HALLANDALE BEACH, FL. January 5, 2023 – Interesting Saturday, per usual, with New York launching its Road to the Kentucky Derby series with the listed Jerome Stakes and the re-scheduled Queens County, which was fogged-out last weekend.
Locally, two turf stakes for newly turned sophomores, races that feature interesting newcomers, talented private purchases, with several making their state-side debuts, one for the boys and one for the girls.
With the exception of the Queens County, the other three are launching pads into the 2023 season. Will the precocious juveniles keep developing? Are those which are being tested for class pass or fail? As often stated everywhere, it’s why they run races.
We will share our impressions made by video reviews of the two grass stakes at Gulfstream. The X’s and O’s will come later, as will our look at the racing from the Big Apple.
As of this posting, fair skies are expected in South Florida and the turf has been playing fast but looks good. In New York, rain is expected to taper off mid-day Friday with sun peaking out on face day. Best guess there would be a drying, wet-fast surface.
First for an overview of the two grass stakes:
DANIA BEACH STAKES Race 7
Both events for 3-year-olds are carded at one mile. Seven colts were entered in the Dania Beach and five of them have a license, in post order: 1-Candidate (8-1), 2-Major Dude (8-5), 4-Congruent (5-1), 6-Souzak, and 8-Worthington.
When last seen, Todd Pletcher-trained favorite gave perhaps the best ninth-place effort run last year. It came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after winning the G2 Pilgrim at Aqueduct by the sea, but he couldn’t overcome the 13 post at Keeneland. Not many horses do.
Irad Ortiz Jr. did the best he could given the hand dealt but was forced to race 3-4 wide throughout while maintaining contact with the early pace.
Ortiz tipped the colt into the sixth path and he responded well, still trying at the finish as the late runners swooped by in a final quarter-mile raced in :22 4/5. As any major dude will tell you, an inside draw for the Pletcher/Irad team, he’s a very worthy, and heavy, favorite.
Congruent, good turf foo and all, was a good third behind lone speed, ground-saving odds-on Ari Gold who got away unchallenged at any stage. He did not have the best of trips, racing keenly in tight quarters between rivals and still finished up nicely.
Candidate simply freaked at Tampa last out; too much too soon? Worthington won his second straight for Mike Maker and Luis Saez, rating in the 3-path throughout in preliminary allowance company at Churchill. His trip was clean but he never saved ground.
The wild card in the bunch is Souzak, who won three straight in France and purchased at the high profile Arqana Arc sale for $392,000.
New owner Larry Johnson turned him over to Graham Motion who considered running in the Juvenile Turf. But he’s here instead, with Rosario in the boot. He had a [perfect trip two back at Lyon but showed courage and a nice late turn of foot to win his French finale.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Major Dude
POTENTIAL VALUE PLAY: Souzak
EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta key-box 2 // 184.108.40.206. Trifecta Key 2 // 220.127.116.11. Betting Souzak to win at 3-1- or greater.
GINGER BREW STAKES Race 9
Nine fillies are entered at the same trip as the boys and six have caught the eye, in post order: 1-Showgirl Lynne B (20-1) 3-Cairo Consort (7-5), 5-Stephanie’s Charm (12-1), 6-Anna Keranine (3-1), 7-Navy Goat (8-1) and Lady Azteca (30-1).
Once again, Pletcher and Ortiz Jr. have the horse to beat in Cairo Consort. When last seen she was a game, albeit good-trip, third in the G1 Juvenile Fillies Turf.
With Rosario, ‘Cairo’ saved ground throughout, tipped into the 3-path entering the straight and finished with energy, beaten 4-3/4 lengths by Mediate, the superior Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore ship-in who embarrassed the competition with a devastating turn of late foot.
Previously was second in Keeneland’s G1 Natalma and won the Catch A Glimpse sprinting at Woodbine. Today she goes first-time for Pletcher with five steady works at Palm Beach Downs following a brief freshening. Pletcher told a Gulfstream staffer he likes what she’s showing him.
Two of the five fillies above, Stephanie’s Charm and Lady Azteca, came from our personal horses to watch list. Both finished strongly through the lane; the former a flying-late third in the Wait A While here, the latter going well after finally finding room in deep stretch.
See Replay in Gulfstream video section on HRI homepage
Interestingly, Stephanie’s Charm gets a switch to Jose Ortiz while the latter picks up Javier Castellano, both are positive moves, but this is a challenge for both late-running distaffers.
Navy Goat won both of her two-turners, one on turf, the other on the local Tapeta, winning her last as much the best after she hit the side of the stall at the break. She’s been working strongly at Tampa Bay but makes her season’s debut here, hmmm. Showgirl Lynne B exits a quickly run Del Mar Grade 3.
Finally comes a Chad Brown import, a private purchase after she was beaten four lengths in a Deauville Group 2 while finishing greenly this summertime. Brown is a lofty 27% coming off layups of 90 days-plus. His work with imports is legendary. As the say, this filly could be any kind.
MOAT PROBABLE WINNER: Cairo Consort
POTENTIAL VALUE PLAY: Stephanie’s Charm or Lady Azteca
EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta Key-Box 2 // 18.104.22.168.8. Trifecta and/or Superfecta Key: 2 // 22.214.171.124.8. Stephanie’s Charm to win at 8-1 or greater and/or Lady Azteca to win at 20-1 or more.
JEROME STAKES Race 8
This downgraded now listed flat mile in Queens begins the New York road to Kentucky and given today’s dynamics, a good stepping stone to the two-turners to come and perhaps a glimpse into Derby future.
Track condition and any prevailing bias is unclear at this posted at this posting; it will be drying out; whether speed favoring or tiring is the big unknown.
6-Arctic Arrogance (8-5), one of many New York-breds in this lineup, is a deserving favorite and one of two entered by Linda Rice. Frosted colt won the state-bred Sleepy Hollow in very fast time and has won on dry and wet. Rice claimed 3-Valendan Day (10-1) for herself for $50K last out and won by seven, also in the mud, also in fast time.
Chad Brown’s won this race before and may again with 1-Neural Network 7/2 who earned an excellent Thoro-Graph figure winning on debut at 7 furlongs in the mud, fast but with room for a forward move. Manny Franco will have to figure something out from the rail.
There’s no shortage of speed in this contest and almost every member of this field has run fast. They may set the table nicely for 4-Lugan Knight (4-1) with Michael McCarthy shipping north from Churchill to see how he classes up and stretches out, he has the right style, as does 7-General Banker, sharp and perfectly bred for this trip.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Arctic Arrogance
POTENTIAL VALUE PLAY: Neural Network
EXOTICA and STRAIGHT WAGERS: Exacta Box 1-4-6. Exacta Box: 1-6-7. Betting Neural Network to win at 3-1 or greater.
QUEENS COUNTY STAKES Race 9
Another race where track condition will affect the chances of the better contenders. 7-Law Professor (2-1) has laudable versatility, having won on wet and dry in fast time and gets significant class relief dropping out of the BC Dirt Mile after finishing second in the G1 Woodward in Queens.
2-Unbridled Bomber (7-2) came into his own late in his three year old year for Jimmy Ryerson and has won two straight, one each on wet and dry. He is ready for tougher test if good enough. 9-Bourbonic (8-1) needed his last off a long layup, coming with a strong late run and will appreciate the added ground. Wouldn’t mind a wet track in the least.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Law Professor
POTENTIAL VALUE PLAY: Unbridled Bomber
EXOTICA: Exacta Box 2-7-9. Trifecta Wheel 2.7 // 2.7.9 // 2.7.9. Betting Unbridled Bomber to win at 3-1 or greater.
this live column will be updated regularly throughout the weekend, New York is up next