by Johnny D
December 17, 2021
Past performances for last Saturday’s Gulfstream Late Pick 4 looked like Greek to us and we weren’t alone. Zero Xpressbet account holders among those registered for a weekly $2,000 bonus submitted a winning ticket!
That’s saying something. Actually, a couple of things.
First, you’ve got to make sure to register for the $2,000 Gulfstream Late Pick 4 promotion. You know you’re going to play the wager, why not have a free roll at some extra bread?
The second thing last week’s scramble says is that sometimes it’s OK to pass wagers. That Pick 4 was inscrutable, race after race, and we said nearly as much in our analysis.
Of course, those who cashed $.50 Pick 4 tickets worth $5,326 didn’t find it quite as challenging. While puzzle pieces of We Miss Susie $10.80, Landbiscuit $14.60, Officiating $16.80 and K.C. Chief $30.20 were difficult to place, the overall picture came together nicely for a few.
This week’s sequence appears way more formful than last Saturday’s (note we did not say ‘easy.’ Pick 4s are never easy). There’s a chance the payoff could come back extremely ‘light.’ That might be attributable to the fact that there are 3 graded stakes races leading into a finale that has Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown starters as first and second choices. There could be a few bumps in the road along the way and we’ve attempted to highlight them below, but the sequence also could ‘chalk out.’ In that case, you definitely want a piece of the $2,000 Pick 4 bonus to sweeten the pot.
Below is one man’s humble analysis of Saturday’s Gulfstream Late Pick 4 and a suggested ticket.
Race 8 – Sugar Swirl – Grade 3
There’s a proven entity in here and a sharp filly we feel will fire a big one. Pick 4 players may use both in order to advance but there’s a chance this sequence will provide a ‘chalky’ return. In that case, it’s probably best to decide which of these two fillies one likes best and single them to begin the wager. Spreading too thick in this Pick 4 doesn’t seem prudent. We’ll take an early shot at beating a morning line favorite with a second choice. You may feel differently.
#3 Frank’s Rockette is the fastest filly in the race and concluded her 3-year-old season by starting in the BC Sprint. She hasn’t been quite as unbeatable in ’21 and is just 2-for-7 this year. She’s tough to ignore but probably will be overbet off that sparkling resume. She’s the one to beat but not nearly as powerful as she was last year at this time.
#5 Center Aisle is a 4-year-old filly who returned from a nearly year layoff like a tigress to win both ’21 starts in wire-to-wire fashion. She tried a couple of graded stakes races at 3 and wasn’t disgraced, so she’s probably got enough class to act at this level if she’s grown up. She’s 3 for 7 overall and 1 for 1 at the Gulf. She isn’t as fast as #3 Frank’s Rockette but she appears to be ready to fire a big race for trainer Paulo Lobo. Can’t live without her.
Should Fire: #5
Overbet One to Beat: #3
Race 9 – Harlan’s Holiday – Grade 3
In here we have a talented invader from the north making a first Gulfstream start under high weight matching up against a Gulfstream track-lover hailing from a top barn with a cozy outside draw. Some others offer interesting alternatives, but the top pair seem strongest on the win end. Again, we’ll single to keep the ticket slender and hope to have it multiple times.
#1 Mighty Heart makes a first start at Gulfstream after winning 6 of 15, mainly at Woodbine over synthetic and at Churchill, Keeneland and Fort Erie over dirt. He’s a 4-year-old who can handle both surfaces well. He’s got speed and Johnny V in the saddle from the rail—a nice combination. He will need to pack top weight of 126 pounds in here and figures to take early heat from #2 Blue Steel.
#2 Blue Steel is a reliable 5-year-old who’s won 5 of 10 starts at this distance. In fact, if one ignores an Ellis Park turf try, this guy’s working on a string of 5 consecutive wins and 6 out of 7, a nose loss away from perfection. He’s speedy, plenty fit (won the CC Iron Horse Dec. 4 here) and has one win out of 3 tries at Gulfstream. OK, he hasn’t faced foes of this quality before bit with 10-1 morning line odds…one could do worse.
#4 Eye of a Jedi is a 6-year-old gelding with a strong Gulfstream Park resume behind him. Earlier this year he was running races that would put him in the picture. He appears to be in decent form off a well-beaten third behind Girolamo’s Attack and #6 Fearless last out. Exotics at a price?
#6 Fearless figures to stalk the pacesetters from this outside post position under Saez for trainer Todd Pletcher. They’re a sparkling 25% combo. Stats-wise this 5-year-old gelding earns favoritism with 3 wins out of 4 Gulfstream starts and 2 of 3 at the distance. He won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile here last February. His last start was a solid second behind Girolamo’s Attack and they were well clear of the rest of the field. That was his first out since May and Pletcher is 22% second out off a layoff.
Price Exotics: #2, #4
Race 10 – Fort Lauderdale – Grade 2
This Grade 2, one mile and one-eighth turf stakes has attracted the usual mixed bag of former stars, sharp 4-year-olds and not-quite-theres. Seems to be a fair amount of pace in here and the rails are set at 55 feet, according to Daily Racing Form past performances. That suggests the trip may favor a runner just off the early pace as wide rail settings favor inside speed and handicap deep closers. The favorite looks pretty solid in here, but it is turf racing so maybe a few others warrant inclusion.
#1 Doswell is a seemingly healthy 6-year-old and was second in this race last year at nearly 16-1. He’s won just 2 of 11 lifetime, but is 10 of 11 in the money, so he’s consistent. A nice best-of-28 half-mile turf blowout suggests sharpness. He will need to turn the tables on #2 L’Imperator after failing to that one by nearly 3 lengths last out. This one’s a ‘reach’ in the win position.
#2 L’Imperator is a sharp 4-year-old making a first start at Gulfstream for trainer Chad Brown. He’s the morning-line favorite and fits the bill off a sparkling romp against allowance/optional claiming foes at Aqueduct going longer last out. He will need to come from off the pace with Johnny V in the saddle. The gelding has won 5 of 9 races and is stakes-placed at this level.
#3 Breaking the Rules was third in this race in ’20 and hasn’t done much to suggest the 6-year-old might win this. His last 3 wins came at the allowance/optional claiming level.
#4 English Bee is a 5-year-old without real credentials to win this race, although in 2020 he just missed in Grade 2 and 3 races. What’s notable is that hot jockey Saez rides for trainer Graham Motion and the duo are an outstanding 32% together. Don’t know about this one winning this race, but four five-furlong works since an Oct. 23 last out and trainer Motion going to Saez suggest this one could outrun his 20-1 morning line odds. Exotics at a price?
#8 Analyze It might become a millionaire in this race. He’s at $939k in earnings and comes off a Belmont wire-to-wire optional claiming allowance score. The 6-year-old was a top turf 3-year-old, missed his 4-year-old season, raced just twice at 5 and is 1 for 4 this year. He’s earned respect but needs to rebound a bit for a win here.
#11 Atone is a sharp 4-year-old for a trainer who’s great at upsetting turf apple carts. This guy comes off a sharp Aqueduct $80k/Allowance score, has a perfect stalking style, a fine record (4-9 on turf) and is a big price. Jockey Jaramillo is not one of Maker’s ‘go-to’ guys but he’s the kind of jock that can pull off an upset now and then. Trainer Maker currently is ‘cold’ at Gulfstream but hitters usually break out of slumps by hitting home runs.
#12 Space Traveller tries easier in here after facing Grade 1 foes in all 3 of his US-based starts. We wanted to ignore this second morning-line choice in the race for a couple of reasons, but the class drop is too drastic to ignore. The negatives are that this one comes from way out of it and from this post 12 with rails at 55 feet, he’ll be taking the worst of it. However, jockey Gaffalione knows the Gulfstream way home. Trainer Walsh and jockey Gaffalione hit at a strong 28%.
Upset Special: #11
Sharp Object: #2
Respect: #12, #8
Race 11 – Maiden Special Weight
A pair of Gulfstream and NYRA training heavyweights in Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown call shots for the top two choices in this heat and there’s a pretty good chance that following the race one of those conditioners will enjoy a photo opportunity. Other options are mostly first-time starters from barns and by sires that aren’t known for winning initial starts and/or races on turf. No splitting hairs in here, we’ll use both of those horses. Players searching for a longshot to boost Pick 4 payoffs might go searching in here and can’t be blamed.
#2 Wake Surf makes his third start and second on turf. First out over a yielding surface he showed some speed and led 10 foes most of the way around the soggy course. He returned to again force the early pace and fade. Those two under his belt should help and he’s a big price for a barn that often surprises. Don’t see much early speed in here.
#5 Misbehaved had two decent dirt starts before tossing in a ‘less-than’ effort going this distance over the Belmont turf. It’s possible he didn’t appreciate the surface. It’s also possible it just wasn’t his best afternoon. Trainer Pletcher’s given this one plenty of time to rebound and a repeat of either of his first two races would be good enough to win this comfortably…at least against those that have started. Blinkers go on and Pletcher’s 22% with that move. Jockey Saez adds confidence. Note: this guy is 3-for-3 as a failed favorite!
#9 Ridley’s Major ran well first time out going this distance at Belmont after a wide trip. He’s got major upside as Brown is an incredible 26% with second time starters. Johnny V. takes over for Jose Ortiz and this one can be expected to show speed from an outside post position. He’s got steady Palm Meadows works for this return to action.
#10 Hail to Thee must draw into the field but he’s trained by the capable Christophe Clement and is to be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. They’re a decent combo. This one has a decent work schedule that appears to have been interrupted Oct. 29 to Nov. 24 just after the ship from Saratoga to Payson. Perhaps the colt developed a slight illness? Clement is good with first-time starters (22%), on turf (20%) and when debuting at over a mile (18%). The probable far outside post is a hindrance.
Chalky Experience: #5, #9 (favor #9 slightly more)
$3.00 Gulfstream Saturday Late Pick 4 ($48)
Race 8: #5
Race 9: #6
Race 10: #2, #8, #11, #12
Race 11: #5, #9