We’ve got some mouthwatering action to preview this week with plenty of graded at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita along with the valuable Louisiana Premier Night at Delta Downs.
Let’s start at Gulfstream and the feature race on an excellent card is the Donn Handicap worth a cool $0.5m. 8 runners will face the starter with Keen ice the 5/2 Morning Line favorite in a tight market. Keen Ice has, of course, the notable scalp of American Pharoah (in the Travers) on his CV. Trainer Dale Romans has said the horse is training well but is slightly concerned about the track and you do wonder if this race is about preparing Keen Ice for the World Cup in Dubai in March.
The only other horse with Grade 1 form is Mshawish, who won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap over this trip last year (more of that race later). Financial Modelling looks interesting at a value price. The horse is improving and comes from the Chad Brown stable, which is in great form.
The Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, the other Grade 1 on the night, is effectively the turf version of the Donn. The Pizza Man is expected to deliver and is the ML favorite at 4/5. Lukes Alley is very consistent and may represent a bit of win/place/show value.
There’s $500k up for grabs in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita. In the absence of California Chrome and Dortmund, the race presents a great cash and kudos earning opportunity for today’s 8 starters. In the context of this race, the runners do look a bit second division, exemplified by the fact that one of the favorites, Hoppertunity, is zero from his last 9 runs. Donworth looks to have some scope and is on the improve and may represent the value.
In the Grade 2 Las Virgenes (worth $350k), all eyes will be on Songbird as she attempts to retain her unbeaten record. The Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies winner looks a class above the opposition here and should take her record to 5 from 5.
On the turf, the feature is the $200k San Marcos Stakes over 1 ¼ miles. Flamboyant won the Grade 2 San Gabriel at the track in January at a big price (46/1) and a repeat of that performance would likely see him enter the winners enclosure again. However, Flamboyant’s problem has always been consistency and this will no doubt put some backers off.
It’s a valuable night of racing at Delta with 6 stakes races (all for state breds) making up Louisiana Premier Night. The feature stakes race is the Championship, worth $200k, and the market is headed by The Pickett Factor with an ML price of 7/5.
The Pickett Factor impressed in his last visit to Delta in November when he won the $100k Gold Cup by 5 ¾ furlongs earning a Beyer of 99. Equally impressive was that he won so well despite being a first time shipper on a very tight track and it was his first run under lights. He then won the Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds by another impressive 5 ¼ lengths. This race is no gimme, however, as there is some quality opposition, including Stormdriver and last year’s winner One King’s Man.
There are two stakes races for the three year olds, the Prince and Starlet Stakes for colts and fillies respectively. Sea Vow looks the answer in The Prince Stakes. He showed he can handle the step out of restricted races when winning the open Big Drama last time out and is 3 from his last 3. One who could spoil the party is the unbeaten Half Cajun, who beat a number of today’s rivals effortlessly in the Louisiana Futurity at Fair Grounds and is stepping up to 7 furlongs for the first time.