Friday, February 10, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1)

Gulfstream Park Turf 'Cap Wide Open

By: Nick Costa, Trackside with Trackman

Gulfstream Park in sunny Hallendale, Florida is the sight of this week’s G1Turf Handicap for older horses. The 9-furlong event with a purse of $350,000 includes a pair of runners from the heavy artillery barns of trainers Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, and that makes up half of the eight-horse field for the 32nd renewal.
One of Brown's two entries comes from a quartet of horses that competed in last month's G2 Fort Lauderdale, a prep for this spot, over this same turf course.

Let’s take a look at the field from the rail out.

PP -  Horse/Jockey/Trainer

1 - War Correspondent/Gafflione/Clement--7-yo finished third in this event two years ago, but has seen limited action (5 races) since then. Has won a third of his starts, but hasn't visited the winners circle since spring of '15. Last time out in starter allowance company, he made a bid and got a brief lead, but couldn't hold on, finishing third. Makes his third start off the layoff, and his trainer is dangerous (23%) with these types.

2 - Almandaar/Rosario/Brown--Shadwell runner did the majority of his racing in France, where he was a two-time Group 3 winner, before shipping to the United States. Since coming stateside, he's only started three times, but has been competitive in all of them. Following a three month layoff, he made both his first stakes start here in the States and his start of 2017 in the G2 Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream, closing with a powerful rush from far back to miss by a neck.

3 - Lukes Alley/Saez/Carroll—When racing ends up North, trainer brings her best horses South. This is one of them. 2014 Sovereign Award winner is lightly campaigned in his career, knows how to win and is extremely consistent. Finished first or second in 12 of 16 starts, which includes eight wins, but keep in mind, only two of the victories have been over turf. Multiple graded winner is the defending champ from last year. Didn’t have the best of trips in the Fort Lauderdale last month and despite finishing seventh, he was beaten less than three lengths. Looks to get back to his best form.

4 - Beach Patrol/Geroux/Brown—Another highly reliable runner with just a single off-the-board outing in ten lifetime races. Held his form last year from mid-summer to early December when scoring in the G1 Secretariat and then putting together consecutive runner-up placings in the Hill Prince and Hollywood Derby. Hasn’t raced in more than two months, but has performed well off similar layoffs. Gets introduced to older runners for the first time.

5 - Flatlined/Bravo/Dickey—The first runner we come across that doesn’t have any inactivity in his listed past performances, as he’s been racing regularly since last May. Likes the Gulfstream turf having won 3 of 5 over the course, including the G2 Fort Lauderdale last month where he closed from second to last at the half-mile pole to nail the victory on the line by a neck. Looks to keep his string of recent good performances going.

6 - Divisidero/Prado/Bradley—This 5-year old is the only horse in the field that can lay claim to having won multiple graded stakes in the United States. Finished third, beaten a length in the Fort Lauderdale last out, but considering the seven month layoff and the very wide trip, it was a terrific effort. Hasn’t missed the board in five turf tries here at Gulfstream and is 2 for 2 at the 1 1/8-distance. Always competitive.

7 - Eirigh/Lezcano/Pletcher—Former Canadian runner was on vacation for fourteen month before returning with a good showing in a high-price optional claimer in which he had to wait a bit before splitting opponents and then kicking in with a late surge to win a by a neck. That was his first try for the new barn and his first start on turf since June ’15. Even with that encouraging effort, he’s going to need a major breakthrough here at this higher level.

8 - All Included/Castellano/Pletcher—Another horse from the T.A.P. barn that enters off an extended layoff. After a respite of nine months, he was given a primer at a far shorter distance than what he will navigate here, and responded with a fast closing second-place finish. Filled out the show spot in this event one year ago and that is his best showing to date in graded contests. In search of his first stakes win. 

Analysis: Every runner in this race has the capability of advancing forward off their most recent start. Even the slightest improvement could produce victory, making this grass affair a wide open event and a tough nut to crack.

I like to analyze turf races by looking at late speed in combination with class. For me, those two attributes usually trumps all other factors.

Several in here have performed well at the G1/G2 class level on turf, but the top three finishers from the Fort Lauderdale last month have the fastest final closing fraction, so I’ll look there for my winner. Of the three, Divisidero has a class edge, having won multiple graded stakes, including the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby undercard. In addition, he wasn’t disgraced against recent Eclipse award winner, Flintshire, in the G1 Manhattan on the Belmont undercard.

This is a far smaller field than what Divisidero faced last month which will hopefully spread the horses out a bit, hopefully allowing him a shorter trip. He will be flying late, is unbeaten at the distance, and the extra ground to work with will definitely help his cause. 

Almanaar and Flatlined are difficult to separate, but the former has improved in all three of his U.S. starts and may possess far more upside. Plus, he hails from the Chad Brown stable and the young conditioner is winning at a 27% clip and excels with horses making their 2nd start of a layoff.

Flatlined has been racing steadily since early last May without a break. He’s been a consistent performer, putting up practically the same speed figure race in-race out. However, in his last two efforts, he’s been all-out in the latter stages which may cause the horse to slightly regress.

Year old form is usually, if not always, unreliable, but should Lukes Alley replicate the late run he displayed to win this race last year, he could score at a good price. The final fraction from that affair is heads and shoulders above the others.

My Play: The odds will probably be too paltry to bet Divisidero to win, but I will exacta box him multiple times with Almanaar

If the odds are favorable on Almanaar, he’s worth a win bet. 

I will also play Divisidero in straight exactas to Flatlined and Lukes Alley.

Good luck, and enjoy the race.

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