How to Bet the Hal's Hope

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TwinSpires Staff

February 22nd, 2018

by Dick Powell

Hal’s Hope won Gulfstream Park’s Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at 40-1 in 2000 when he went to the front and never looked back. He proved it was no fluke when he was second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and then won the Florida Derby (G1). Two years later, he won the Crème Fraiche Handicap (G3) in gate-to-wire fashion and did it again one race later in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1)

He was a true horse for the course and the track re-named the Crème Fraiche the Hal’s Hope in 2003.

Saturday’s Hal’s Hope Stakes G3 attracted a field of eight going a one-turn mile on the main track. The race’s namesake was known as a longshot winner, so are there any longshots in the contest?

Three horses are coming in off long layoffs, one is a confirmed sprinter and one is a confirmed turf runner. So the ingredients might be there.

IRISH WAR CRY has not run since the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) when he tired badly. He was brilliant in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) and looked like a winner in the Kentucky Derby (G1) when he loomed boldly at the top of the stretch before emptying out. At that point it looked like he was going to be pointed for the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park, which was named after the late father of Irish War Cry’s owner/breeder, Isabelle de Tomaso.

But trainer Graham Motion changed plans after the colt worked strong enough at his Fair Hill Training Center base to come back in the Belmont Stakes (G1). On a dull, tiring track that favored wide closers most of the day, Rajiv Maragh put IRISH WAR CRY on the lead and led to the deep stretch, where TAPWRIT ran him down in the stretch.

He was not right for the rest of the season and returns off a 154-day layoff for Motion with Jose Ortiz picking up the mount. The question is will he be cranked up for a winning effort or is this the first step on the way back to bigger and better things? Motion wins 20 percent off long layoffs and the last 379 of them show a small profit.

ECONOMIC MODEL has never won a graded stakes and returns off a 135-day layoff for Chad Brown. His career-best race was a one-turn mile and Brown wins an amazing 27 percent off long layoffs. Irad Ortiz Jr. – zero for eight when teamed with Brown lately – rides back.

CONQUEST BIG E won twice here going this distance in good times last summer against modest company and seems to do his best when ridden aggressively early. Luis Saez is dominating this year’s meet and I expect him to gun to the front. Of the 79 races run here at this distance, 25 percent were won gate to wire, and the speed bias is 76 percent.

TOWER OF TEXAS is a turf/synthetic Grade 2 winner who tries dirt for the first time at the age of seven. The Canadian-bred is certainly bred for dirt and one reason he has never tried it is he is based at Woodbine, which has a Tapeta main track, not dirt.

QUIXOTE is a sprinter stretching out to a mile and could be an early pace factor if he breaks well and Emisael Jaramillo sends him. He just looks out-classed against these and does not get a break in the weights.

MALAGACY looked like a good one last year when he won his first three starts by wide margins, including the Rebel Stakes (G2). He could not overcome post 12 going nine furlongs in the Arkansas Derby (G1) but still ran extremely well in a wide trip.

Todd Pletcher got a prep in him here last month when he was second going six furlongs after breaking a bit tardy from post one. The colt returns on a track over which he won his career debut by 15 lengths last year. However, I didn’t like how he made a middle move and then really flattened out most recently, so there was nothing there to indicate a big improvement is due here.

GIUSEPPE THE GREAT was multiple graded-placed three times last year and earned more than $467,000. Last out, he was being pointed for the Pegasus World Cup (G1) but did not draw in and raced evenly at course and distance in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3). He should be much tighter in the Hal’s Hope as Nick Zito puts the blinkers back on.

SEND IT IN, a Grade 3 winner from the Todd Pletcher barn, is a gelded six-year-old. Don’t see many of them. He hasn’t run in 322 days but could be a stretch factor if Johnny Velazquez takes him back for one big run.

The temptation here is to go with the class of IRISH WAR CRY, but I don’t like how he finished up last year. He will have to prove himself and I don’t think the rail helps him. Hopefully he takes money and makes the others overlays.

I am going to key CONQUEST BIG E in exacta box wheels with IRISH WAR CRY and GIUSEPPE THE GREAT. I know, leaving out Pletcher and Brown can be foolhardy at Gulfstream but if we are right, the reward will be there.

Exacta 3 with 1, 7

Exacta 1, 7 with 3