I tabbed Catching Fireflies as an Illinois-bred to watch in a recent Chicago Railbird. Today, she becomes the first of the four horses I discussed to start this year, and it is the biggest race of her career to date. After winning two straight turf sprint allowances at Gulfstream, she steps into stakes company for the first time in her career. She returns to the same course and distance as her last two wins, but tries her skill against the next level of turf sprint fillies and mares.
Saturday, February 21: Gulfstream Race 7
Ladies Turf Sprint Stakes, fillies and mares, four-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf
Selections: Good Deed (3), Fascinante (6), Catching Fireflies (2)
Longshot: Believe In Charlie (8)
Catching Fireflies comes into this race with a shot, but she would have to take a step up from what she has shown so far in allowance company. As a young and lightly-raced filly (just now four years old, and racing for just the sixth time today), she has that chance. Trainer Ralph Nicks’s 22% win rate (and +$1.55 ROI) with last-out winners suggests his ability to place runners well when they are in form. She showed last out that she could rate — very helpful, since she would have to show a huge improvement in early pace to outgun the likes of Good Deed, Believe in Charlie, or Double Secret out of the gate. Her speed will have to take a clear step forward to contend with the best of the field, but still comes into this race in better form than most of these runners. In short? Catching Fireflies is still unproven, but her recent form and her affinity for the course suggest she could be a factor on the class rise.
Good Deed looks tough: even though the race drew a field of thirteen (down to twelve with the scratch of Wildcat Lily), she is head and withers the standout. She has hit the board in her last six starts, winning four of them, and comes off a pair of open-length wins in turf dashes at Fair Grounds. Her record at turf dashes is a sparkling 5-4-1-0, with the only second-place finish over soft going — a problem she will not face at Gulfstream. She has never raced over the South Florida oval, but her early speed style should be a great fit and she had the early pace to get right where she needs to be. Compared to this field, her 3/1 morning line would be a gift on Good Deed. Something like 3/2 or 2/1 seems a bit more likely.
Another horse who looks interesting here is Fascinante. She has not raced since November 1, but runs for trainer Efren Loza, whose charges have seen some success coming in off of long layoffs. Fascinante herself broke her maiden for Loza off an eight-month layoff. She had a lot of trouble running in longer races for Wesley Ward her three year old year, but a switch to the Loza barn and to going short on the grass has made her an entirely new horse. She has a 6-5-0-1 record in that time, all in races going five or five and a half panels on the green stuff. This will be the toughest field she has faced to date, but she should be up to it. She should have enough early pace to get near the front, but showed in her win last out that she can rate and win impressively. She has a win over the Gulfstream course, and she won her stakes debut at Gulfstream Park West last year over Jewel of a Cat, who also races here. Finally, she gets a rider change to John Velazquez, who has been riding at a solid 20% on the Gulfstream meet.
An interesting horse likely to go off at a price is Believe In Charlie. She won this race last year, but got thumped by Free as a Bird in four straight outings through last spring and summer, and has not been seen since August. Her morning line is 15/1; if she stays above 10/1 or so, she has plenty of upside to make her attractive. Believe in Charlie has come back from a similarly long layoff before and won first out. The worktab bodes well: she has been working consistently since mid-December at Palm Meadows, and comes into this race off a five-furlong bullet. If she returns in the form she had last year, Believe in Charlie should have enough zip to be on or near the lead, which is where a horse needs to be in a turf sprint at Gulfstream. Important, too, is that she is not a need-to-lead type: if she settles a length off, she can challenge.