Given the weather forecast, I’ve hesitated diving too deeply into the opening day/Claiming Crown card on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, but a couple plays seem safe on the 11-race card.

For a primer on the South Florida track’s championship meeting, check out James Scully’s blog post here. For Brisnet.com handicapping information for Gulfstream, click here.

Race 2 is one of the reasons so many people love Gulfstream: seemingly every day there’s a chance to see a future Kentucky Oaks or Derby hopeful. This maiden special weight race for two-year-olds going six furlongs features eight first-time starters from ten entrants, including $900,000 purchase and 2-to-1 morning line favorite Zulu, and while this one certainly looks well meant, I can’t resist taking a shot against the Bernardini colt who doesn’t have to win first-out going short.

#2 Two Times Book looks interesting sporting a win-early pedigree and attracting the services of Javier Castellano. Sire Big Drama gets 18% debut winners and 17% off-track winners, and both dams to race out of the winning Successful Appeal mare Successful Katie won as two-year-olds. At 8-to-1 on the morning line, he doesn’t have to be a future beater, just ready to fire today against some horses who will take money.

Race 4 is the Claiming Crown Iron Horse Stakes, and the top three choices all shipped south while seven locally based entrants sport double digit odds on the morning line. I normally might take a shot with a local in this spot, but they really do appear slower than the shippers #1 Twocubanbrothersu, #2 Runs With Bulls, and #6 Saturday Special, and it’s Runs With Bulls at 6-to-1 on the morning who gets the tab along with the aforementioned Castellano in the irons.

Runs With Bulls ships in from Thistledown where his Brisnet.com Speed Ratings are competitive with the two favorites. A horse shipped to Churchill from Thistle at the Louisville track’s November meeting and won at long odds, so hopefully the form holds here as well at a nice price.

We’ll save our (hopefully) best pick for last and head north to Turfway Park for the first stakes race of its season, the Holiday Inaugural Stakes for fillies and mares going six furlongs on Polytrack.

And it’s that synthetic surface that draws us to #7 Rachel’s Ready at 20-to-1 on the morning line making her career debut on the goo third-off the layoff against some solid competition at Keeneland and Churchill Downs this fall. She’s had a couple of in-race moves that hint at talent, and any improvement on Polytrack certainly has her in the picture at a big price.

For my preview on betting the Turfway meeting, click here.