Saturday, March 29, 2014

Florida Derby Day Preview

by Jim Freer

Saturday,  March 29, 9:30 a.m.

Gulfstream Park will run its $1 million Florida  Derby  today, with periods of rain in the forecast for late morning and the afternoon.

But barring any mid-day downpours, a crowd of 15,000 or more could jam the track in Hallandale Beach. If the main track is fast and races stay on the turf, fans on site will no doubt join simulcast and ADW bettors in plunging more than $20 million on Gulfstream’s 14 races. Eight of the races are stakes.

The first post is at 12 noon, and to find parking  and a place to stand, it is advisable to get to Gulfstream as early as possible. All seats facing the track and all restaurant seats have been sold.

The Florida Derby (Grade 1) is 1-1/8 miles  for 3-year-olds. It is the14th race with scheduled post time of 6:48 p.m. ET.

General a  Rod is our pick to win the Florida Derby.

Inside Florida Horse Racing will be at Gulfstream this afternoon. We will have periodic reports on the races, the weather, and the overall scene at Gulfstream.



Friday, March 28, 2014

Kaplan Adds East Hall to Florida Derby Mix

by Jim Freer
Friday, March 28, '14

Early this week, trainer Bill Kaplan was planning that East Hall’s next race would be the Bluegrass Stakes (Grade 1) at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.,on April 12.

“(Then) when I saw that this race might have a short field, I decided to keep him home and race him here,” Kaplan said following Wednesday’s post position draw for this Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (Grade 1).

East Hall drew post five and is among eight entrants for the 1 1/8 mile stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, where Kaplan stables his horses. East Hall, a gelding with a late-running style, has finished third at one mile and fourth at 1 1/16 miles in Gulfstream stakes this year. 

Now, Kaplan thinks the son of  Graeme Hall and mare East Long Lake is ready to show that he will get better as the races get longer.

 Kaplan’s goal for East Hall in the Florida Derby is the same as it would have been in  the $750,000 Bluegrass Stakes: pass some horses down the stretch to finish  third or better, to earn a big check and some qualifying points for the 1-¼ mile Kentucky Derby on May 3rd.

The Florida Derby and Bluegrass both have 100 Kentucky Derby points for the winner. Second through fourth are worth 40, 20 and 10 points respectively.

East Hall has five points. A third place finish on Saturday would probably be enough to earn one of the 20 spots in the Kentucky Derby field.

East Hall gained his five points on Feb. 22 with an impressive fourth place finish in a 12-horse field in the 1-1/16 mile Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. East Hall was 72-1 in the Fountain of Youth.

He is 20-1in the morning line for the Florida Derby. He will face a field headed by Wildcat Red and General a Rod, two horses that have beaten him twice this year, and the likely favorite Cairo Prince.

While East Hall will again be a longshot for WPS betting, he likely will be on the bottom of many bettors’ trifecta and superfecta tickets.

One handicapping angle is that if the Florida  Derby is a speed duel, one or more lower odds horses could tire and East Hall could join Cairo Prince in passing them. Stakes newcomer Constitution, General a Rod and Wildcat Red all have early speed.

The Florida Derby will be East Hall’s fifth race this year - all with Kaplan’s go-to jockey Juan Leyva.
On Jan. 1, General a Rod beat Wildcat Red by a head after a thrilling stretch duel in the one mile Gulfstream Park Derby. East Hall finished third by  2-¼ lengths.

East Hall had another third place finish in his next start - the 1-1/16 mile Champali at the Ocala Training Center’s annual race day for Florida-breds.

The Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22 was a classic example of the speed bias at Gulfstream. The race also showed the big disadvantage of being in outside posts in Gulfstream’s 1-1/8 mile dirt races, where it is only about 100 yards from the gate to the start of the first turn.

Wildcat Red and General a Rod again showed their grit and talent. But their principal rival, deep closer Top Billing was in post 11. East Hall drew post 12.

Joel Rosario on Top Billing and Leyva on East Hall were forced to angle in at the start to avoid being caught wide on the turn.   That left them farther behind than usual. Wildcat Red and General a Rod hooked up head-to-head after a quarter mile and stayed that way until the finish - with Wildcat Red winning in the photo.

Top Billing and East Hall were last and next to last with a half mile left to run. The more accomplished Top Billing moved first and wound up third by two lengths. East Hall had to weave through traffic and finished four lengths behind Top Billing.

Kaplan is among those who have noted that while Top Billing was gaining on the leaders in the final furlong he was not putting any extra distance between himself and East Hall.

On March 8, Top Billing cracked a bone in one of his legs while training. He underwent surgery that trainer Shug McGaughey said was successful, and could resume training this summer.

Gulfstream-based trainers often take 3-year-olds that are closers to other tracks for Kentucky Derby preps. 

On March 9, Kaplan ran East Hall in the 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) at  Tampa  Bay Downs. East Hall apparently did not take to that track that is deeper than Gulfstream. He finished eighth, and amid close traffic of horses he sustained what Kaplan said was a minor foot injury that is now healed. 

H. Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice own East Hall. Kaplan is hoping that East Hall will be the third horse he runs in a Kentucky Derby. In the 2007 race at Churchill Downs he sent out Imawildandcrazyguy to a fourth place finish and Storm in May to a 16th place finish.

The horse Kaplan and others affectionately called “the crazy guy” was in 20th and last place after three-quarters of a mile. He staged a huge rally and finished just one-half length behind Curlin, who went on to win that year’s Preakness Stakes and the 2007 and 2008 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year.

Kaplan said Imawildandcrazyguy was “a plodder,” whereas East Hall has more speed for a sustained run and “has the cardiovascular to run all day.” East Hall’s sire Graeme Hall and his maternal grandsire Sultry Song each won multiple graded stakes at 1-1/8 miles.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cairo Prince Heads Eight-Horse Florida Derby Field

by Jim Freer
Thursday, March 27th -- The highly touted Cairo Prince and the familiar rivals Wildcat Red and General a Rod will head an eight-horse field in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby  (Grade 1) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
Cairo Prince was made the 9-5 morning line favorite by Gulfstream handicapper and  line-maker Ron Nicoletti following Wednesday's post position draw, which I attended.
Wildcat Red is listed at 3-1 and General a Rod is 7-2.

Spot, Constitution, East Hall, Matador and Allstar are the remaining horses in the field.
The 1  1/8 mile stakes for  3-year-olds  is  a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby on May  3rd. The Florida Derby will be Cairo  Prince's first race since Jan. 25 when he won the 1- 1/16 mile Holy Bull (Grade 2) at Gulfstream.

He has won three of his four career starts, and is among the top three on most racing  analysts' lists of Kentucky Derby contenders. Kiaran McLaughlin trains Cairo Prince. Luis  Saez, who has ridden the colt in all of his previous starts, has the  mount.
Wildcat Red and General a Rod have raced twice at Gulfstream this year, and have a split in two photo finishes after lengthy stretch duels. On Jan. 1st, General a  Rod won by a head in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby.

On Feb. 22nd, Wildcat Red won by a head in the 1-1/16 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2). Jose Garoffalo trains Wildcat Red and has John Velazquez riding on Saturday. Mike Maker trains General a Rod, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Wildcat Red and General a Rod have early speed. So does Constitution, who is  unbeaten in two starts  and making his stakes debut. Cairo Prince probably will be stalking a fast  pace.  

Post positions could be very important, because of the speed factor and the distance  of  only  about 100 yards from the starting gate to the bend at the first turn. Wildcat Red has the rail post. With Velazquez riding, he should be able to get a clean break from the gate and have an inside trip.Cairo Prince has post three, Constitution has post four and General a  Rod has post  six.
"We will be outside the speed, and that gives us some options,"  Maker said of possible tactics.

The Florida Derby will be the 14th and final race on Gulfstream’s Saturday card, with a scheduled post time of 6:48 p.m. Gulfstream will have seven other stakes races also.
The Florida Derby will be telecast live on the NBC Sports cable channel.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wolfson Horses Run One-Two at Gulfstream

by Jim Freer                                                                                   23-Mar-14

Horses trained by Marty Wolfson finished first and second on Saturday in the $200,000 Inside Information Stakes (Grade 2) at Gulfstream Park. Heart Stealer, at 9-2, beat My Pal Chrisy, at 4-1, by two lengths in  the seven-furlong dirt stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up.
They  have different  owners and were separate betting entities - producing a $2 exacta of $60.40.
The result continued another strong season for Wolfson in distaff stakes at Gulfstream. Last Dec. 14, Heart Stealer won  the six-furlong Sugar Swirl (Grade 3). Since last August, My  Pal  Chrisy has raced in seven Gulfstream stakes.  She has  three wins, three second place finishes and a third place finish.

Five Star  Momma, trained by Jena Antonucci, finished third in the Inside Information.  She came in 1 ½ lengths behind My Pal Chrisy. Wolfson trainee Centrique finished fifth as the 7-5 favorite in the seven-horse field.
Heart Stealer and My Pal Chrisy stalked  a fast early pace.  After a  half mile in 45.04 seconds, Five Star Momma led Wildcat Lilly by a length. Heart Stealer was another length back in third place, and My Pal Chrisy was fifth. Heart Stealer took the lead at  the eighth pole and went on to win in 1:22.57. She was ridden by Joel Rosario.

“We had a perfect trip,” Rosario said.  “It went exactly like Marty said. I was going to be laying probably third behind the speed and she did everything right.” Peachtree  Stable owns Heart Stealer.  Peachtree is owned and operated  by John Fort who lives in South Carolina. Miller Racing  owns My Pal Chrisy and Centrique. The father-son team of Rob  and Myron Miller, who both  live in  Palm Beach, own and operate Miller Racing.
Wolfson often runs two or more fillies and mares in stakes at Gulfstream and Calder. He instructs each jockey to run the race to win, rather than using team tactics.Because of Wolfson’s success rate and the money available, owners of his stakes horses don’t mind being pitted against each other. 
In the Inside Information, Heart Stealer earned $120,000, My  Pal Chrisy earned $40,000 and Centrique earned $6,000. Centrique won three of her five previous starts.Jessica is Back, Golden Mystery and Hilda’s Passion are among the now-retired mares that won  stakes for Wolfson between  2011 and  2013.
Tampa Bay Downs
Tulira beat  Nicklaus Way by 1 ¾ lengths in Saturday’s $60,000 Challenger Stakes for 4-year-olds and up. Tulira Castle won  the 1 1/16 mile dirt stakes in 1:43.68. He is trained by Jim  DeVito  and was ridden by Angel Serpa.

63rd Florida Derby Preview from Gulfstream Park

by Jim Freer

The field is taking shape and the pre-race buildup is underway for the 63rd Florida Derby (Grade 1), to be run at Gulfstream Park on Saturday March 29. Entries will be drawn at 11 a.m. on Wednesday March 26.

Starting Tuesday Inside Florida Horse Racing will have daily coverage of developments during Florida Derby week, and we will have on-scene news and  analysis on the Wednesday draw and on race day.

Gulfstream will have seven other stakes races on Florida Derby Day, including
the $400,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2) at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-old

Only seven horses are now listed as probable starters for the Florida Derby.
But with the $1 million purse, a field of nine or ten is likely for the 1 1/8
mile race. It is a major prep for the 1 mile Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) on
May 3.

The trainers of Wildcat Red, General a Rod and Cairo Prince have confirmed that
those horses will run in the Florida Derby. Wildcat Red has won two stakes
races at Gulfstream this year. General a Rod and Cairo Prince each have one
Gulfstream stakes victory in 2014.

As of Friday night, fans and rival trainers were wondering if the unbeaten phenom
Social Inclusion will be in the Florida Derby--and whether he might have a new
owner as soon as Saturday.

On March 12, Social Inclusion set a Gulfstream track record of 1:40.97 for 1-
1/16 miles in winning an allowance race. It was his second career start.
Owner Ron Sanchez is considering several multimillion offers to sell the colt.

Whether or not there is a sale, look for Social Inclusion to stay home and make
his stakes debut in the Florida Derby. A second option would be the 1 1/8 mile
Wood Memorial (Grade 1) at Aqueduct in New York on April 5.

Spot, Constitution and Matador also are probable for the Florida Derby.

This past Thursday on the
site we provided an early Florida Derby preview with a focus on Wildcat Red

Gulfstream began its stakes races for 3 year-olds on Jan. 1st with the Gulfstream
Park Derby, a one-turn mile. General a Rod beat Wildcat Red by a head after a
lengthy stretch duel.

On Jan. 25th, Cairo Prince won the Holy Bull (Grade 2) by 5 lengths over
Conquest Titan in the fast time of 1:42.16.

On Feb. 1st, Wildcat Red won the seven-furlong Hutcheson (Grade 3) by 4 lengths
over C. Zee.

On Feb. 22nd, Wildcat Red and General a Rod raced head-to-head almost the entire
way for 1 1/16 miles. Wildcat Red won by a head, in 1:41.85.

Spot won the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (Grade 3) at Gulfstream on March 1st.
The winner of the Florida Derby will earn 100 qualifying points for the May 3rd.

Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I). Second through fourth place
will be worth 40, 20 and 10 points.

Wildcat Red has 50 points, virtually assuring him a spot in the 20-horse field
at Churchill Downs. General a Rod has 20 points and Cairo Prince has 14. A Florida Derby finish of third or better should enable either to make the Kentucky Derby field.

None of the other four Florida Derby probables have any Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gulfstream: Centre Court Wins; Carryover Continues

 by Jim Freer
Centre Court returned to racing after a seven-month layoff on Saturday and won the Honey Fox Stakes (Grade 2) for the second straight year at Gulfstream Park.

Centre Court held off the late-running Kitten’s Point to win BT a nose in the one-mile turf stakes, with a $200,000 purse, for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up. The win was the sixth in a graded stakes for Centre Court and her seventh in 15 career starts.

Effie Trinket finished third by 1 ½ lengths, after leading from the top of the stretch until the final 100 yards when Centre Court passed her. She was followed by Triple Charm and Tapicat, the 5-2 favorite in the eight-horse field. Centre Court, at 3-1, was the second betting choice.

Saturday’s race was the first for Centre Court since last Aug. 24 when she finished eighth and last in the Ballston Spa (Grade 3) at Saratoga.

Trainer George (Rusty) Arnold and veterinarians then found that Centre court had a pulled muscle in her back.

On Saturday she showed that she has recovered. With her regular jockey Julien Leparoux riding, she won against a strong field in the fast time of 1:33.61. It came on a course listed as firm, where there have been numerous fast times in recent weeks.

Centre Court set the stakes record of 1:33.18 in last year’s race.

The 5-year-old Centre Court is a daughter of Smart Strike, who is best known as the sire of Eclipse Award winners Curlin and Smart Strike.

Rainbow 6 Carryover
On Saturday there were 131 winning tickets, each for $3,009.58, on Gulfstream’s Rainbow 6 bet.

Because there were multiple winners, Gulfstream on Sunday will have a carryover of over $3 million, $3,325,154.33 to be exact, on the Rainbow 6 which requires picking the winners of each of the day’s last six races.

Bettors probably will invest $500,000 or more in the Rainbow 6--thus increasing the pool to more than $3.8 million.

A payout that big would be a Rainbow 6 record at Gulfstream.

The Rainbow 6 is a 20-cent per combination-only bet, on which multiple horses can be used in each race. For example, using two horses per race gives you 64 combinations and a $12.80 bet.

Gulfstream pays out the full pool, of the day’s bet and the carryover, only on days when there is just one winning ticket. When there are multiple winners, as on Saturday, they divide up 70 percent of the day’s new betting minus the 20 percent takeout. The other 30 percent minus takeout goes into the carryover.

Saturday’s winning payout was based on the day’s Rainbow 6 bets of $704,405. Sunday’s Rainbow 6 will be on the sixth race, with scheduled post time of 3:32 p.m., and 11th race. None of those races are stakes. The last single ticket Rainbow 6 winner was on Jan. 10 when it was cashed for $30,670.26. That was 46 race days ago at Gulfstream.

 The record payout for the Rainbow 6 was $3,591,245.44 on Feb. 22, 2013. The winning ticket was sold to a single bettor at the Meadowlands complex in New Jersey, and cost $3,118.50. 

That winning bet was 10-cents only - the size of the Rainbow 6 from 2011 through November 2013.
 Gulfstream  raised it to 20 cents to accomodate bettors on Canada, where the minimum bet is 20 cents. The Stronach Group, owner of Gulfstream, is based in Aurora, Onatario.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Back To The Futures

                                                                                                                   9 March '14

by Jim Freer

Sunday, March 9 - My jaw dropped  and my heart sank a bit  yesterday morning when I read the news that Top Billing had suffered a cracked  cannon bone in his right front leg and will miss this year’s Kentucky Derby. The size of my future anticipated bankroll also dropped - by $375. 
I had $5 on Top Billing at 75-1 to win the Kentucky Derby.  On Jan.1, those were the odds on him at the Wynn Las Vegas Race and Sports Book.  A friend made the bet for me while he was on vacation in  Las Vegas. Top Billing, who early this month was  12-1 at Wynn, sustained the injury while training  at  Payson Park in Indiantown in Martin County. My futures bet on Top Billing is dead, down the drain, kaput etc.
When a horse doesn’t get into the Kentucky Derby, for reasons including injury, there are no refunds at Wynn or at other sports books and services that offer futures betting on the race.
That is part of the perils of futures investing in the financial markets or on a horse race.

But I  had some fun, for just five bucks. For two  months,  I was telling folks: “If Top Billing  makes it to  the Kentucky Derby, he will have a good chance to win and will go to the  post at odds much lower than 75-1.” That always gives you a sense of moral victory. “Hey, horse, I  tabbed you as good early on.  It’s now up to you."

Top Billing’s injury is a reminder of the risk of making a futures bet four months ahead.   This year’s  Kentucky Derby will be on May 3 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

But consider the possible rewards.
Last week, the Wynn odds were 12-1 on Top Billing.  Wynn sets its odds like a  typical bookmaker -akin to what it views as a fair market price.  Top Billing’s odds dropped during  his series of three strong races at Gulfstream Park.
To bet on Derby futures or other sports events offered at a Las Vegas casino, you have  to be on-site or have a phone account that you can use only in Nevada.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wagers is sponsored by Churchill Downs and is more accessible than Las Vegas sports books.   It is a series of separate mutuel pools on the race.

Bets  can be made at Gulfstream and Calder Casino & Race Course, Tampa Bay Downs and most other thoroughbred tracks and on many Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) services such  as
Each pool has 24 betting  interests, with  23 horses and a field bet where you get all other 3-year-olds.
Betting  is only for win and exacta.  Minimums  are $2 for win and  for straight exactas and $1 for exacta boxes.

This year’s fourth  and final pool will be offered  from Thursday March 27 through Saturday March 29.  Betting will be closed prior to that Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

The  third pool  for this year’s race closed on March 1, with Top Billing at 11-1.   The  favorite at 7-1 is Cairo Prince, the winner of the Holy Bull Stakes (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on Jan. 25

On Friday March 28, we’ll have more about that weekend’s pool and some betting strategies--including exacta boxes.
Churchill Downs has offered its Future Wagers pools  every year since  1999. There is a widespread view that it is  a sucker bet. Yes, there are 23 losers in each pool.  But a look at the record shows that in ten of the 15 years, the winning bet in the final pool paid more than the winning  bet made on Derby day. Last year, Orb paid $29.60 in  the final pool and $12.80 on Kentucky  Derby  day.
I was an early fan of Top Billing based on the advice of a friend who each year does a detailed study of Kentucky Derby contenders.
I watched the replay of his debut race, when he came from last place to win in the slop at Laurel Park on Dec. 6.  I said “there’s my horse,” after viewing  that magical mystery-tour like race.
He gained more fans with his three races at Gulfstream - a win, a second and a third.  His come-from-behind style has made him  a popular horse.  As a son of two-time  Horse of the Year Curlin, he is bred for distance.

His third place finish was in the 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) on Feb. 22.
Wildcat Red and General A Rod were awesome in their gate-to-wire duel. Wildcat Red won in the fast time of 1:41.85 while Top Billing ran out of ground and finished 2 ½ lengths behind.
Racing against that day’s speed bias, Top Billing indicated that he is well suited for the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼ mile distance.

Yesterday morning, Top Billing’s trainer Shug McGaughey said :
 “We saw it after he pulled up from the breeze this morning. We took him back to the barn, we x-rayed it and found it.” McGaughey said the long-term prognosis is good, without providing details on when Top Billing  might  be able to resume training and possibly return to racing.
“He’s going to Kentucky today. Hopefully he’ll get operated on tomorrow afternoon or first thing Monday morning,” McGaughey said. Let’s hope that all goes well and that Top  Billing  will be back  to the races this  summer.