Award Winner Looks Prize-Worthy in Gulfstream Maiden Race

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 13th, 2018

It’s well known that Todd Pletcher is tough to beat at Gulfstream Park, where he has been the leading trainer at the winter/spring Championship Meet on fifteen occasions.

Pletcher is particularly tough with his two-year-olds and three-year-olds, which is why it comes as no surprise to see Pletcher with two entrants in Saturday’s seventh race at Gulfstream, a one-mile maiden special weight for two-year-olds. But does this mean that handicappers should simply concede that Pletcher will win, support his two runners, and move on to the next race?

Not necessarily. While Pletcher has been wildly successful debuting horses in sprints, his record debuting horses going a mile or longer is a bit less inspiring. According to statistics from DRF Formulator, over the last five years, Pletcher has gone just 4-for-33 (12%) with two-year-olds debuting in route races, compared to 89-for-324 (27%) with two-year-old first-time starters in sprints.

That’s why I’m not convinced that #2 Bebeau and #9 French Revolution are unbeatable on Saturday. It’s easy to see why they’re starting off at a mile—both are stoutly-bred colts boasting stamina-oriented pedigrees—but neither have compiled particularly eye-catching work tabs. Of the pair, my preference is for the $400,000 auction purchase Bebeau, whose dam, Bickersons, was a graded stakes winner here at Gulfstream Park. But I don’t think either are unstoppable are relatively short prices.

Instead, I’m going to take a shot against them with #7 Award Winner. Trained by Brian Lynch, this son of Ghostzapper opened his career in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, where he ran evenly to finish sixth behind the runaway winner Blue Steel. Since then, Award Winner has come back to post five solid workouts at Palm Meadows, including a bullet :48 flat half-mile from the starting gate on December 7th.

As a half-brother to Oscar Nominated and Oscar Performance, two very high-class turf horses, it’s possible that Award Winner will wind up being best on the grass. But then again, the two Oscars were both sired by the top turf stallion Kitten’s Joy, so Award Winner—being by Ghostzapper—does have a bit more dirt potential in his pedigree. He’ll also have the Eclipse Award-winning rider Jose Ortiz in the saddle on Saturday, and win or lose, I’m expecting an improved effort from Award Winner. At 8-1 on the morning line, he should offer nice value.

I’ll bet Award Winner to win and key him in the exacta with the two Pletcher runners:

$10 to win on #7 Award Winner $5 exacta: 7 with 2,9 ($10) $5 exacta: 2,9 with 7 ($10)

Good luck!