Today, the other two races for this weekend’s Public Handicapper contest go off. There are a couple of Grade I races from Gulfstream Park on tap today: the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Donn Handicap.
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (GI, 1 1/8mi. on the turf)
There are a lot of horses in this race who like to be right on or near the early speed, so the pace may set up well for a horse who comes from off the pace. If that’s the case, Nikki’s Sandcastle and Boisterous are good ones to look at. Boisterous likes to come from a handful of lengths off the pace; Nikki’s Sandcastle can do that, or come in from even further back. Boisterous is coming off of a four-month layoff; if that freshens him up and brings him back to the form he showed as recently as last summer, he’s dangerous. Nikki’s Sandcastle has shown some affinity for this distance (his last win was at 1 1/8 in the Fayette (GII) on the Keeneland polytrack), and when he’s on he can be fast enough to hang with anyone in this field. Another nice thing about Nikki’s Sandcastle is the price he’ll likely get — I’d want him in any exotic for this race, and if his final odds are anywhere near his 10-1 morning line, it’s an overlay on a win bet.
Tetradrachm, I like because of his versatility of pace. He has won races from on the lead, and he has run races from off the pace. No matter how the pace of this race unfolds, Tetradrachm is likely to find a way to make something good of it. This is a classy horse.
Amira’s Prince is questionable only because of the long layoff. All four of his starts since shipping over from Ireland have been wins, but that last start was in March of last year. If he is the same horse he was a year ago, he has a chance to put away the field — if a speed horse managed to win this thing, he is the likeliest of the bunch to do it. If he is rusty after the layoff, then not. The fact that he shipped here from Ireland and won right off the bat bodes relatively well, though.
Donn Handicap (GI, 1 1/8mi. on the dirt)
Will Take Charge is the 9/5 morning line favourite, and with good reason. He is proven on dirt, and the last few months of his three year old year he was just plain running like a beast. He is a fast horse, probably the fastest in this field, and it’s hard to argue that any horse running today knows quite as well how to get his nose on the wire just in time better than Will Take Charge. There is not a lot of early speed in this race (Uncaptured is the only horse in the field who seems to frequently want that early lead), but there is no one in this field (even as lone speed) who is likely to be too fast for Will Take Charge to catch. Luis Saez keeps the mount; he has been riding this horse since the Travers, through all of his huge races. He is the 123 pound highweight, but he has run some good races at equal or heavier imposts. Will Take Charge is probably the one to beat here, though the price on him is not likely to be very good — a drag, given that the handicapping contest requires a win bet only.
The two most interesting horses in this field are Lea and River Seven, for very similar reasons. Both of them have been doing most of their running on turf or synthetic, but are showing flashes of promise in their transition to running on dirt. The four-year-old River Seven, probably just now rounding into form, is coming off a four-length win in the Harlan’s Holiday over Csaba and Bourbon Courage. (In fact, River Seven is coming into the Donn off of three straight wins, though his two before the Harlan’s Holiday were both on the grass.) Lea comes into this race off of a 3 1/4 length win in the Hal’s Hope, over Jackson Bend and Neck ‘n Neck. Both of these horses have a significant weight break compared to Will Take Charge: River Seven is running under 116 pounds, and Lea 117. This race is a step up in class compared to either of these horses’ last runs in the dirt (a bigger step up in class for Lea than for River Seven). However, neither one of them is out of place here, and they both deserve the chance to put an exclamation point on their move from turf to dirt by testing themselves in the Donn.
Revolutionary is an interesting question mark. After a strong beginning of his three year old season, he was on layoff from the Belmont Stakes all the way to last month, when he won an AOC at Gulfstream Park by 1/2 length over Falling Sky (yesterday’s Gulfstream Park Sprint winner) and Viramundo. He is only four, and so may just be rounding into form, but I’m not fully convinced yet whether he is all the way back. He could run a big one today, or he could not. I will admit — I just don’t know about him.
Good luck, everyone!