HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, February 2, 2023 — On the heels of Pegasus Weekend comes Holy Bull weekend as Gulfstream Park plays host to five graded stakes, two for three-year-olds, the aforementioned Grade 3 1-1/16th mile Florida Derby prep and the 7-furlong Grade 3 Swale.
On the Left Coast, meanwhile, the inevitable was realized. Oh, not a small field that would be assembled for a graded stakes in Southern California which we’ve come to expect, but rather a four-horse Derby prep all trained by Bob Baffert.
The quartet will remain ineligible to earn Derby points unless Baffert wins his latest appeal or his horses transferred to another trainer by month’s end. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, sophomore colts and fillies will get a chance to test the Hallandale lawn in the G3 Kitten’s Joy and the G3 Sweetest Chant for fillies, as well a gateful of distaff sprinters in the G3 Forward Gal, the Swale’s sister race at the same trip.
While the Withers six-pack will cool their heels on the sidelines awaiting warmer atmospherics, Baffert’s quarter is set to go 1-1/16 miles in the G3 Robert B Lewis as Bullet Bob’s babies begin to sort themselves out.
The three-year-old preps in Northern Florida will have to wait another week when a pair of three-year-old stakes, the G3 Sam F Davis, local prep for the G2 Tampa Bay Derby, and the Suncoast for the ladies.
The latter just might steal the march from the boys as it marks the seasonal debut of 2022 juvenile filly champion Wonder Wheel and undefeated Demoiselle winner, Julia Shining. Todd Pletcher used this race last year to begin Nest’s season which was followed by Keeneland’s G1 Ashland, the plan once again.
Parenthetically, Tampa Bay management moved two always entertaining turf stakes for older horses from the ‘Sammy’ program, the G3 Endeavour for her and the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes for him, to Saturday. We’ll take a handicapping look-in at one but will start with the four-horse “blockbuster” from Santa Anita:
SANTA ANITA PARK
G3 ROBERT LEWIS Race 3
The Skinny: Of Baffert’s four, the most probable winner should be either Arabian Lion (6-5) or Newgate (7-5). Of that duo, we prefer the more interesting of the duo.
To gain experience, Baffert spotted Newgate in a pair of Grade 1s at 2. Wearing blinkers, he showed early speed in both the Del Mar Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but finished nowhere behind Cave Rock and Forte, respectively, No disgrace in that. Next came the educational portion of the program.
When he returned at 3, his second start without blinkers, Newgate’s improvement was considerable. Stretching out for start number two, the G3 Sham, he kicked on to finish second by a neck after a 4-wide turn-move, defeated by a not-to-be-denied 17-1 Baffert, Reincarnate. Frankie gets a return call today.
And so we’ll take Newgate straight at 6-5 or greater, and an exacta with the longest Baffert, Hard to Figure (8-1) as that one tries to become the third colt to win out of the G3 Bob Hope. He adds blinkers here and reunites with winning partner, Ramon Vasquez.
G3 HOLY BULL STAKES Race 12
The Skinny: To bounce, or not to bounce, that is the question. Whether Cyclone Mischief’s (2-1) victory in an NX1 optional was too fast and he will regress on the stretch-out to a 1-1/16th miles two-turner is the way many Sheets players will be known when post time odds have been set.
Our take is the speed boys are thinking that way and between the added trip and promise of a wet track will play it, or lay it in this case.
We won’t. Giving that his lifetime best performance came over today’s racetrack, his mid-race pace will suit this short-stretch affair, as will his two-sided, wet-track pedigree.
Rocket Can (7-2) broke maiden at today’s trip in the slop at Churchill then was a game second to Confidence Game, third in the Lecomte in his return. He’s worked a bullet at his Payson Park base for this but shows only four published works since his last start on NOV 26.
Following an impressive maiden win sprinting on debut, Lord Miles (3-1) was a ridden-out, late-rally third in the Mucho Macho Man and Saffie Joseph taps Irad Ortiz in this spot.
We’ll take anywhere north of 8-5 on Cyclone Mischief straight, and will key box exotics with his rivals above.
G3 SWALE STAKES Race 6
The Skinny: Whichever speed figure provider you rely on, Super Chow (6-5) is a layover by any measure, a many lengths advantage over his rivals.
The Lord Nelson colt is 6-5 lifetime, the outside draw in a small field plays to his speed strengths, goes very well for Chantal Sutherland and never has run on Lasix. Further, he is bred both sides for wet.
But if you watched the Mucho Macho Man mile, you saw that General Jim (5-2) was all dressed up with no place to go. Hemmed in by an outside rival in the lane, kept in close on the fence by the leader, who won but was subsequently DQ’d, he never had a chance.
Turning back to 7 furlongs, Shug McGaughey, who is a profitable 32% with his last 37 turn-backs, adds blinkers, either looking for more early speed or improved focus. We’re hoping it’s the latter, as trying to match strides with Super Chow, on paper, is a fool’s errand.
We’re looking for an upset but are not interested in a straight play unless the 5-2 early quote is available at post time. Obviously, an exacta box with the favorite is in order.
TAMPA BAY DERBY
G3 ENDEAVOUR STAKES Race 7
The Skinny: The praiseworthy Tampa Bay turf course will host a pair of Grade 3 stakes at 1-1/16 miles, one for each sex. Our focus will be the distaff event in which potential meets potential. One is obvious:
Chad Brown is shipping north with Marketsegmentation (3-1) who won her second start at the trip making her season’s debut at Gulfstream, showing a turn of foot indicating that her future is in front of here.
We’ve seen the Chad show before. Samy Camacho will get a leg up, riding at a 33% clip through Thursday aboard Brown shippers.
But we were equally impressed with the turn of foot of Panama Red (9-2) in the two races we viewed from Killarney in which she finished second in two listed stakes.
We liked that she showed tactical speed, a little uncommon for Europeans, over different types of surfaces, was put in a drive about three furlongs from home and ran hard every step to the finish, She is one hickory miss and is worth following whatever today’s result.
Following her Irish finale, she was purchased by Lael Stable and turned over to Arnaud Delacour, currently winning at a 27% rate this year and is a profitable 24% effective with 90-days+ returnees. Tampa stable rider Daniel Centeno is aloft.
She sheds significant weight, and we’ll go along for the ride at 7-2 or greater, making an exacta box with Marketsegmentation. Trifecta players would do worse than to consider filling out the number with Surprisingly (8-1) and Spirit And Glory (6-1).