by DICK POWELL

I pay a lot of attention to the rail placements on Gulfstream Park’s expansive turf course but I guess I haven’t been paying close enough attention.

It used to be that the rails started out at 0 feet and 72 feet. So if there were a permanent hedge instead of PVC portable barriers, there would be an inner and outer turf course. The outward increments used to be 12 feet so the next placements would be 12 feet and 84 feet, 24 feet and 96 feet etc.

Gulfstream runs a lot of 7 1/2 furlong turf races and they were always contested on the “inner” turf course. But this past week, I noticed that instead of having two “lanes” or “courses,” Gulfstream now has three. 7 1/2-furlong races are run with no rail so there is a long run into the first turn.

The next rail placement is 60 feet out, not 72 feet. Then, there is a third “lane” with the rail placed at 120 feet. On television, it looks pretty narrow but field sizes look like they have been limited to 10 when there are three, 60-foot wide lanes. I will give the meet a few more weeks and then take a closer look if any trends have developed per turf rail placement.

Speaking of Gulfstream’s turf course, we saw a near catastrophe on Monday in the 7TH race when Nik Juarez had to severely check his mount, APPEALING BRIEFS (Tizway), in the shadow of the wire when Jose Lezcano took away his running room aboard the winner, ADONIS CREED (Brilliant Speed).

The stewards took no action after an objection was filed by Juarez and I was stunned. Lezcano took the lead and opened up daylight in the stretch. Juarez had all sorts of trouble but his mount responded to urging once he was clear to cut down the margin. Three times, Lezcano looked over his right shoulder to see Juarez coming and never, in my view, made an effort to keep his horse from drifting into Juarez’s path.

Yes, he was clear but when the path was taken away, Juarez had to check severely. The chart comment about “steadied late” did not accurately depict Juarez having to pull on the bit to keep Appealing Briefs from clipping heels with Adonis Creed.

I am not naïve and have watched these herding tactics every day without any consequences. But this looked really dangerous and taking no action means that Lezcano gets rewarded for his tactics and they will be imitated by other riders since he did not get taken down and/or lose days.

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Santa Anita kicked off their winter meet with the customary day after Christmas start. Neither of their Grade 1, seven-furlong sprints had national repercussions but were great races to watch and wager.

In the La Brea S. (G1), for 3YO fillies going seven furlongs on the main track, all-or-nothing sprinter FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM (Twirling Candy) looked she would be home free when she gunned to the front and opened up a wide advantage. Flavien Prat had CONSTELLATION (Bellamy Road) in good shape throughout but she was taking an unusual route to Grade 1 success as her only start in the last nine months came at Turf Paradise last month where she crushed a $30K stakes race.

But Constellation kept knocking on Finley’sluckycharm’s door and in the final furlong, broke through to win by a half-length and paid $27. I guess prepping at Turf Paradise threw everyone off since Constellation’s recent odds were 1 to 20, 1 to 10 and 3 to 10 last out.

Visually, the Malibu S. (G1) was a replay of the La Brea Stakes. SHARP AZTECA (Freud) threw in a sensational 21.64 second quarter and looked like he broke it open with a clear lead in the stretch. But Joel Rosario saved ground aboard New York-bred MIND YOUR BISCUITS (Posse) and then swung out for a clear run at the leader.

With six furlongs run in 1:08.10, Sharp Azteca weakened just enough and Mind Your Biscuits wore him down to win by the same half-length margin as Constellation did in her win. His final time was 1:20.81 and I would think the Carter (G1) and Metropolitan H. (G1) will both be on his schedule.