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Saturday, January 6: Johnny D's Beat the Host Recap & Late Pick 4 Ticket from Gulfstream

by Johnny D

February 4, 2021

Saturday, veteran Gulfstream Park handicapper and simulcast host Ron Nicoletti will be the man wearing the bullseye in Week 6 Beat the Host action. Players will attempt to top Nicoletti’s earning’s total based on a ‘live’ $5 Win wagers in each of 10 competition races. That accomplishment earns a seat in the Beat the Host Championship Round where rich tournament seats will be awarded as prizes. Players also compete against each other for $2,000 in weekly prizes and add to cumulative Beat the Host totals while pursuing coveted tournament seats.

Beat the Host registration is open and free, and the competition is limited to Xpressbet account holders only—so you don’t have to whip the world to win. Also, since Beat the Host wagers are ‘live,’ players keep what they win. Pick a few winners and the competition pays for itself even if you don’t win a prize.

In last Saturday’s action, it was computer versus humans as 1/ST Bet’s Artificial Intelligence matched wits with Xpressbet account holders. Humans, mostly, came out on top. 1/ST Bet AI picks were correct in just one race, the afternoon’s finale at Gulfstream Park with Sabuda for an $11.50 total.

The top weekly figure for humans belongs to Mathew McAleer at $170. That earns him a $1,000 weekly prize. Second best is Dale Howell with $149, good for $750. Jeffrey Carucci is third best with $141. He collects a $250 prize.

In the race to a $6,000 Sweep the Host Bonus, which goes to the player who defeats hosts in all 9 weeks, only 4 players remain alive. That’s down from 5 as one player was unable to top the machine’s total this week. With 4 weeks to go, the surviving quartet of Sweep the Host eligible players includes Steve Glynn, Lou Kotzman, Scott Shore and John Maskel.

Craig Yoshido continues to lead cumulative earners at $348.50. Steve Glynn is in second with $331. Adam Haskins and Andrew Ma round out the list of those over $300 with $319 and $301, respectively.

With 4 weeks to go, it’s not too late to join the chase for the Total Winnings crown but time’s running out. The seasonal leader has averaged $87.12 in weekly earnings, so one could rally from far back to take the top prize but it would be difficult.

Future hosts include Santa Anita’s Tom Quigley, Gulfstream’s Acacia Courtney and NBC Sports’ Eddie Olczyk.

See you Saturday!

Below is one man’s opinion regarding Saturday’s Late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park. Selections were made before scratches and are based on a fast track and firm turf.


This five-furlong turf sprint is open to runners entered to be claimed for $25k or non-winners of a race other than Maiden, Claiming or Starter. It’s a field of 12 with 2 runners entered Main Track Only. Speed usually is king in these heats with closers at the mercy of pace and needing perfect trips to get the job done.

#1 WHISKEY SUNRISE (7/2): Has speed, the rail and is talented enough to get the job done. Luis Saez rides for trainer Michael Yates, who’s having a strong season with 6 wins in 25 starts. One caution is that ‘Sunrise hasn’t started since June and has just 3 short workouts listed. Yates has done well with runners away 180 + days (25%), based on a limited sample (8 starters) and he’s 1 for 3 with Saez. Conflicting messages here but enough to respect.

#2 KING SNAKE (6/1): Delivered a much-improved effort last out New Year’s Day to break maiden going one mile on turf at Gulfstream. He enjoyed a slow pace on the lead that afternoon and that won’t happen in here. He’s obviously fit and has worked four furlongs every 7 days for trainer Jack Sisterson. Can he close and win? He hasn’t ever done that before in 6 starts.

#3 THE VIRGINIAN (5/1): Has 2 wins in 4 starts over this 5-furlong layout. He won his last start Dec. 20 and now changes barns to Steve Klesaris (13% 1st time his barn). He has speed. One drawback is that he has just one recorded work since that Dec. 20 race.

#4 FACE OF VICTORY (8/1): Is a 7-year-old that has been away from the race for a year and made just 1 start in 2020. His best races in the past were at longer distances.

#5 LIVING VICARIOUSLY (4/1): Comes into this off a nice try at this class level, surface and distance—his first race since October. He was fourth, beaten just 1 length after showing good speed. It was clearly the best effort of his 11-race career. He has 2 wins and both of them have come at about this distance at Arlington and at Gulfstream. He was a huge 30-1 price last out but, off that race, fits in here at a much shorter number.

#6 SHARED LEGACY (20/1): Is difficult to like off a poor last race.

#8 CHIEF HOWCOME (20/1): Will attempt to be the one to snap trainer Ian Wilkes out of a terrible 0 for 24 slump at the current meeting, that is unless the personable trainer can saddle a winner before the weekend. Last out the Chief was eighth behind #5 Living Vicariously at this level.

#9 OUR MERCEDES BOY (9/2): Won his last start on dirt Dec. 16 at a lower level. That winning effort came after a trio of in-the-money finishes against better than he defeated. He has made just one start on turf and was nowhere going a mile. Can he transfer his solid dirt form to turf and can he also take a step up in class? Those are serious questions and normally enough to send this player in another direction. However, top jock Irad Ortiz rides for 19% trainer Georgina Baxter and the 5-year-old gelding has a solid :36 blowout. He’s been favored in his last 4 starts, too.

#11 TONALISM (7/2): Won his first and only start Jan. 7 by more than 12 lengths against maiden $20k foes. He was claimed out of that six-furlong dirt race and now starts for red-hot Enrique Amado (3 for 11). Equally on fire, jockey Edgard Zayas rides. The 4-year-old gelding has worked once for new connections producing a bullet :47 1/5 at GPW.

#12 KAUFY BEAN (6/1): Is a 4-year-old colt with 3 wins in 10 starts—one at the distance here. Ignore his last race—a state-bred stakes at one mile and one-eighth. Before that he was third, beaten 2 lengths at this level, distance and surface while closing ground after a slow start. He won back to back one-mile races before that—one on turf and one in the slop. Boy, if you can forgive and forget his last race, he stacks up reasonably well in here.


One-mile main track 3-year-old maiden races at Gulfstream Park in February usually attract expensive and talented runners. This race is more of the same. Top trainers Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher have 2 runners each and Mark Casse joins with a $625k John Oxley purchase. Should be interesting.

#1 Courageously has had 2 starts at the distance on turf and now switches from turf to the main track for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. Purchased for $625k as a yearling, this colt has shown speed and faded in both previous races. Casse likes to give his runners a few outs on turf before switching them to the main track. Obviously, this one has some talent. How much?

#2 Tallis starts for leading trainer Todd Pletcher, ridden for top jock Irad Ortiz and they bat 34% together. This son of Uncle Mo has a steady series of Palm Beach Downs works every 7 days and must be used.

#3 Mutasallem goes for multiple Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown and is ridden by Jose Ortiz—a 25% combo. Brown’s runners haven’t been as explosive this Gulfstream meeting and he’s only hitting at 15%--a solid number for any trainer not named Chad Brown. This homebred Shadwell colt is by Union Rags and has worked every 6-7 days at Payson.

#6 Promise Keeper is Todd Pletcher’s second entrant in this race. He’s made one start—a well beaten fourth sprinting at 8-1. Luis Saez returns in the saddle and Pletcher is 22% second time out and the same with Saez. This son of Constitution has the advantage of a race but Pletcher’s other starter appears the more likely winner.

#9 Drum and Drummer is an interesting runner to consider at a price, especially in exotics. He starts for lower profile trainer Kelly Breen and is ridden by hustling Emisael Jaramillo. He’s by Congrats and was purchased as a 2-year-old at Ocala in April. He’s got a steady stream of Palm Meadows works, including a few nice five-furlong breezes in around a minute. Worth a look.

#10 Higher Quality is by Tiznow and was purchased for a cool $600k as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton. He sports a series of steady works at Palm Meadows for Chad Brown and attracts Tyler Gaffalione to ride—the combo is 28%. He must be considered in the mix but might be best going around two turns.


In our race 9 analysis, also a 5-furlong turf sprint, we advised, ‘Speed usually is king in these races with closers at the mercy of pace and needing perfect trips to get the job done.’ Four of eight runners in this Ladies’ Turf Sprint stakes race come out of the Abundantia Stakes Jan. 1. That race produced a very hot pace and a 9-1 closer roared from off the pace to win going away. A similar scenario appears likely Saturday.

#1 Victory Kingdom closed from seventh at 7-1 to finish second behind #8 Hear My Prayer. This 6-year-old mare seldom closes the deal and has just 1 win in 15 starts. Interestingly, she broke from the rail last time out, too. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione takes over for Julian Leparoux for trainer Rudolphe Brisset.

#2 A Bit of Both is a 5-year-old mare with 9 wins in 16 starts. She has extensive stakes experience including grade 2 and grade 3 dirt stakes tries here a year ago. She’s never raced on the Gulfstream turf but has 2 wins in 4 starts on grass, all at this distance. Luis Saez rides for 19% Mike Maker. They combine to win 27% of the time. Note that she’s been working at Fair Grounds for this and has a bullet—best of 28—4-furlong blowout Feb. 1. An interesting option.

#3 Tracy Ann’s Legacy has speed and was part of that early meltdown that occurred last out in the Abundantia Stakes. In that race, this 5-year-old mare forced a :20 4/4, :43 2/5 pace and then faded to third, beaten 3 lengths. It was a solid effort, but the pace appears to be just as challenging this time. In her last 5 wins, this mare has gone wire-to-wire. That seems unlikely to happen in here. She does like Gulfstream and is 3 for 8 on its turf and 6 for 14 at the distance.

#5 Miss Auramet had a rough start in the Abundantia and never was in the race. That’s probably OK because here best shot is on the lead and that was a crowded spot Jan. 1. She wins races—7 for 17 and 4 of 10 on turf at the distance. She also handles Gulfstream 2 for 7. Expect her to keep #3 Tracy Ann’s Legacy company up front early.

#6 Lagertha appears to fit in this race because she split #5 Miss Auramet and #8 Hear My Prayer one back when second in an optional claiming $80k. That afternoon at Gulfstream Park West, she came from off the pace. That style would work well in here as there figures to be plenty of early pace. Last out Lagertha finished second by chasing a front running winner through solid early fractions.

#7 Lady’s Island is an absolute pro! She’s won 17 of 34 starts and over $600k. At 7-years-old she comes off a wire-to-wire tally in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl Dec. 12. Hats off to this durable mare and her connections. Her chances in this particular race appear dim, however. She’s a front-runner and there’s plenty of those in here, so she’ll have company early. She’s also won just 1 of 4 starts on turf. It’s a bit late in the game for this mare to find a new career on grass but it’s always dangerous betting against an old pro.
#8 Hear My Prayer is a developing 4-year-old who found the right spot last out in the Abundantia Stakes when she closed from just off the pace to win by more than 2 lengths. She meets some of the same foes from that race and the early pace picture again appears to be just as congested. She’s the one to beat with leading rider Irad Ortiz up for low profile trainer David Fisher.


We’ll close things out with a $6,250 non-winners of two claiming race for fillies and mares going six furlongs on dirt. It’s often difficult to rely on runners at this level and there usually are several class droppers that horseplayers must deal with. Such is the case in here.

#1 Galit Jak dropped to this level last out and ran a better race for a while. She forced or led early before fading to fifth, beaten 6 lengths. Jaramillo replaces Zayas (#4 Simple Story).

#2 Wicked Spirit drops off 2 poor races at one mile—one dirt and one turf. She has a bullet—best of 14--:47 4/5 since raced. She is lightly raced—4 starts—so connections appear to be eager to unload this one.

#3 Lalai has 2 recent OK tries at this level. She’ll probably need to do better to win this, though. She will add blinkers for trainer Amador Sanchez and jockey Hector Berrios. An in-the-money finish seems the most probable result.

#4 Simple Story was pulled up in her last race when jockey Zayas lost irons. Toss that race and this filly sports a runner up finish going one mile at the $10k non-winners of 2 level. She drops for this after being claimed for $12,500 in September. Trainer Gustavo Delgado has been quite at this meeting (10%) but is 24% with Zayas. This filly is worth a look.

#6 Miss Over There tumbles in class from the $20k non-winners of 2 level. She also switches from mainly 2-turn races on turf to a one-bend sprint on dirt. The drop in class will help and, if she handles dirt, she could be dangerous in here.

#7 Dancing Destroyer tumbles in class from $30k to $6,250. The 4-year-old showed promise early on when she was favored in 4 out of her first 5 starts. The bloom is off the rose now and she hasn’t started since July.

#8 Shellphone (great name) dropped to this level last out, the latest in a series of descending steps down the class latter. A sign of life was detected Jan. 15 when the 4-year-old filly finished a closing fourth beaten nearly 4 lengths at 23-1. Further improvement will be required to win this race, but the effort was much improved over previous recent tries.

#10 Cookie Cove is a 5-year-old mare with just 1 win in 16 tries. She has 6 runner-up finishes and a third, so it’s not like she doesn’t have ability. She drops from the $16k non-winners of 2 level for this and has been competitive at the $12,500 non-winners of 2 level. The twist is that she’s moving from turf to dirt where she’s made just 2 starts with 1 second. She races regularly without many breaks, so it appears she physically sound. Maybe this is the level where she can shine? Jockey Victor Lebron has gotten the best results from the filly.

#11 Gravel Gerties was claimed last out at this level. She set or forced the pace before fading to fourth, beaten 5 lengths. That was at six and one-half furlongs, so this shorter distance should help. She was second at this level going six furlongs over a wet fast track the time before that. Her new trainer Javier Negrete is 17% first off of a claim.

#12 Harts N Flowers broke maiden in her tenth career start over a sloppy track two races back. She finished fourth most recently when favored. #11 Gravel Girtie finished well in front of her in that race.

$.50 Suggested Pick 4 Ticket ($45)
Race 9: 1, 5, 9, 11, 12
Race 10: 1, 2, 9
Race 11: 2, 8
Race 12: 4, 6, 10

Race On!