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Horses to Watch in Saturday’s Big Triple Crown Preps

by Dustin Fabian

February 1, 2018

The Pegasus World Cup is in the rearview mirror, and that means three-year-olds are on display for the next few months. And the Triple Crown Trail kicks off in earnest at a number of tracks this Saturday, most notably Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Santa Anita.

Haven’t been paying a lot of attention to this year’s crop? That’s alright. He’s a look at the horses I think you need to have on your radar in advance of this Saturday’s key races.

Holy Bull Stakes (G2)

Race 12 @ Gulfstream Park (5:49PM ET)

Horses We’re Watching:

  • AUDIBLE (Pletcher/Castellano) – 6/1 – You give me a Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano horse at 6/1 on the ML at Gulfstream and tell me he’s won his last two races by a combined 11 ½-lengths and I’m going to run (not walk) to the windows. He has the look of a horse that is figuring things out and getting better each time he’s on the track. His draw is perfect (#4) and I love his chances at giving Pletcher his first Holy Bull win since Algorithms in 2012.
  • ENTICED (McLaughlin/Rosario) – 3/1 – On paper, he’s probably the most logical choice. He’s a son of super-stallion, Medaglia d’Oro, and his dam, It’s Tricky, won 8-of-14 starts, bankrolled $1.6 million and won races like the Acorn, Ogden Phipps and CCA Oaks. Plus, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last out, albeit in a head-bobbing finish while enjoying relatively a relaxing trip in a roughly run race. He merits respect, but should not be an overwhelming favorite.
  • FREE DROP BILLY (Romans/Saez) – 6/1 – Keep an eye on the Dale Romans quartet of entrants (Free Drop Billy, Bandito, Hollywood Star & Tiz Mischief). Logic would assume that one or two of these opt to wait a week and run in the Sam F. Davis next weekend in Tampa. Free Drop Billy is the lone G1 winner in the field, by virtue of his win in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity, and I’m content putting a line through his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile try (9th at 7/1 odds). It was so bad that it defies logic. This race is much easier and he should give a much better showing of himself.
  • TIZ MISCHIEF (Romans/Albarado) – 4/1 – This one flipped the switch when he went from one-turn racing to two-turn racing and I loved what he showed last out. Despite a far outside post, and covering 12 more feet than Enticed (an admittedly miniscule difference) in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he came within a head of victory that day. He’s going to need a pace, but it’s worth noting that Robby Albarado is named to ride this one instead of Free Drop Billy.

Withers Stakes (G3)

Race 8 @ Aqueduct (4:35PM ET)

Horses We’re Watching:

  • AVERY ISLAND (McLaughlin/Bravo) – 8/5 – It’s hard for me to envision this race not going to Avery Island. He’s arguably the quickest runner in the bunch and he should get a perfect trip from just off the expected pacesetter, California Night. As that one tires, I don’t see a scenario where Avery Island doesn’t inherit the lead and stay on. He won the G2 Nashua on November 5 and was beaten by Catholic Boy in the G2 Remsen, a race that seemed to favor horses coming from further back. This time around, I think the race shape plays to his strengths and he gets the win at a short price.
  • FIRENZE FIRE (Servis/McCarthy) – 9/5 – Everyone seemed to get down on this horse following his win in the Jerome, but I’m not sure why. Sure, he was all out at 2/5 odds to win that day, but what do you expect of a closer when forced to run behind fractions of :25, :50 4/5 and 1:16 3/5? I think it’s indisputable that a fast early face is the reason he won the G1 Champagne, but this horse still has that win on file. Problem is, I don’t see him getting a fast pace, nor do I see him necessarily excelling around two turns. He should give a good impression of himself, however.
  • MARCONI (Pletcher/Franco) – 3/1 – Hard to decide what exactly to make of this one. On one hand, he’s a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Tapit that cost $2 million at auction and won last out by 5 ½-lengths. On the other, he’s Beyered 70 and 74 in two starts and needed 1:54 2/5 to go 1 1/8-miles last out, a mark that surely won’t get the job done here. This is the right spot to try him in a stakes race, though, and you have to think he’ll take another step forward.

Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3)

Race 5 @ Santa Anita (5:30PM ET)

Horses We’re Watching:

  • PEACE (Mandella/Smith) – 3/1 – It’s hard to give him a confident nod over these, as 6-of-9 runners in the Robert Lewis exit maiden races (two maidens in the field). And Peace broke his maiden by just ¾-length over Regulate, who he faces again today but bombed in a subsequent race. Peace did run better in a pair of two-turn races and adds blinkers this time, but needs to take another step forward to validate his low odds.
  • SHIVERMETIMBERS (Hollendorfer/Bejarano) – 7/2 – He’s one of just two entrants with experience in a dirt stakes race, having finished 4th last out in the G3 Sham Stakes against McKinzie. His effort that day was just mediocre, 4th of 6 beaten 7 ¾-lengths, but there’s no McKinzie this time around and he’ll move forward from that.
  • REGULATE (Baffert/Talamo) – 8/1 – What do we make of Regulate? He debuted as a heavy favorite at Los Alamitos and didn’t run a step. Generally Baffert horses that debut at low odds run to those odds, so you have to think he’s regarded in the barn. Then, in his second start, he was 12/1 against Peace, but battled that one and was only defeated ¾-length. Then he came back in a similar race on January 19 and ran 6th, beaten 14 ¾-lengths, at 6/5 odds. But still, he’s a Juddmonte/Baffert horse and they’re confident enough to put him in a G3. It may be a reach, but I like that they’re taking the shot.

Cross-Country Pick 4

The Stronach Group is excited to partner with the New York Racing Association to offer a Cross-Country Pick 4 of this Saturday’s top races. The sequence consists of the following races:

  • 5:05PM ET - Aqueduct, Race 9
  • 5:16PM ET – Gulfstream, Race 11 (Dania Beach Stakes)
  • 5:30PM ET – Santa Anita, Race 5 (Robert B. Lewis Stakes)
  • 5:49PM ET – Gulfstream, Race 12 (Holy Bull Stakes)

Based on my picks above, you can get a good glimpse at who I’m playing. In the Dania Beach, I think you only need to cover to the two favorites – Untamed Domain (8/5) and Gidu (3/1).  In the kickoff leg at Aqueduct, a maiden claiming race, I'm looking at Linda Rice's Daring Destiny (3/1), Greg Matties' Musicality (9/2), Charlie Baker's Barefoot Angel (5/1) and maybe, just maybe the 23rd time will be the charm for Miguel Vera's Catapult Jack (4/1) who has a remarkable aversion to winning.  If you're looking for a bit of a price, check out John Toscano's Tammany Giant (6/1), who adds blinkers and gets back to (hopefully) fast-track sprinting for the first time since December, when he ran the best race of his life. 

Look for Cross-Country P4 on the Track List to play!

Gulfstream 1 Million Point Split

We’re upping the ante this Saturday at Gulfstream with a 1 Million Point Exacta Split! Hit Exacta Bets ($2 base minimum) on four different races and you’ll win an equal Split of the Points.

Log In to register and play.

Generally races with low-priced favorites are among the most popular in this sequence. I’d be keeping my eye on Strike Power (7/5) in Race 4, Dream Friend (7/2) in Race 8 and Untamed Domain (9/2) in Race 11 to get you started.

My Gulfstream Late Pick 4 Ticket

Here’s one way to attack today’s Late Pick 4. I think you can go short in the Dania Beach and go deeper around it. Keep an eye on the scratches in the Holy Bull. Assuming Romans doesn’t run all four of his entrants, you may be able to pare you ticket down there, too.

Race 9: 1, 2, 6, 9 (13, if he draws in, should be included)

Race 10: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8

Race 11: 6, 7

Race 12: 1, 2, 4, 7

Ticket Cost: $96.00