronx Beauty in 2018 and 2019 was followed 12 months ago by an improved effort, when she came running hard through the stretch and failed to get up by only a head. Such a catalogue of near-misses contributes to her track record of zero-for-six, which might be off-putting to some, but only one of those defeats has occurred outside Graded company and several of Bronx Beauty’s rivals have never even won a stakes race; Bronx Beauty has won eight of those.
Her last-time-out win, in an allowance at Monmouth Park in September, brings her here at the top of her game and she’ll never have a better chance of finally licking the Sugar Swirl problem.
A case in point, in regard to stakes races, arises with Loriloupies, who has never run anywhere other than this venue and has only finished worse than fourth on one occasion – her only try in stakes grade, when she was a long way last of eight. That also applies to Compensate, who has run in six stakes races at Gulfstream and been beaten in all of them, and comes here having won just one of her last 11 races, and also Sosua, who won her first three starts and then found the going too tough when upgraded to stakes level.
On last year’s form Frank’s Rockette would be a strong favourite here, with victories in the Grade 2 Prioress, the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom and the Grade 3 Victory Ride the shining highlights of a five-for-seven campaign. She hasn’t hit those heights in 2021, though, winning a couple of stakes races at Oaklawn Park and Prairie Meadows but missing out at Graded level.
Her defeat last time out in a stakes at Churchill Downs didn’t exactly point to a return to the good old days, and she may have lost a little of the speed that made her so hard to beat last year. The lightly raced Center Aisle was third behind Frank’s Rockette in both the Prioress and the Victory Ride last year, her only two starts in stakes company. She returned in October after an 11-month break and has rattled off two wins, the more recent at Churchill Downs in an allowance optional claimer, when she wired her rivals for a two-length score, and is very much on the upgrade.
Inconsistency is the problem for Quinoa Tifah, whose gate-to-wire head defeat of Music City Star in an allowance optional claimer over course and distance last time – Loriloupies third, Compensate last of seven – would put her in contention here, were it not for the fact that she can’t seem to string two good performances together. That was her first run off an eight-month break, though, she’ll be sharper for it and shouldn’t be ignored. That was the best performance of Music City Star’s life, and although she is zero-for-two in stakes she could yet be of interest to exotics players.
|Horse||Jockey||Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|Quinoa Tifah||Paco Lopez||+600|
|Music City Star||Rafael Manuel Hernandez||+1200|
|Frank’s Rockette||Junior Alvarado||+180|
|Loriloupies||John R. Velazquez||+1000|
|Center Aisle||Luis Saez||+200|
|Compensate||Miguel Angel Vasquez||+2000|
|Bronx Beauty||Tyler Gaffalione||+600|
Top Pick Those who have lost patience with Bronx Beauty in the Sugar Swirl may turn instead to CENTER AISLE, who is unbeaten this year and ready to move back up in grade.
Harlan’s Holiday S
Another old saying is ‘third time’s a charm’, and there will be plenty hoping that’s the case for hometown hero Eye Of A Jedi, who tries the Harlan’s Holiday for the third time and is getting closer with every shot.
In 2019 Eye Of A Jedi was a well-beaten sixth in the race, but 12 months ago produced a much better performance, digging in gamely behind the all-the-way winner to see off all challengers for the runner-up spot. He improved on that in March when moving to the lead at the top of the stretch and drawing right away to win the mile-eighth Grade 3 Ghostzapper by five and a half lengths, and the only things that temper confidence in the old boy are his last two starts, which have been a long way below his best.
On the most recent of those he was third in a handicap here last month, more than five lengths behind runner-up Fearless, for whom that was a rare foray outside stakes company. Prior to that Fearless had hit the board in three Graded races, winning the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile – with Eye Of A Jedi fourth – and chasing home the high-class Silver State in the Grade 2 Oaklawn, before filling third spot in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special Match Series.
That handicap run was Fearless’s first outing in six months and will have put an edge on him, and he can be expected to move up at a track where he is three-for-four lifetime.
The one-eyed Canadian champion Mighty Heart is a long way from home – he is only one-for-five on his travels – and it is often tough to work out where Canadian form lines up against its lower-48 equivalent. There’s no doubt that the four-year-old is in good order, as he bounced back to winning form after three defeats when taking out the Grade 2 Autumn at Woodbine, utilising his early foot to take his rivals gate-to-wire, holding on strongly to score by three-quarters of a length.
Does that play well here? It’s hard to know. Mighty Heart is likely to be on or near the pace and, in a small field, that is often an advantage, but he does have to concede weight all round and will need to be alert from his inside post.
The track record of South Bend is a turn-off – he’s zero-for-five at Gulfstream – but he does arrive here in form, coming from last to first in the length of the stretch to win an allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs a month ago. He hasn’t won a stakes race for more than two years and that, allied to his seeming dislike for the Miami sea breeze, gives him plenty to find in this company.
Stakes debutant Twenty Twice has been well beaten in allowance optional claimers on all his three starts in 2021 and is easy to ignore. On the contrary, Blue Steel has been tearing it up this year, winning six of his ten races and only off the board twice, but he does his work at a much lower level and his last-time-out success over course and distance is a long way below what’s required today.
|Horse||Jockey||Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|Mighty Heart||John R. Velazquez||+180|
|Blue Steel||Paco Lopez||+1000|
|Twenty Twice||Julien R. Leparoux||+1000|
|Eye of a Jedi||Javier Castellano||+800|
|South Bend||Tyler Gaffalione||+400|
Betting Prediction Local favourite Eye Of A Jedi will be popular in the Harlan’s Holiday, but he has plenty to find with FEARLESS, who likes it here and will be cherry-ripe after a recent run.
Fort Lauderdale S
One of the old saws drummed into bettors is ‘never back a horse to do something he’s never done before’, advice that is put to the test in the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale, the highlight of Gulfstream Park’s stakes-heavy card on Saturday.
The horse in question, bidding to do something he’s never done before, is the ex-British Space Traveller, who has reached the age of six and made 22 career starts without ever winning beyond a mile. There are very few nine-furlong stakes races in Britain, so Space Traveller hasn’t exactly been striking out left, right and centre, but the fact remains that on his two starts going further than a mile he has been beaten, in a Group 3 at York in 2019 and in the Grade 1 Mr. D at Arlington in August.
The five-year-old’s form at a mile is good without being spectacular – he’s won a moderate Group 2 and been Grade 1-placed – but bettors should beware that once he passes the eighth pole it’s all up in the air for Space Traveller. He’s down in class but up in distance, and there’s no knowing which of those factors will be crucial.
Twelve months ago Doswell ran the race of his life to be runner-up in the Ft. Lauderdale, a strange race in which the first four in the betting were the last four on the track, and in doing so finished a nose ahead of Breaking The Rules. Neither horse has fared particularly well since – Doswell is zero-for-three, Breaking The Rules has won only an allowance optional claimer, and neither has ever won at Graded level – but are worthy of consideration given their performances here last year.
Turf races are generally rich pickings for trainer Chad Brown, whose dual entry is headed by L’Imperator, who has run poorly in three Graded stakes in 2021 and won well in two allowance optional claimers, including last time at Aqueduct when he won going away by two and three-quarter lengths with Doswell in third place. He was a big disappointment in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont Park in October, but is probably worth another chance at this level. Barnmate Analyze It has three Grade 3s in the bank but none this year, and his gate-to-wire score in a short-field allowance optional claimer at Belmont last time needs improving on against these rivals.
Trainer Mike Maker puts three in the gate, and there’s not much between them. Atone got the job done well in an allowance optional claimer at Aqueduct over a mile last time out but has never won a stakes; Order And Law was beaten a neck in a minor stakes at Santa Anita in October, and that fifth in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile at the same track on his previous start is misleading, as there were only five runners; Media Blitz was beaten out of sight in two Grade 2s before hitting the board in two allowance optional claimers, and this could be too tough a spot.
Renaisance Frolic has been running well here all year, including a stakes score over a mile-sixteenth in July, but blew out when a longshot in the Grade 3 Mint Million at Kentucky Downs last time out. Form at that unorthodox track doesn’t always translate, so he’s worth a look on his return to more familiar territory.
Those who seem a long way out of form include Sole Volante, who has missed the board on his last eight starts in a wide variety of races – Kentucky Derby, handicap – and King Guillermo, who has missed the board in his last four, although he has form further back, such as when runner-up in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and fourth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, that could put him in the mix if he’s on a going day.
|Horse||Jockey||Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|L’Imperator||John R. Velazquez||+250|
|Breaking the Rules||Javier Castellano||+1000|
|English Bee||Luis Saez||+2000|
|Sole Volante||Julien R. Leparoux||+2000|
|Renaisance Frolic||Edwin Gonzalez||+3000|
|Media Blitz||Corey J. Lanerie||+2000|
|Analyze It||Rafael Manuel Hernandez||+400|
|King Guillermo||Paco Lopez||+3000|
|Order and Law||Miguel Angel Vasquez||+2000|
|Space Traveller||Tyler Gaffalione||+300|
|Brown Storm (CHI)||Hector Isaac Berrios||+3000|
Betting Prediction The outcome of a tricky Ft. Lauderdale may hinge upon whether Space Traveller can see out the extra distance, and a safer option could be last-time-out winner L’IMPERATOR.
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