The Player’s Edge – February 1, 2013: Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita & Tampa Bay Downs

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Matt Carter

February 1st, 2013



photo: Matt Carter


Gulfstream Park – Hutcheson Stakes

Santa Anita – Arcadia Stakes

Santa Anita – Strub Stakes

Tampa Bay Downs – Sam F. Davis Stakes





Gulfstream Park – Hutcheson Stakes
Merit Man Meets Nine

The feature race on Saturday at Gulfstream Park is the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes for three-year-olds. The seven-furlong race drew a field of 10, but Falling Sky is expected to scratch to run in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.

Merit Man rates on top having won three of his four career starts including wins in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream and the Tim Conway at Santa Anita. The only blemish on his record was a nose defeat to long shot Hightail in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. Merit Man looks strong, but is not the only contender in the race.

Top trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Forty Tales, who has won his first two starts at Aqueduct and Parx. It’s a question as to what Pletcher had thought about the colt as he generally sends his best down to Florida for the winter, but since his win at Parx, Forty Tales shipped right down to Pletcher’s Palm Meadows stable. The concern for the son of Tale of the Cat on Saturday is the rail draw.

The Hutcheson should unfold at a pretty lively clip with Merit Man, Singanothersong and Undrafted all vying for the lead with Weekend Hideaway not far behind. The closers in the race are Little Distorted, Honorable Dillon, Pataky Kid and Really Sharp.

Of the closers, Honorable Dillon gets top billing. The son of Tapit was favored in an allowance race in his last start, won by Singanothersong, and now makes his second start off a five month layoff. His only win came in his second career start and he just fired a bullet a week ago.

Pataky Kid has been away since a fifth place finish in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs in late October, but is a Grade 3 winner and has a strong work tab for his three-year-old debut. By Rockport Harbor, Pataky Kid broke his maiden at seven furlongs over the synthetic track at Arlington Park.

Little Distorted was favored in the Spectacular Bid last month off his dominating debut win at Belmont in late October, but found the Florida waters too deep and could only split the field. He is bred to run all day long and may be a bet back as a beaten favorite.

Really Sharp is making his first start since December 1 and is Graded stakes placed. He also owns a win at the seven furlong distance and his sire, Sharp Humor, won the Swale Stakes over the Gulfstream Park track in his three-year-old season seven years ago.

This might just be a “favorite or all” type of race in the multi-race exotics.

Post time for the Hutcheson on Saturday is 5:05 ET and is the third leg of the late pick-4, which starts in race eight.

Santa Anita – Arcadia Stakes
Klisz Up in Class

There are three graded stakes races this Saturday at Santa Anita and it looks like they saved the best for last. The Grade 2 Arcadia at one mile on the turf drew a solid field of 14 and contention runs deep.

Klisz drew the rail for the $150,000 race looking to start his career with four straight wins. He won a maiden claimer in October at Keeneland then has won back-to-back races on the turf at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita. In his last race, at one mile, he sat just off the pace and exploded in the lane to win with ease. The class is a question mark, but the gelded son of Smarty Jones may just be up to the task.

He is going to need a step up as there are six graded stake runners in the field, starting with the Irish-bred import, Vagabond Shoes.

Vagabond Shoes has been a world traveler in his 20 start career with runs in Spain, France, Turkey, Germany and Dubai. In July 2011 he won the Group 3 Prix Messidor and last year won the Group 3 Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord, both in France. At one mile the six-year-old gelding has four wins, one second and one third in 12 starts.

The other Euro-invader is Strong Suit, but he took the worst of the draw with post 14. Never say never, but it’s going to be a tough task for the multiple Group 2 winner from that post at a flat mile. In 2011 he was 10th in the Breeder’s Cup Mile breaking from post 11.

Other graded stake winners include Silentio, Willyconker, Wilkinson and Suggestive Boy.

Silentio, like Klisz, is on the up-and-up after winning the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort in his last race. The son of Silent Name has won three of his four starts including a perfect two-for-two at one mile. The Sir Beaufort was against straight three-year-olds, but he did beat older horses in September at Del Mar. Post seven is perfect.

Willyconker has one win in his last seven starts, but that win was in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile over the Santa Anita turf course last March. That may have just been an aberration as the six-year-old gelding would much rather finish second or third these days.

Wilkinson son the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park in May of last year then took seven months off before coming back to the races in late December. That race, an off-the-turf stakes, was a perfect prep for the Arcadia, but he is still a question mark with these types of horses. In the American Handicap, Wilkinson was 44-1.

Suggestive Boy won four Group 1 races in Argentina, but has found the waters a bit deep since coming to the U.S. in June of 2012. He always seems to be training well for his starts, but always falls short of expectations. Add in the fact he drew post 13 and Suggestive Boy may be a throw out on Saturday.

The crazy long shot in the race is Akkadian, who scored a nice win in an allowance race over the course and distance last month. In four graded stake races; however, the gelding has yet to run better than fourth.

Rounding out the field are Forest Mouse, Tribal Tribute, Sebastian Flyte, Key Decision, Clubhouse Ride and Chosen Miracle.

First post on Saturday at Santa Anita is 3:30 ET with the Arcadia off at 7:38.

Santa Anita – Strub Stakes
San Fernando Rematch

One race prior to the Arcadia is the 66th running of the Strub Stakes. The nine-furlong Grade 2 is the last leg of the Strub series, which also includes the Malibu and San Fernando. Five of the runners, including the top three, in the San Fernando are back in the Strub led by race winner Fed Biz.

Fed Biz came into the San Fernando as a horse with many question marks, but gutted out a head victory over Tritap, who was making his first start since mid-November. Fed Biz was on the Kentucky Derby trail early last year, then came back after a layoff to be third, eighth and sixth in three straight Graded races before the win last out.

By Giant’s Causeway, Fed Biz once again looks like the speed of the speed and will try to carry that an extra sixteenth of a mile.

Tritap probably did not want to be sitting second, but jockey Corey Nakatani did just that. The Tapit-colt is best with a little bit of pace to run into and appears to get stronger as the race gets longer.

The problem; however, is that there does not appear to be a lot of other pace on paper and Nakatani will once again have to put his mount close. It’s possible Handsome Mike shows more speed second off the layoff as he was third after a half mile in the San Fernando behind both Fed Biz and Tritap.

Guilt Trip was third in the San Fernando, trying to close into the speed. He may just be one of those horses that looks good on paper, but just picks up the pieces late. The added sixteenth of a mile helps his chances and does look to be working well.

The new shooter in the race is Stephanoatsee, trained by East Coast based Graham Motion. Stephanoatsee was third in the Discovery Handicap in his last start in mid-November with a previous win in the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park. The A.P. Indy-ridgling finished in front of Guilt Trip in the Discovery and was beat two and three-quarter lengths by Handsome Mike three starts back in the Pennsylvania Derby. Over the last five years, Motion has 14 wins with 89 starters in Southern California with Stephanoatsee the first to start on dirt.

Shadow Runner and Groovin’ Solo look best to run sixth and seventh.

Post time for the Strub is 7:07 ET.

Tampa Bay Downs – Sam F. Davis Stakes
Three-Year-Olds on the Kentucky Derby Trail

Tampa Bay Downs will be putting on a great card this Saturday with three Graded stake races highlighted by the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis for three-year-olds. This year’s race drew a field of 10 with one coupled entry.

That entry, Northern Lion and Dynamic Sky, was tabbed as the morning line favorite at 9-5. The Mark Casse-trained duo come into the race with different paths. Northern Lion exits a maiden score at Gulfstream Park after runs at Woodbine and Churchill Downs while Dynamic Sky just won the Pasco Stakes over the Tampa track, which came after a sixth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Northern Lion may wind up to be the better horse in the end, but for now Dynamic Sky gets top billing. The Ontario-bred drew well in post nine and can score the third victory of his career.

Also coming out of the Pasco are Divine Ambition, third, Silver Day, sixth, and Lightning Stone, seventh. Divine Ambition was making his first start since changing barns after his debut in September and should be better fit for the two-turn race in his second off the layoff. Silver Day and Lightning Stone were long shots last month and that appears to be the case again.

The new faces in the race are My Name is Michael, Speak Logistics, Balino and Midnite Poppa. Balino and Midnight Poppa have wins over the Tampa track with Midnight Poppa the most likely to hit the board of the four Saturday.

My Name Is Michael makes his first start on the dirt and first start for trainer Bill Mott after trainer David Cotey ran the Macho Uno colt at Woodbine. Not sure of his quality, but the works appear to be good and Mott has tabbed one of the country’s leading riders in Joel Rosario.

Speak Logistics may be the one to back making his first start since a seventh place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a throw-out day for many of the horses. Prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Speak Logistics won two of three races including the $300,000 In Reality Stakes at Calder. Jockey Angel Serpa may break from the gates and play, “catch me if you can.”

Carded as race 11 on the 12-race card, post time for the Sam F. Davis on Saturday is 5:23 ET.


Thoroughbred Racing Action

Great racing action from across the country this weekend.  Watch these races all on

Saturday– February 2

  • Gulfstream Park:  Hutcheson Stakes - G2, $150,000, 3yo, 7f
  • Gulfstream Park:  Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes, $75,000, 4yo & up, 5f turf
  • Santa Anita:  Arcadia Stakes - G2, $150,000, 4yo & up, 8f turf
  • Santa Anita:  Strub Stakes - G2, $200,000, 4yo, 9f
  • Santa Anita:  Robert B. Lewis Stakes - G2, $200,000, 3yo, 8.5f
  • Tampa Bay Downs:  Sam F. Davis Stakes - G3, $250,000, 3yo, 8.5f
  • Tampa Bay Downs:  Endeavor Stakes - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8.5f turf
  • Tampa Bay Downs:  Florida Oaks, $100,000, 3yo f, 8.5f turf
  • Delta Downs:  Louisiana Premier Night, 6 races, $800,000 total purses
  • Fair Grounds:  Tiffany Lass Stakes, $100,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8.5f
  • Laurel Park:  Wide Country Stakes, $125,000, 3yo, 7f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Essex Handicap, $100,000, 4yo & up, 8.5f

Sunday – February 3

  • Santa Anita:  San Antonio Stakes - G2, $200,000, 4yo & up, 9f