Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gulfstream Handle: One Record Down; Another to Come?

By Jim Freer
Monday, March 30 --  Gulfstream Park set a record for Florida Derby day handle on Saturday as bettors at the track and off-site combined to wager $27,255,851 on the 14-race card.

With that huge day and almost $10 million in all-sources handle on Sunday,  Gulfstream is on track for what could be a record season  at its 2014-2015 championship meet (winter meet) that  will end April 5.  To do that, Gulfstream would have to top the $8.55 million per day it averaged in 2012-2013.

The previous Florida Derby day all-sources handle record of $26,820,951 was set March 29, 2014.  Gulfstream had 14 races on Florida Derby day last year and this year, each time with the $1 million Florida Derby (Grade 1) for 3-year-olds as the final race.

Also on Saturday, Gulfstream had live on-track handle of  $3.302 million  to  set a record for the building it opened in 2006. The previous on-track record of $3.196 million was set on March 30, 2013, that year’s  Florida Derby day.  All-sources handle that day was $20,297,263.

Gulfstream officials said Saturday’s all-sources handle (total bets on  races at Gulfstream) was the highest in the track’s history except for the Saturdays in 1989, 1992 and 1999 when  it held the Breeders’ Cup.

The Gulfstream record was set on Nov. 6, 1999,  the day of the Breeders’ Cup.

 According to the Breeders’ Cup record book, all-sources handle was $96,485,255 for  that day’s eight Breeders’ Cup  races at Gulfstream.  Attendance was 45,214.

All-sources handle consists of bets made on track,  at other tracks and OTBs that have simulcasting, at sports books in Las Vegas and other locations, through ADWs and via legal phone betting services.

On Sunday, Gulfstream had all-sources handle of $9,329,570 for 12 races. For the five days between last Wednesday  and Sunday, Gulfstream had average daily all-sources handle of $10.8 million.

Gulfstream will be dark Monday and Tuesday. The final five days of its championship meet will be this Wednesday through  Sunday.

The Gulfstream record for daily average all-sources handle is $8.55 million, set at its 2012-2013 championship meet.

Gulfstream  has not released any meet-to-date handle numbers. But our review of Equibase Co. charts indicates there is a strong  chance it will break the record it set two years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Florida Derby Betting
Gulfstream scheduled the Florida Derby as the 14th and final race partly to induce fans to stay until the end and  keep pouring  money  into individual races and multi-race bets.

The plan worked, as bets that included the Florida Derby totaled almost $6 million--$5,921,085 to be exact.

The Win/Place/Show betting on the Florida Derby was $1,585,621.  Exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering was a  combined $2,132,587.  The total of the WPS and single-race exotic bets was  $3,718,288 for the Florida Derby.

Multi-race wagering figures for the day’s final races were: $261,729 for the Double; $274,470 for the Pick 3; $815,491 for the 50-cent minimum Pick 4, $481,556 for the 50-cent minimum Pick 5  and $363,551 for  the 20-cent only Pick 6.

Fans who stayed until the end saw a Florida Derby stretch duel in which the unbeaten Materiality beat favored Upstart by one and one-half lengths.

This week, we’ll review the Florida Derby and Gulfstream’s 3-year-old stakes season and look at the prospects for “Gulfstream horses” in the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

In 2014 and this year, Florida Derby day was rain-free with seven graded stakes. Gulfstream averaged 9.2 starters per race each day.

Gulfstream has free admission to its racing  area and it does not estimate attendance. HorseracingFLA estimates that attendance was in the17,0000 range on Saturday.

As usual on big days at Gulfstream, most fans took the situation in stride as they dealt with long lines for betting  and refreshments.

There did not appear to be a  large number of instances  when  fans were shut  out from  betting. Gulfstream often prevents that problem by delaying the post times for several minutes before the start of the Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 to help build the pools for those bets.

Gulfstream Breeders’ Cups
Gulfstream held the Breeders’ Cup in facility  with the 25,000-seat grandstand building that it tore down  following its 2004 race meet.  The building it opened in  2006  has  about 1,000 seats facing the track and viewing space for about 500 in restaurants  and luxury suites.

In 2012, Gulfstream  said it was planning  a  redevelopment and expansion that would give  it as many as 50,000 permanent seats--with goals that include being eligible for future Breeders’ Cups.

But Gulfstream has not  announced any plans for  starting  an expansion of  its plant.

Instead, it is focusing on growing the handle and on other racing issues--now ten months each year at its track and two months (October and November) when it  holds a meet  at Calder Casino & Race Course.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A look at the Field for Saturday’s Florida Derby

By Jim Freer

Wednesday, March 25 -- Upstart and Itsaknockout, coming  off a controversial one-two finish and disqualification in  the recent Fountain of Youth, will head a nine-horse field for Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby.

Gulfstream Park drew post positions Tuesday  evening for the 1 1/8 mile Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-olds.  The track’s line maker Jay Stone made Upstart  the 8-5 favorite and Itsaknockout the 2-1 second choice in  the morning line.

Upstart crossed the finish line first, by 2 ¾ lengths, over Itsaknockout  in the 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth  (Grade 2) on Feb. 21 at Gulfstream.  But  the stewards in an inquiry and amid a  rider’s objection declared Itsaknockout the winner and put Upstart in second place for what they determined was interference in two incidents in the stretch run.

Materiality (7-2), the recent winner of the 1 1/8 mile Islamorada  Handicap at Gulfstream, and Ami’s Flatter (8-1) who finished second in the 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) are the only other entrants  listed lower than 10-1 for the Florida Derby.

Upstart on Outside
Upstart will be in the nine post--the farthest outside. That is often a disadvantage in 1 1/8 mile dirt races at Gulfstream where the beginning  of the first turn  is only about 100 yards  from the starting gate.  That means a jockey and horse must get a fast start or run the risk of a wide trip or getting caught in early traffic.

"It's (No. 9) not ideal,” said Rick Violette Jr., who trains Upstart for owner Ralph Evans.

“It's a little longer run to the first turn,” Violette  said.  “You just have to deal with it. That's what the jock's up there for. You hope he breaks clean and gets a clear run. You don't have horses pressing him from the outside, but I'd like to have been inside, even one post inside."

Stone said the post positions were not a factor in setting the Florida Derby morning  line--a guide for bettors on  what he expects the post time odds will be.  Itsaknockout drew post four.

Upstart has good tactical speed, and Stone expects that jockey Jose Ortiz will get the horse off to a good break and might only be about three wide going into the first turn.

There also is a short run to the turn  in  1 1/16 mile dirt races at Gulfstream. Upstart  was in the eight post in the Fountain of Youth and in the seven post  for the Holy Bull (Grade 2) on Jan. 24.  He had clean breaks from the gate and trouble-free trips both times.
Past Performances
Upstart finished third last Nov.  1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade 1) at Santa Anita.  He began  his 2014 campaign  with  a win in the 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull.

Itsaknockout’s  win  by DQ in the Fountain of Youth gave him a three-for-three career record.  His regular rider Luis Saez will  be on board Saturday for trainer Todd  Pletcher and owner Starlight Partners.

Materiality has won  both of his career starts. He is trained by Pletcher and owned by Alto Racing.  John Velazquez will ride him for the third straight time. 

On March  6 at Gulfstream, Materiality won the 1 1/8 mile Islamorada in the fast time of 1:49.32 and earned a 100 Brisnet speed figure.

Upstart won the Holy Bull in  a solid  1:43.61 and appeared like he could continue strong  at least  through 1 1/8 miles. His Brisnet figure was 105.

On Fountain of  Youth day, overall times were relatively slow and several trainers said the track was deep. Upstart finished in1:46.28 for a 95 Brisnet figure.  

Past performances indicate that longshots  Jack Tripp and Indiananaughty could battle Materiality for the early lead.  Upstart and Itsaknockout likely will be in  a second flight, with Ami’s Flatter near the back and looking to make a late run under Gulfstream’s meet-leading  rider Javier Castellano.
On to Kentucky?
The Florida Derby is the first of seven final-round races in  qualifying  for the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 2.

The first four Florida Derby finishers will earn 100, 40, 20 and 10 qualifying  points, respectively. The winner and  runner up points will be enough  to make the 20-horse Kentucky  Derby field.

Latest standings show Itsaknockout in eighth place with 50 points (all from the Fountain of Youth) and Upstart ninth with 36.  Ami’s Flatter is 14th with 20 points.  None of the other Florida derby entrants have any Kentucky Derby points.

This week, Steve Haskin of Blood-Horse has Upstart fourth and Itsaknockout eighth  on his widely followed  Derby Dozen  list.  Materiality is listed high among  those “knocking on  the door.”

Haskin  rates American Pharaoh and Dortmund first and second. Both are trained by southern California-based Bob Baffert.

Carpe Diem, winner of  the Tampa Bay Derby, is third on  Haskin’s list. He is among Pletcher trainees who have spent the winter at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach.

The Florida Derby will be the 14th and last race on  Saturday’s Gulfstream card.  The scheduled post time is 6:48 p.m.

Post time for the first race is 12:00 p.m.  Gulfstream will have eight other stakes races. 

Florida Derby Field
Post Position Trainer Jockey Morning Line
1 - Ami's Flatter Josie Carroll Javier Castellano 8-1
2 - Jack Tripp Dale Romans Irad Ortiz Jr. 20-1
3 - Indianaughty Dale Romans Corey Lanerie 20-1
4 - Itsaknockout Todd Pletcher Luis Saez        2-1
5 - Quimet         Nick Zito         Edgard Zayas 20-1
6 - My Point Exactly Bill  Kaplan Juan  Leyva 30-1
7 - Materiality Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 7-2
8 - Dekabrist Gennadi Dorochenko Jesus Rios 30-1 
9 - Upstart        Rick  Violette Jose Ortiz           8-5
All Weights  -- 122 pounds

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Florida Derby Draw Scheduled for Today

Florida Derby Draw Scheduled for Today

By Jim Freer
Tuesday, March 24 -- At 5:00  p.m. this afternoon, Gulfstream Park will hold the post position  draw for this Saturday‘s $1 million Florida Derby (Grade 1).

The draw, with  announcement  of  entrants and post  positions, will be in Gulfstream’s walking ring. Gulfstream  officials expect a field of at least  eight horses for  the 1 1/8 mile dirt stakes  for 3-year-olds.  Gulfstream’s condition book shows the Florida Derby as Saturday’s  14th and final race.  The projected post time is 6:30 p.m.

Post time for the first  race is 12:00 p.m.  Gulfstream will have seven other stakes races. Throughout this week, we will have previews of those races and  of the Florida Derby.

Barring  any last-minute plan changes by trainers, the  Florida Derby will  be a rematch of three of the top four finishers from Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (Grade 2) on Feb. 21. It  also will be the first stakes race for the highly touted Materiality, who has won  both his career starts.

Upstart, Itsaknockout and Frosted finished frst, second and fourth  in  the 1 1/16 mile Fountain  of Youth.

Upstart came in 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Itsaknockout. But stewards declared Itsaknockout the winner and put Upstart in second place for what they determined was interference in two incidents in the stretch run.

The decision was controversial. Many observers  felt that the first bumping was triggered by a tiring Frosted who forced Upstart  to change paths.  But stewards decided there was sufficient evidence that it  may have cost Itsaknockout the race.

On Jan.  24, Upstart beat second place finisher Frosted by 5 ½ lengths in the 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull (Grade 2) at Gulfstream.

Trainer-jockey combinations are: Upstart  (Rick Violette-Jose Ortiz), Itsaknockout (Todd  Pletchrer-Luis Saez) and Frosted (Kiaran McLaughlin-Irad Ortiz Jr.).

Materiality, also trained by Pletcher, was the impressive winner of a 1 18 mile allowance  at Gulfstream on  March 6. John Velazquez will ride on  Saturday
Eh  Cumpari, winner of  the Palm Beach  (Grade 3) on turf  at Gulfstream on March 7, also is likely for the Florida Derby.  So are Ami’s Flatter, My Point Exactly, Quimet and Dekabrist.

The Florida Derby is the first of seven ‘championship round” races in  qualifying  for the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 2.

The first four Florida Derby finishers will earn 100, 40, 20 and 10 qualifying  points, respectively. The winner and  runner up points will be enough  to make the 20-horse Kentucky  Derby field.

Latest standings show Itsaknockout in eighth place with 50 points and Upstart ninth with 36.  Frosted is 19th with 13 points. It will probably take at least 20 points to make the Kentucky Derby field.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tampa Bay: Turf Sprint Highlights Saturday Card

Tampa Bay: Turf Sprint Highlights Saturday Card

By HorseracingFla Staff

Saturday, March 14 -- Tampa Bay Downs will have an  11-race card today,  with  first post time of 12:40  p.m. 

The feature is the fourth race, a $25,500 allowance/optional claimer race at five furlongs on turf for 4-year-olds and up.  Post  time is 1:40 p.m.

Varsity and Master Blender, both shipping in from southeast Florida are the likely favorites in  an eight-horse field.  The Tampa Bay-stabled contingent includes the 10-year-old Florida-bred Hold On Smokey, who is owned and trained by Joyce Kielty and will be ridden by Augusto A. Marin.

Varsity, Hold on Smokey and Bonetown  Wild are the only three horses in  for the $62,500 claiming price.

Hold On Smokey has won 19 of 61 starts, with career earnings of $416,707. In his previous start on Jan. 10, he finished a highly respectable fourth in a 12-horse field in the $100,000 Turf Dash in a race in which the winner, Bold Thunder, set a Tampa Bay Downs five-furlong turf course record of 54.63 seconds.

Hold On Smokey will break from the seven post, directly inside 8-year-old gelding Varsity, a homebred racing for owners Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone of Genuine Risk fame and trained by Christophe Clement. Varsity will be ridden by Victor Lebron.

Varsity, who did not race until his 4-year-old season, last found the winner’s circle in February of 2013 in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes, but back-to-back bullet workouts at the Payson Park Training Center in Indiantown, Fla., seem to indicate he is in excellent form.

Master Blender, a 5-year-old Florida-bred owned by Anne D. Scott and trained by Kirk Ziadie, will be making his first career turf start. He won three consecutive dirt sprints in south Florida last year before finishing fourth in the Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream on Dec. 27. Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo has the riding assignment.