FIFTH RACE – Here’s a second-level allowance/optional claiming turf sprint that showcases the California invader Tilted Towers, a second-off-the-claim play for M. Maker exiting a stronger race at a similar level at Del Mar last month. A relatively lightly-raced five-year-old gelding (just 12 starts), the son of Atreides broke a step slow and lost his chance to keep pace early with the extremely quick course specialist Mikes Tiznow but stayed on well to finish a respectable fourth in a race that produced a solid speed figure. With a better break today, he could be on the lead, though he’s shown in the past the ability to successfully stalk and pounce when the situation requires it. Also worth noting is his recent main track drill since arriving at Gulfstream Park – a bullet half mile in :47 flat breezing, fastest of 150 for the distance – that should have him on edge.
Worth considering in the various exotics is The Virginian, not quite as fast on numbers as our top selection but dangerous nonetheless over a course (first or second in five of 10 starts) that he clearly appreciates. The S. Klesaris-trained gelding likely will be doing his best work from off the pace but with some help up front could be heard from in the closing stages. As for Shekky Shebaz, he’s been a beaten choice in four of his last five starts and clearly isn’t one to trust. A Claiming Crown winner over this course in distance two years ago, the Capo Blanco gelding vans down from New York showing a brief and sketchy work tab, so we’ll take a stand against him and if he beats us, he beats us.
SIXTH RACE – The Wait A While Stakes is a turf miler for juvenile fillies and appears fairly competitive with several possibilities. Sister Lou Ann gets the worst of the draw (nine of nine) but may be a filly of some quality. Second sprinting on dirt in her debut after blowing the start and then getting tagged close home, she stretched out successfully over the Tapeta surface when relaxing beautifully on the lead and then kicking home with authority when given her cue at the head of the lane. By Frosted from a Kitten’s Joy mare, she’s clearly bred to improve with distance and maturity, and while a change in style will be required considering her poor draw and the projected race flow, the S. Joseph, Jr.-trained filly strikes us as a versatile type that should be able to rally from anywhere. She’s already won on dirt and synthetic and should love turf, too, owning to the bottom side of her pedigree. For a video analysis of her chances, Click Here
Lia Marina was a visually pleasing third in a strong maiden turf sprint at Saratoga in her debut in August and then was predictably hit hard on the tote when knocked down 4/5 in her most recent start last month at Belmont Park. The C. Clement-trained filly delivered but was hard pressed to do so, actually earning a lower speed figure in victory than she did when finishing third (beaten almost four lengths) in her first outing. Despite here pedigree (Uncle Mo x Giant’s Causeway) she’s a short-striding type and therefore not a slam dunk to improve over a distance of ground, though she’s likely to settle somewhere in mid-pack behind a projected quicker-than-par early pace and then have every chance to pick up the pieces close home.
English invader Sunstrike has been facing infinitely tougher foes in her most recent four starts – all legitimate stakes races – and while she’s failed to land a blow since winning an all-weather maiden sprint last June, the daughter of Dark Angel should fit very nicely on this circuit at this level. The B. Walsh-trained filly looked decent in a team drill around dogs at Palm Meadows Nov. 28, and as the most experienced filly in the field must be given serious consideration.
TENTH RACE – Here’s a good place to take a shot. The Pulpit Stakes is a one mile turf event for juvenile colts, and much of the action – and deservedly so – will go to Red Danger, already a grass stakes winner (at Kentucky Downs) and most recently a respectable runner-up on dirt in the Street Sense S. at Churchill Downs in late October. His numbers have been steadily rising, he’s back on what probably is his preferred surface, and he had a nice recent breeze at Palm Meadows since shipping to South Florida. It all adds up to his favorite’s role, but a decent colt can beat him and we’re wondering if there’s one in here that offers a better price.
Perhaps Always Gambling fits the bill. Listed at 12-1 on the morning line, the son or Tamarkuz from a mare by Exchange Rate has the pedigree to run long on the lawn, and with two very good outings over the local Tapeta surface he’s half-way there to success on grass. With the always-popular two-sprints-and-a-route pattern for a barn that has solid stats with this angle, he has the expectation that that he’ll move forward under these conditions and already is competitive based on his one-turn speed figures. Likely to settle off the pace and do his best work form the top of the lane to the wire, the J. Avila-trained sophomore will have his chances increase if the early pace is quick and competitive.