Saturday, January 18, 2020
By Jeremy Plonk
Sunshine Millions Saturday at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita feature stakes races for the Florida-breds and California-breds. On the east coast, the lineup includes four consecutive stakes in Races 8-11, culminating in the Sunshine Millions Classic. But it's the 6-furlong sprint in Race 9 that most intrigues this eye.
The mare LADY'S ISLAND is a Grade 3 winner at the current Gulfstream Park Championship Meet. EXTRAVAGANT KID is Grade 1-placed and a multiple listed stakes winner. RICHARD THE GREAT and HE HATE ME are Grade 3-placed and listed stakes winners. ROYAL SQUEEZE and JACKSON are multiple listed stakes winners. EXTRAVAGANT KID has consistently kept the strongest company lines in this group and has some class edge.
Veteran 6-furlong sprint stakes almost certainly will have plenty of early heat. LADY'S ISLAND has made the front in each of her last 9 races. Shorter-dash specialist RUNNING FOR RIZ is extremely fast. JACKSON, ROYAL SQUEEZE and rail-drawn EXTRAVAGANT KID should be pushing from the next flight just off the burners.
LADY'S ISLAND has won 5 straight races and 8 of her last 9. Among those was an off-the-turf victory in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint against male rivals. So we know she can handle today's assignment on her best. The question will be the pace pressure. If they give her anything resembling a breather at any point the first half-mile, she's likely gone. While she has not posted a workout since her victory, that's not abnormal for her. Trainer Georgina Baxter recorded only 4 official workouts with LADY'S ISLAND during the entire 2019 calendar year.
EXTRAVAGANT KID has finished first or second in 9 of his last 10 starts. While the rail draw may appear tricky for a horse who sits a spot or two off the lead typically, he won from that assignment the last time he was on dirt from the fence. He finished second in the grassy Grade 1 Highlander from a rail draw as well. It's up to Tyler Gaffalione to work out the trip, and that's a good thing. Gaffalione has won his last 3 times aboard EXTRAVAGANT KID. Consider that other jockeys are 1-for-5 aboard the 'KID during that timeframe.
ROYAL SQUEEZE is best at 7 furlongs, so he'll be chasing some others in here at their game. He's capable upon his best and if the dash-types get softened up some. Toss his off par performance at Gulfstream Park West and his form looks much more appealing over his preferred footing in Hallandale Beach. Aggressive gate rider Paco Lopez put him on the front in the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit. He won't make the front here and would be best to try and pounce on the far turn and let his 7-furlong stamina try and carry him home. Similarly, JACKSON also has been best at 7 furlongs and will be chasing/pressing against the dashers in here most likely. The best races for JACKSON have come at Tampa Bay Downs, but he has won once in 6 tries at Gulfstream on dirt.
HE HATE ME showed much promise at 2, winning the Tremont. But his on again, off again career hasn't developed to the next level. This is good placement for him in state-bred company. While he's been the beaten favorite in his last 3 starts, the rider change to Luis Saez won't hurt. His last 3 races when paired with Saez have netted two wins and a runner-up. His BRIS late pace figures put him at the head of the list of horses who should be finishing with the most energy.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: LADY'S ISLAND has finished in the superfecta in 12 straight races and 23 of 26 career starts. She's missed the exacta just once at Gulfstream Park on dirt, and just once at 6 furlongs lifetime.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: It's difficult to see anything too long in the exacta. RICHARD THE GREAT may offer some price for the tris and supers on the cutback in distance and luring Jose Ortiz, but I'm not overly endorsing him.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $75 exacta EXTRAVAGANT KID over LADY'S ISLAND. $25 exacta LADY'S ISLAND over EXTRAVAGANT KID.