Price horses worth a look on Florida Derby Day

March 27th, 2020

Saturday’s stakes-laden program at Gulfstream Park presents opportunities to scout for value. Here are horses eligible to outperform their morning-line odds in the undercard stakes, plus a major Florida Derby (G1) contender at an attractive price.

Race 4 – Cutler Bay

As a partisan of #10 Decorated Invader (7-2) from his debut, and respectful of #6 Vitalogy (5-2), I expect both to run well in this grassy mile. But #11 Mr. Hustle (12-1) looks overpriced in light of his 3-for-3 record and early speed. Although the presence of hot-riding Paco Lopez suggests he won’t go off at 12-1, the Roger Attfield comebacker can still add value to an otherwise chalky finish.

Race 6 – Hal’s Hope (G3)

#11 Prompt (20-1), who brings a 3-for-4 mark at this 1 1/8-mile trip, was on the upswing last spring before being sidelined. It’s notable that Hall of Famer Bill Mott pitched him into the Mar. 7 Challenger (G3) at Tampa straight off the bench, and his distant third was nevertheless good for a 101 Brisnet Speed rating. His three-quarter brothers Newsdad and Patterson Cross both excelled with maturity, so the 5-year-old Prompt could be poised for his best season yet. He picks up Edgard Zayas who boasts a 5.63 ROI with Mott runners over the last 60 days.

Race 7 – Sanibel Island

If #7 Walk in Marrakesh (6-1) stays anywhere near her morning line, the European import would be great value. In any event, #11 Highland Glory (12-1) is worth a look in her stakes debut for Barclay Tagg. Second to future Frizette (G1) winner Wicked Whisper in her Saratoga unveiling, and fourth behind Maedean and Water White next time, Highland Glory promptly broke through in her first turf try over this course. The full sister to Grade 1-placed multiple stakes scorer Highland Sky and relative of Grade 1 vixen Bit of Whimsy figures to pick up black type herself at some point.

Race 8 – Sir Shackleton

While #8 Vekoma (9-2) looms large as the class of the field, #5 Bourbon Resolution (8-1) can get involved off the layoff too. The Ian Wilkes trainee resurfaced from a similar absence to win first up at Gulfstream last year, admittedly in an entry-level allowance. He lost his way after an 18-1 upset of the Ben Ali (G3), but a fresh Bourbon Resolution could be ready to progress again.

Race 9 – Sand Springs

#12 Valedictorian (8-1) can’t be forgotten as the defending champion. Trainer Kelly Breen is 22% in the second-off-the-layoff category, reinforcing the idea that Valedictorian needed to dust off the cobwebs in her latest.

Race 10 – Orchid (G3)

#6 Mean Mary (3-1) was a revelation last time, but if you’re hoping for a big price underneath, #4 Quick Witted (15-1) enters on an upward curve in her second start for Ignacio Correas IV. A fast-finishing third at 54-1 in the Feb. 20 Al Stall Sr. Memorial at Fair Grounds, the daughter of Afleet Alex and multiple Grade 3 winner Humoristic stands to benefit from the added ground. She also keeps Joe Bravo.

Race 11 – Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2)

Two turns should bring out the best in #5 Spice Is Nice (3-1). For a stab at a longshot to factor in the exotics, #12 Sunset Promise (20-1) has promise in her first dirt start since her debut third at Keeneland. On turf ever since, she was runner-up to future Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine Sharing in last fall’s Selima. Sunset Promise hasn’t built enough on that effort, so the Broken Vow filly from the family of Smoke Glacken might prove more effective on the main track. Trainer Mike Maker is 17% in the turf-to-dirt category, and 25% when teaming up with jockey Florent Geroux over the past 60 days. If Geroux can use her tactical speed to get position from post 12, she might be able to get a slice.

Race 12 – Pan American (G2)

With #9 Zulu Alpha (3-5) entitled to further his resume, I’m keeping expectations more realistic than hopeful for #4 Current (30-1), especially in a race without meaningful pace. Yet the Curlin blueblood flashed talent early on for Todd Pletcher. Perhaps in a case of unwarranted stubbornness, I can’t quite give up on the idea that he’ll come good eventually. His staying-on third in a Tampa allowance could set him up for the stretch-out, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he hit the board.

Race 13 – Appleton (G3)

#7 Social Paranoia (10-1) tops the cast in Brisnet Prime Power, and his consistency adds to his appeal. Among the prominent turf sophomores last season, he ran well in a series of major stakes until his course-record breakthrough in Kentucky Downs’ Dueling Grounds Derby. Although the Street Boss colt is unraced since, Pletcher wins 30% off layoffs of at least 90 days. Note also that Social Paranoia crushed his lone start at Gulfstream, an eight-length maiden romp.

Race 14 – Florida Derby

#5 Gouverneur Morris (8-1) has to move forward against the likes of #7 Tiz the Law (6-5) and #12 Ete Indien (4-1), but the beauty of spring 3-year-olds is that the elite classic hopefuls are capable of such improvement. The well-named son of Constitution has found only one too good so far – Maxfield in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), when he endured the widest trip in the race. His comeback at Tampa was more workmanlike than brilliant, despite flirting with a track record, suggesting that the Pletcher pupil is still en route to a peak.