The Player’s Edge – February 22, 2013: Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park

Matt Carter

February 22nd, 2013



photo: Matt Carter

Fair Grounds - Risen Star Stakes

Gulfstream Park - Fountain of Youth

Fair Grounds - Fair Grounds Handicap

Gulfstream Park – Canadian Turf Handicap







Fair Grounds - Risen Star Stakes
Top Trainers Run in the Bayou

To say the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday is loaded may be an understatement. The local prep for the Louisiana Derby drew a full field of 14 and every major barn is represented. We start at the rail with Proud Strike, the Asmussen-trainee who is coming off a huge maiden breaking win.

Proud Strike made two starts as a two-year-old, but caught some highly touted runners. Off nearly two months the son of Smart Strike came back and dominated his nine rivals. At least two runners came back to win in their next start making Proud Strike a solid choice in the Risen Star. Hall-of-Famer Gary Stevens has the mount and the jockey has been riding lights out in Southern California.

Code West represents the Baffert barn and drew right next door in post two. Coe West has one win, two seconds and two thirds in his five career starts. In his last start he finished second to Super Ninety Nine, who just scored an easy win in the Southwest over a sloppy Oaklawn track on Monday.

Baffert campaigned Midnight Lute when that colt was running, but Tom Amoss is in charge of the Midnight Lute-colt in the Risen Star, Mylute. Mylute has been in-the-money six of seven career starts including a win at Fair Grounds by over 10-lengths. He made the lead in that race, but set slow fractions so expect jockey Shaun Bridgmohan to take him back when the gates open.

Right next to Mylute in post six is the Todd Pletcher-trained Palace Malice, who picks up leading rider Rose Napravnik. Palace Malice is the likely pacesetter, stretching out in distance after three straight sprints. The Risen Star is his graded stakes debut.

Chad Brown is young, but he is one of the best trainers in the country and sends his colt, Normany Invasion, to the party in New Orleans. Normandy Invasion will be making this three-year-old debut after going one-for-three last year. His best effort was a second place finish, beaten a nose, to Overanalyze in the Grade 2 Remsen. The Tapit-colt should love the long Fair Grounds stretch.

The Coach, D Wayne Lukas brings Oxbow back after winning the local prep, the Grade 3 LeComte. Oxbow made all the running that day and drew off to win by double digits. This will be his toughest test, but is bred to be a good one. No easy lead this time.

Last year Doug O'Neill was having the time of his life with I'll Have Another, but this year has been a little different. Hopefully he has not had enough of the limelight when he sends his colt He's Had Enough to Fair Grounds. He's Had Enough is also cross-entered in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

No luck for Al Stall's Departing, who drew post 14. By War Front, Departing has won his first two races with ease and now gets the class test on Saturday. The biggest concern is the post, but the talent is there. Of course the whole field is talented.

Rounding out the field are Agent, Golden Soul, Hardrock Eleven, Ive Struck a Nerve, Bethel and Circle Unbroken with Sunbean on the also-eligible list.

Post time for the Risen Star is 5:57 ET and is the last stakes on a day that includes three other graded stake races.

Gulfstream Park - Fountain of Youth
Violence Meets Nine

The other graded stake race on Saturday for three-year-olds is the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. The two-turn race drew a field of ten led by probable favorite, Violence.

By Medaglia d'Oro, Violence is undefeated in his three-race career. He broke his maiden at Saratoga then won the Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct and Grade 1 Cash Call at Hollywood Park. He has been working very well in the mornings, highlights by a bullet five furlong drill across town at the Palm Meadows training center.

While he is coming off a layoff, the biggest advantage for Violence is post. The inside posts are best at the mile and one-sixteenth distance due to the short run to the first turn and a short stretch with the first wire. Violence will break from post three, a perfect spot to get early position.

The other horses with good posts are Orb, Majestic Hussar, Elmutahid and Cerro; preference given to Orb due to the pace scenario.

Majestic Hussar just won a seven furlong sprint gate-to-wire, Elmutahid broke his maiden at nine furlongs on the lead and Cerro won an allowance race, also at nine furlongs in wire-to-wire fashion. Orb; however, did his best running late.

It's hard to compare Elmutahid to the others because he ran his over a sloppy, sealed track, but the son of Street Cry ran his nine furlongs in 1:52 with a final eighth of a mile in 13 and 3/5 seconds. Cerro won his race in 1:50.1 with the final eighth in 13 and 1/5 seconds while Orb, run on the same day as Cerro, ran 1:51 with 13 and 2/5 final fraction. On speed figures, Cerro is the biggest danger to Violence, but must avoid a speed duel and, of the five, drew the worst post with six.

It's not impossible to win on the outside, but the five other runners look, at this time, a cut below the others.

Falling Sky has won three of his four races, highlighted by the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. As a front-runner and breaking from post nine, Falling Sky will most likely be quarter horsed to the lead and that is not good with the other speed in the race.

Sky Captain looks to be a beneficiary of the pace duel and exits a second place finish, beaten just over two length, to Cerro in the allowance race last month. The Sky Mesa colt will break just outside of Cerro in post seven.

Speak Logistics, He's Had Enough and Sr. Quisqueyano complete the field. He's Had Enough is cross-entered in the Risen Star and both are extremely competitive.

Just like Fair Grounds, the Saturday card at Gulfstream Park is tremendous with three graded stake races. The Fountain of Youth anchors the all-stakes pick-3, post time 5:35 ET.

Fair Grounds - Fair Grounds Handicap
Grade 3 Older Horses on the Grass

One of the supporting features on Risen Star is the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap for four-year-olds and upward going the about distance of nine furlongs on the turf course. It is possible that the turf course will be less than firm, but even with that, contention runs deep.

The morning line favorite, and a lukewarm one at that, is Optimizer, the D. Wayne Lukas trained colt that has won four of 20 starts with earnings over $500,000. Optimizer is coming off a three and one-half length win in the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley Handicap over the Fair Grounds turf course. On his best day, the son of English Channel is good, but at 3-1 he is worth trying to beat.

Next up on the morning line are Willcox Inn, Unlatch and Hyper, with all three the only other ones at single digit odds.

Willcox Inn was really good in 2011, but since then has only run five times with one win, one second and one third. His win was back in July 2012 at Arlington Park and is winless in his last four. Those four; however, were three Grade 1's and one Grade 3.

Unlatch was almost five lengths back of Optimizer in the Colonel Bradley and a half length behind Bim Bam, who is also entered in the Fair Grounds Handicap on Saturday. Prior to the run in the Bradley, Unlatch had won three of his first four starts. The four-year-old gelding has a lot of ability and may be ready to win in his second start off the layoff.

Hyper is an interesting runner from the Chad Brown barn; in late 2011 to early 2012, Hyper won five straight races. He was then shipped to Ascot where he ran ninth then was seventh, beaten almost 38 lengths, in another race in England at Newbury. The six-year-old came back last month and was a good third in high-level allowance race. He should be better fit for this run, but the class level is a question mark.

Quality Control is the new face in the race, a Brazilian import now in the Tom Amoss barn. The five-year-old is by Northern Afleet and was bred in Brazil. If he gets bet, as most live Amoss runners do, then consider throwing Quality Control on the ticket.

After that the form all runs together. Strike Impact, Two Months Rent, Cavalero, Macho Bull and Golden Yank have all run races that would be good enough to win while Major Gain ran in four graded stake races as a two-year-old.

The wagering in this race has certainly been optimized.

Post time for the Fair Grounds Handicap on Saturday is 4:25 ET. Be sure to check out the weather report for any turf changes or late scratches.

Gulfstream Park – Canadian Turf Handicap
Grade 3 Older Horses on the Grass

Fair Grounds is not the only track on Saturday with a graded stake race on the grass for older horses with Gulfstream Park running the Grade 3 Canadian Turf. This one; however, is at a flat mile.

Making the line as the favorite is Data Link, who has not run since winning the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in November. He has been running a hole in the win in the mornings and was third in this race last year off a similar layoff. Will be tough to beat if ready to roll.

After the favorite there are four runners behind 4-1 and 6-1 on the morning line. Those are Joes Blazing Aaron, Beau Choix, Howe Great and Za Approval.

Joes Blazing Aaron is the trip horse from the rail. The five-year-old gelding can either make the front or he can sit just off sprint-to-route horse Global Power and front-runner Night Party. This will be the first time he has run in a graded stake race since April 2011, but he may just be up to the class hike.

Za Approval nipped Joes Blazing Aaron by a nose last time, but didn't get the best of the post position draw, breaking from post ten on Saturday. He is another with a lot of ability that is stepping up in class.

Beau Choix and How Great are two class horses; Beau Choix was fifth in this race last year and fourth in the Grade 3 Appleton while Howe Great has ran in six graded stake races in his last seven starts.

Howe Great looks to be the horse with more upside. By Hat Trick, Howe Great was second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last September and won the Grade 3 Palm Beach over the Gulfstream Park turf course last March. He is, in fact, a perfect three-for-three over the course. Look for a better ride from Joel Rosario than he gave on Animal Kingdom, who runs for the same connections as Howe Great.

Others in the field include Cash Rules, hoping for an off-the-turf race, Empire Builder, third in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder in November and Scatman, another who looks to need conventional dirt.

In multi-race exotics, it may be best to use the favorites or single the one you like the most.

Post time for the Canadian Turf is 5:05 ET and is the second leg of the late pick-4, which includes the Davona Dale and Fountain of Youth.


Thoroughbred Racing Action

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

Saturday– February 23

  • Fair Grounds: Risen Star Stakes - G2, $400,000, 3yo, 8.5f
  • Fair Grounds:  Rachel Alexandra Stakes - G3, $200,000, 3yo f, 8.5f
  • Fair Grounds:  Fair Grounds Handicap - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up, 9f turf
  • Fair Grounds:  Mineshaft Handicap - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up, 8.5f
  • Fair Grounds:  Bayou Handicap, $75,000, 4yo & up f&m, 8.5f turf
  • Fair Grounds:  Gentilly Stakes, $60,000, 3yo, 8.5f turf
  • Gulfstream Park:  Fountain of Youth Stakes - G2, $400,000, 3yo, 8.5f
  • Gulfstream Park:  Canadian Turf Stakes - G3, $150,000, 4yo & up, 8.5f turf
  • Gulfstream Park:  Davona Dale Stakes - G2, $250,000, 3yo f, 8.5f
  • Santa Anita:  San Carlos Stakes - G2, $200,000, 4yo & up, 7f
  • Laurel Park:  Maryland Racing Media Stakes, $125,000, 3yo & up, 9f
  • Oaklawn Park:  Downthedustyroad Stakes, $60,000, 3yo & up f&m, 6f
  • Tampa Bay Downs: Super Stakes, $75,000, 4yo & up, 7f
  • Sunland Park:  Mine that Bird Derby, $130,000, 3yo, 8.5f
  • Turf Paradise:  Turf Paradise Derby, $75,000, 3yo, 8.5f

Sunday – February 24

  • Gulfstream Park:  Ladies Turf Sprint Stakes, $60,000, 4yo & up f&m, 5f turf
  • Santa Anita:  Sensational Star Stakes, $100,000, 4yo & up, 6.5f turf
  • Oaklawn Park:  Nodouble Breeders' Stakes, $60,000, 3yo & up, 6f
  • Sunland Park:  Island Fashion Stakes, $50,000, 3yo f, 8f