by Johnny D
January 15, 2022
Good news! In case you hadn’t heard or seen banner ads, Xpressbet is again offering a $2,000 bonus split to registered players that hit the Gulfstream Park Late Pick 4 each Saturday and Sunday during the Championship Meet!
That’s free money to those planning to play the wager anyway! Quick registration is required and then you can join Xpressbet horseplayers in line for a kiss every time they correctly tab a Saturday or Sunday Gulfstream Late Pick 4.
Saturday wagering action also features Week 2 of Xpressbet’s affordable, entertaining and profitable Beat the Host competition. Register FREE and play each Saturday in January and February for shots at $2,000 in weekly prizes, seats in the $15,000 Beat the Host Championship and $22,500 in prizes for Cumulative Earnings. Players are asked to make a single, ‘live’ $5 Win wager on one horse in each of 10 competition races ($50 total). If the player’s wagering total beats the host’s, the player qualifies for the $15,000 Beat the Host Championship. If the player’s total is among the top 3 of all players, the player wins a share of $2,000 in weekly cash. Pretty simple, really.
This week’s host is XBTV and Santa Anita handicapper Millie Ball. She’s talented, experienced and always one of the toughest hosts to top.
Last Saturday, Robert Campoli cashed for $229.50 in earnings to lead all players. He collects $1,000. Bryan Ingram finished second with $222.50 and bags an additional $750. William Kimok finished a mere $3.50 behind Ingram in third and won an additional $250.
In an attempt to help account holders navigate Beat the Host races and to collect a slice of the Late Pick 4 bonus, below is one man’s humble opinion of how the final 4 races at Gulfstream Park might unfold Saturday. Selections were made before scratches and assume Fast and Firm conditions.
Funny things happen in Gulfstream Park turf races. Well, I suppose, funny things happen in turf races in general. That’s because of some of the following: A lone front-runner is permitted to gallop along uncontested while others race wide, are blocked, checked, or stymied trying to rally. Runners that may have been best in a race never find enough room to succeed. Our personal favorite is when a runner trying the turf for the first time ends up romping home on top, loving grass like a kid does a summer ice cream cone. Race 8 is the first leg of the Late Pick 4, it’s on turf and we’re looking for something funny to happen.
#1 Winfromwithin is a wire-to-wire stakes winner who had the lead in the stretch of the Gr.2 American Turf last out back in May before fading to third, nearly 3 lengths back. This colt moves from the nearly unbeatable Pletcher barn to the low-profile outfit of Jeff Engler. The colt’s 1-1 over the local turf and has a win at the distance. There should be enough speed to keep him honest on the front end, though, and he may need one coming off a layoff.
#3 Proven Strategies is a 5-year-old stakes winner and has 2 wins in 5 GP outings. All 4 career wins have come virtually in wire-to-wire fashion. He should add spice to the early pace from this inside post. Recent gelding could aid this one’s cause as he has graded stakes experience. Trainer Casse and jockey Gonzalez are 30% together. There are some gaps in this one’s past performances that suggest he’s difficult to keep together but comparatively strong BSF in his last 3 races—April, July and Sept—suggest he runs well enough fresh.
#5 Mira Mission returns to turf after a recent synthetic attempt when third at this level and at about this distance in his first start for trainer Ian Wilkes. This colt is an allowance winner over the Saratoga turf and is 2 for 2 over the GP lawn. He’s fit and has a recent 5-furlong work to bolster a late kick that ought to be enhanced by a solid pace. At a price, he’s a decent option for a winless barn at the stand that will break out soon.
#6 Absam hails from the potent-but-slumping Maker barn (3-44) and has 19% jockey Gaffalione up. A Saratoga first-level allowance win is encouraging but an overall 2-for-13 mark is not. He runs from off the pace.
#8 Hot Blooded wheels back off a Dec. 26 appearance in the Tropical Park Derby at 95-1. He’s won just 2 of 14 starts and has an assortment of stakes-level starts under his belt with little success.
#9 Hawkish is a 7-year-old that saw some of his best racing in ’19 and ’20. He’s 0-for-6 at the distance on turf.
#10 Vow Me Now is a 6-year-old with a win 2 back in a $16k starter. He’s won 8 of 19 lifetime and 7 of 12 at GP. Those are impressive stats. He has speed, must overcome an outside post and figures to be widest of all early. Perhaps too much to overcome? Trainer Plesa and jockey Lopez have been a solid team for a while.
At a Square Price: #5
Maybe: #1, #3
Bombs Away: #8
This allowance/$62k optional claiming race at one mile and one-sixteenth has attracted a pair of talented 4-year-old runners with recent Big Apple-stakes experience. That can happen during the Gulfstream winter meet where a clash between top outfits often make a Pick N single-seeker cross-eyed.
#2 Capocostello, a multiple Grade 1 winner in Panama, isn’t an attractive selection in here, but the 6-year-old horse is worth a mention because he has incredibly unusual form: Over wet surfaces he’s won 11 races with 3 seconds! While that’s an outstandingly consistent record, what most amazing is that of the 15 times he raced, 14 times it’s been over ‘wet’ surfaces. We’ve never seen a past performance as unusual as this one and we’ve seen plenty of past performances. To paraphrase the lyrics of a once popular tune:
It never rains in Panama City,
But girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours.
#3 American Prince is a lightly raced local 4-year-old with 2 wins and a second in four starts. He’s a speedster lacking the cache of some of his foes but probably still a tough ‘out’ in here. He’ll make the popular new faces run for the money.
#4 Vindictive opened eyes when he posted a 97 Beyer Speed Figure to break maiden going one mile and one-eighth at Saratoga. He immediately returned to win a first level allowance Spa race in his next start. Any colt that cashes that parlay has talent. After a failed attempt at a second-level allowance race at Belmont, again, at one mile and one-eighth, this colt posted a 101 BSF when third, beaten less than 2 lengths in the Discovery at Aqueduct. Top trainer Pletcher and top jock Saez combine skills.
#5 Olympiad was purchased for a neat $700k as a yearling and has 2 wins, a second and a third from 5 appearances. Both victories came at 7 furlongs—Saratoga maiden and Keeneland first-level allowance. His best-rated effort earned a 105 BSF when runner-up to stablemate Baby Yoda in a first-level Spa allowance race. Last out, the 4-year-old colt finished a troubled fourth, beaten over 4 lengths in the Gr. 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. He has more speed than #4 Vindictive but he’s never been around 2 turns.
Should Be Interesting: #4, #5
This six-furlong state-bred stakes race has attracted some serious early speed. No less than 5 of these would like to be in front at the start so that they can be there at the finish. Unfortunately, the lead figures to be a hot spot and all that early scuffling could open the door to someone with a longer fuse. Of course, not all 5 front-running types are likely to go for the lead. After all, everyone reads the same past performances and knows what will happen after a suicidal pace. Should be an interesting first quarter mile.
#1 Cool Quest starts for a hot trainer, has speed and has 2 wins that both came in wire-to-wire fashion. The rail is no bargain for this guy unless he can sit under Leparoux. That would be a new dimension for him.
#2 Pudding got hot during the summer when the 7-year-old gelding ripped off four consecutive wins at the $20-$25k claiming level. His last two races were solid, and he loves GP. Seven furlongs seems a better distance for him, but he’s got the right style for this race if the speed gets crazy.
#5 Gatsby attracts top jock Saez off a series of 4 solid recent races. Three back he destroyed #2 Pudding by more than 7 lengths and 2 back was less than a length behind that foe—all at the $62-$80k optional claiming level. A 1 for 10 record at the distance isn’t encouraging.
#7 Legal Deal was 2 lengths better than #2 Pudding last out in the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit. A 6-13 mark at GP and a 3-7 record at the distance give this one some real strength in here. Another piece of good news is that the 5-year-old gelding has drawn outside of the other speed in the race and probably can force the pace from there. Jockey Gonzalez won on him 2 starts back.
Next: #5, #2
This one-mile turf race finds the rail set at 35 feet and that should give speed a slight advantage. Several experienced runners with decent proven or expected improving form will be met by first-time starters from winning outfits. Turf races often go to the horse with the best trip and that could be the case here as no one really holds a strong edge over the rest. The tote board may offer clues but those are too late for the Pick 4. This one could go any number of ways; Pick 4 players ought to look at spreading the net.
#1 Principe d’Oro is a first-time starter from the powerful Pletcher stable (42%) and is ridden by top jock Saez (27%). Together they click at a strong 29%. A steady work tab for this $650k yearling purchase bred by chef and television personality Bobby Flay suggests talent.
#3 Dream of a Day has four starts under his belt and will race first-time Lasix in here. Trainer Barclay Tagg probably hopes that’s enough to put this one over the hump following three consecutive runner-up efforts—two on turf, one on synthetic—all since blinkers were added. Daily Racing Form Beyer Speed Figures have improved with each start. Can’t either love or ignore this late runner with Leparoux in the irons.
#4 Tallahatchiebridge is a son of Will Take Charge bred and owned by the Ramseys and making a first start for 24% winning trainer Saffie Joseph. First-time starters and turf runners are two of the few categories he doesn’t excel in.
#5 Skylander is a Godolphin runner trained by Bill Mott. He rallied from far back last out to just miss at this distance and over this surface. He races with first-time Lasix. Two previous efforts at Belmont Park were not as exciting.
#6 Grand David makes an initial grass start off a dirt sprint and two synthetic routes. He showed speed in the two-turn races, although with slow fractions. He also lost ground in the stretch of both of those races but earned two of the top Beyer Speed Figures in the race. 24% trainer Victor Barboza and jockey Paco Lopez hit at 36% (14 starts) together and the rider takes over from Jaramillo, who moves to #12 Moms Moon. The trainer has been successful with first time turf, first time Lasix and synthetic to turf runners in the past.
#7 Romanichal is a first-time starter from the Rusty Arnold outfit and the barn is not known for scoring either first out (3%) or first-time turf (4%).
#8 Border War is a Joe Allen War Front homebred making a first start for trainer Shug McGaughey, who has average first time out, turf and distance stats. Castellano rides and he’s 18% overall and 27% at the meet with Shug, so they’ve enjoyed some success together. Easy work tab shows a pair of interesting four-furlong breezes.
#10 La Maquina is fit off a front-running try first out going a mile and 70 yards Dec. 19. He faded to fourth in that race, passed late by #11 Simms, who was also making his first career start. They finished a mere length and one-half apart. Trainer Gargan is 18% second time out and combines with jockey Vasquez to hit at 28%. This one ought to have more in the tank.
#11 Simms had a wide trip in his debut, checked briefly late and ought to improve a bit with the experience. Trainer Mark Casse is 16% second time out and about as good with synthetic to turfers. Jockey Gonzalez and Casse combine to hit at an awesome 30%.
Fit and Liable to Improve: #10, #11
Deeper Pockets Might Add: #3, #5, #6, #8