On Track With Johnny D: We Have Opinions

Gulfstream Park has a blockbuster Saturday card that includes 9 graded stakes races and an assortment of guaranteed wagering pools certain to make any horseplayer’s mouth water. Of course, top draw is an unusually deep, competitive Grade 1 $400,000 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes. Below, we’ve included a pair of suggested $1 Superfecta moves that total $48-worth of main event action. There are plenty of other chances to knock one out of the park-- Gulfstream Park, that is--including a possible $750,000 guaranteed Rainbow 6; a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 5; and a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4.

How horseplayers attack Saturday’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes depends on an honest assessment of morning-line favorite Hidden Scroll. Supporters will point to an outstanding first-out, maiden-breaking voyage on January 26. A repeat performance will win this race, answer a multitude of questions and cement him as a top-ranked Kentucky Derby prospect. Detractors counter that Hidden Scroll’s powerful performance came over a ‘sloppy’ track and that such efforts aren’t very often repeated over a dry surface.

We’re not sure which camp has it right, but we have opinions.

Horseplayers often are required to make difficult decisions. Budget restrictions dictate ‘you can’t use ‘em all.’ Therefore, a player’s got to separate wheat from chaff, peel from banana, husk from corn. Ultimately, he’s gotta break some eggs! How? Processes vary. The dart-against-the-program method has its moments. However, it’s best if players base final-cut decisions on a variety of factors, including price.

If you’d like to wager against Hidden Scroll here are a few angles to consider:

First, as previously stated, his incredibly impressive first out victory was achieved over an ‘off’ surface. He may not be able to replicate that over a fast track. Granted, he probably won’t need to run as fast to win the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth. However, the combination of him taking a backward step when others leap forward will be enough to keep him out of the winner’s circle.

Second, he hasn’t been around two turns and some of his foes effectively have. ‘Scroll is bred to get the distance, no problem, so it’s only the experience he’s lacking.

Third, first time out he may have run too fast for his own good. The huge effort may take some starch out of him. He has come back to work well since the race but would need to be a complete freak to move forward off that last effort.

Fourth, he didn’t make his first start until late January and lacks as solid a foundation as some of his foes. Of course, last year, Justify re-wrote the record book by winning the Triple Crown despite a late February debut. Nothing like that had happened in well over 100 years.

Fifth, he’s 9/5 on the morning line and could start at a lower price.

That seems enough evidence to attempt to beat Hidden Scroll. With which horses?

Here’s one man’s opinion of the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth:

1. Code of Honor 6-1 Velazquez McGaughey
This colt went wire-to-wire to win a maiden race first time out at Saratoga. Next out in the Champagne Stakes he stumbled at the start and was away last of 10. He closed well to finish second, just 3 lengths behind Complexity. At 80-cents to a buck in the Mucho Macho Man stakes January 5 at Gulfstream Park he disappointed in fourth. He has worked well since that race for a Hall-of-Fame trainer and is ridden by a Hall-of-Fame rider. Gulfstream’s surface doesn’t favor his closing style, but connections merit respect. This one probably will attract more attention at the windows than he actually deserves. Figure him as an in-the-money player.

2. Epic Dreamer 20-1 Gaffalione Breen
He’s got speed and set the pace in the Holy Bull. Expect him to do the same Saturday while taking advantage of an inside post position. Gaffalione takes over in the saddle for Irad Ortiz (#4 Bourbon War). He has a stout :59 4/5, best of 19 work at Palm Meadows to help his cause. There is other speed in the lineup so he shouldn’t be able to ‘steal’ the race. We’ll pass on him.

3. Gladiator King 50-1 Solorzano Mejia
He has won 3 of 10 starts but would need to elevate his game to have a say in here. Pass

4. Bourbon War 10-1 I. Ortiz Hennig
A first-out winner at Aqueduct in November, this son of Tapit about split the field in the Remsen before scoring impressively in a Gulfstream allowance race. He’s won around two-turns in fast time and must be respected. Clearly, this is the deepest field he’s faced but Irad Ortiz has been nearly unstoppable at this meeting and the colt is sharp at the right price. He figures to come from mid-pack. We’ll keep him around.

5. Vekoma 7/2 Franco Weaver
This some of Candy Ride is unbeaten in two Aqueduct starts—a maiden sprint and the one-turn mile Grade 3 Nashua. He has enough speed to be close early and has followed through each time. He’s fast enough to fit with these and has faced acceptable competition. Lasix will be added for this race and he has a bullet :59 4/5 at Palm Beach Downs to his credit. His trainer is having an outstanding meeting, winning at 24%. Jockey Manny Franco is riding very well at Aqueduct but is 0-5 at Gulfstream this year. Much to like about this one.

6. Signalman 9/2 Hernandez McPeek
This General Quarters son broke maiden second-time out going 7 furlongs at Saratoga. Second and third in his next two starts in Grade 1 stakes races, Signalman rallied gamely to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill in the slop. He’s improved in each start at 2 and this will be his first start at 3. His closing style is not a positive over the Gulfstream strip and he really would need to improve quite a bit to win this. Trainer Ken McPeek generally takes his time with horses, so this seems a prep for later.

7. Hidden Scroll 9/5 Rosario Mott
A hot rider and a Hall-of-Fame trainer contribute to make this one the favorite. See above for much more Hidden Scroll analysis.

8. Global Campaign 10-1 Saez Hough
This son of Curlin is unbeaten in 2 starts—a 7-furlong maiden and a mile and one-sixteenth allowance race—both at Gulfstream. He’s got enough speed to be on the pace and is out of an A.P. Indy mare, so distance shouldn’t be an issue. He’s added a bullet 3-furlong blowout at Palm Meadows since his last race. Trainer Stan Hough has won with 4 of 10 starters this meeting and jockey Saez is hitting at 21%. There are many things to like about Global Campaign so we’re going to key him in our wagers. Doubt he’ll be 10-1 but half that price is fair.

9. Everfast 20-1 Landeros Romans
He’s the most experienced in the field with 7 lifetime starts—all but one at a mile and one-sixteenth and all but three in graded stakes. He was dismissed at 128.70-to-1 last out in the Holy Bull and outran his odds by finishing second--one length behind upset winner Harvey Wallbanger. That race may have fallen apart late but it was the best of Everfast’s career. Still, he’ll need to improve even more to pull this one off.

10. Frosted Grace 30-1 Gonzales Ritvo
His claim to fame is a maiden win at Gulfstream Park West and a runner-up finish in a Gulfstream allowance race. He’ll need to improve quite a bit to have a say in here. Pass.

11. Union’s Destiny 30-1 Reyes Avila
This son of Union Rags has won 1 of 3 starts—at 7 furlongs at Gulfstream. He’s improved in each outing but would need to leap forward to be in the mix here. He did work an encouraging five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 at Gulfstream Park West—best of 22! He’s got a tough post, though.

Suggested $1 Superfecta ($24)
8
4, 5, 7
4, 5, 7
1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9
(For extra coverage add 1, 6, 9 to third leg-- $60 total)

Suggested $1 Superfecta ($24)
4, 5, 7
8
4, 5, 7
1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9
(For extra coverage add 1, 6, 9 to third leg-- $60 total)

Race On!

On Track With Johnny D: We Have Opinions

On Track with Johnny D |