Not unexpectedly, we have a relatively quiet day of stakes racing this weekend. The calm before the storm, you might say as it all kicks off in May with the $2m “Run for the Roses” on the 7th followed by The Preakness just two weeks later.
The two graded stakes races are remarkably similar as they are both worth $100k, both over a turf mile and are both for 3 year olds and up.
The San Francisco Mile Stakes at Golden Gate has attracted a maximum field of 14 runners with half the field shipping in from Southern California in a bid to break the stranglehold on the race by locally-trained horses.
The 2/1 Morning Line favorite is the Brazilian bred Bal a Bali, who ticks a lot of boxes. He is very consistent, regularly recording Beyers in the 100s and has never achieved a Beyer of less than 98 on turf. He is also dropping in class down to grade 3 company.
Alert Bay (ML 6/1) looks interesting. He is a turf specialist who achieved a Beyer of 105 in the City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita last year. In addition his last two runs at Golden Gate have resulted in wins.
Gulfstream Park hosts the other Grade 3 turf race, the Miami Mile Handicap. Morning Line favoritism (2/1) has been conferred on Middleburg, who consistently records Beyers in the high 90s in graded stakes races, which is better than the opposition. Such are the form positives, it would be no surprise if the backers force the price down.
However, this is his first start for 6 months and attempting a grade 3 race first time up over a trip a little short of his optimum mean that there may be value elsewhere, particularly if Middleburg’s price shortens dramatically.
Middleburg also likes to stalk a slow pace but this looks unlikely in the Miami Mile. Smokem Kitten, from the in-form Mike Maker barn, looks to have a genuine podium place chance. The horse set a 7 ½ furlong track record last time out at Gulfstream when tracking some very hot fractions. With pace from stalls 1 and 4, the race should be run to suit.