Stakes Records Fall

Tapwrit Part of Stakes-Record Races over Weekend

Racing continues coast to coast, and while many fans focus on the Kentucky Derby trail and Triple Crown races, there are plenty of exciting and meaningful races with more stakes records being set last weekend.

Tapwrit (6/5, pictured) wowed fans in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), showing his Triple Crown potential as he gathered up his competitors on the far turn and galloped home an easy 4 ½ length winner for jockey Jose Ortiz. The gray son of Tapit covered 1 1/16 miles in a record time of 1:42.36 to break the stakes race record set by Destin last year.

Also at Tampa Bay Downs, Stanford (2/5) led from the start to win Saturday’s $100,000 Challenger, covering 1 1/16 miles in a track-record time of 1:41.75 with John Velazquez riding home the winner by 3 ¼ lengths.

A third record nearly fell at Tampa Bay Saturday when new York-bred Fifty Five (4/1) came rallying from the back of the pack to roll past the leaders in the deep stretch and win the $200,000 Grade III Florida Oaks by a neck over the odds-on favorite, La Coronel.

In Saturday’s turf sprint at Gulfstream, Pay any Price (5/1) led from the start in the $75,000 Silks Run Stakes and got home by 3 1/4 lengths in front of odds-on favorite Power Alert. The 7-year-old Pay Any Price set a turf course-record time of 53.61 seconds over 5 furlongs.

And the sad news of the racing weekend happened in the other Road to the Roses qualifying race when one of the top Kentucky Derby favorites, Mastery, sustained a fracture of his left front leg following his victory in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes. Jockey Mike Smith unsaddled Mastery shortly after his 6 ½-length win, and the Candy Ride colt was loaded into an ambulance.

Trainer Bob Baffert said, “You see what he did today was just incredible and puts him as the best 3-year-old in the nation.”

Unfortunately, we won’t see Mastery on the Triple Crown trail following the injury and surgery.

2017 sunshine millions classic awesome slew

Awesome Slew In 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic

The horse to watch in the 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic remains Awesome Slew, a slow burning four-year-old colt who had been flirting with the winner’s circle through the fall of last year. The Edward Plesa Jr. trainee finished 3rd at the Harlan’s Holiday to cap his 2016 campaign, but also proved worth at the thrilling Pennsylvania Derby where he finished 5th after winning the Smarty Jones (G3) in early September.

There was some thought of running the up-and-coming colt on the Pegasus World Cup undercard out of Gulfstream, but Plesa ultimately decided that the 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic was a better fit. “I think it’s a good spot for him, because it is restricted to Florida-breds,” Plesa said. “Live Oak does breed horses that are Florida-breds and it’s an opportunity for us to run in a race that certainly isn’t going to be anywhere near a Pegasus-type race.”

Running from the outside post should give Awesome Slew an advantage against a decently competitive field, but it’s his experience that makes him the horse to back overall. There’s a lot of filler in this race. Piloting will attempt to get his first win for Mark Casse in his 27th attempt. Tiger of Wales will be making his stakes debut despite being a five-year-old.

“He’s just stepping up to the plate,” Plesa continued about the expected 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic favorite. “He’s been compromised by odd things that happen to horses—sickness being his main thing—and we were trying to play catch-up all last year. We finally caught up in the Smarty Jones and then I ran him back a little quicker than he probably would have liked in the Pennsylvania Derby. He’s been training great and he’s doing great. I think he’ll hit his full stride this year.”

Awesome Slew comes from a strong lineage so he could certainly be a surprise as a four-year-old. The journey to prove his overall worth to Plesa and horse players around the country begins this weekend.

2017 Sunshine Millions Classic – Saturday, January 21st at Gulfstream (8:35pm EST)
1 1/8th Miles — 4+ Year Olds — $200,000 

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Tiger of Wales (FL) Tyler Gaffalione 119 Michael J. Maker
2 Nauset Beach (FL) Paco Lopez 117 Teresa M. Pompay
3 Hy Riverside (FL) Jose L. Ortiz 119 Antonio Sano
4 We’re All Set (FL) Luis Saez 117 Fernando Abreu
5 Joshua’s Comprise (FL) Martin Ramos Ramirez 117 Barry R. Rose
6 Piloting (FL) Luca Panici 117 Mark E. Casse
7 Uncle Vinny (FL) John R. Velazquez 117 Todd A. Pletcher
8 Awesome Slew (FL) Javier Castellano 123 Edward Plesa, Jr.
2017 Holy Bull Stakes

Classic Empire Sets Sights On Holy Bull Stakes

After winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, all eyes are on Classic Empire to carry this class of three-year-olds towards the Kentucky Derby. The prohibitive favorite in the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager is already a 6/1 first choice, followed closely by McCraken and Mastery. Well get our first look at Classic Empire when he makes his season debut at the 2017 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.

The choice to run him in the Florida circuit certainly indicates that Classic Empire will likely aim long term towards the Florida Derby. It’s the same pathway that Mohaymen took to get to the Kentucky Derby, though he was decisively upended by Nyquist at the Florida Derby. Still, Mark and Norman Casse seem to be very eager about their chances this coming spring. That all begins with a strong showing at the Holy Bull Stakes.

“Norman was very enthusiastic about the breeze,” Mark Casse said. “When you look at it from a time standpoint it is more about what he does after the breeze. He amazes us because you can’t get him tired. There’s been a lot of discussion about the 2017 Holy Bull between Mr. Oxley, Norman, and myself. I think we’re going to make it because I just think it’s good timing. I would say today is another step closer to the Holy Bull.”

The breeze that Mark Casse is referring to is a 7-furlong set that Classic Empire romped in 1:02 4/5. Classic Empire already seems to have a fairly loyal following so this news will bolster his support. But he’s by no means a homerun bet right now. The three-year-old class this year has noone that is peerless. Classic Empire is merely the horse that’s made the most of his given opportunities.

Still, Casse is overly exited about his big lead, especially as a pathway to the Kentucky Derby begins to take a more definitive shape. “He’s a bit of a bad boy, there is no doubt about that,” Casse said. “I was talking to Mr. Oxley this morning and said to him, ‘He’s different than most horses. He’s absolutely brilliant, but what makes him so good, also makes his bad.’ The fact  he is tireless, makes him tough. Somebody the other day said he walks like a panther, and that’s what he does—always ready to pounce.”

The field for the upcoming Holy Bull Stakes doesn’t have much of a field just yet but more names will surely step up to take on the derby favorite in the weeks to come.

Rivals Renew in Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream

Rampart Stakes Features Stablemates Genre and Eskenformoney

The $100,000 Rampart Stakes (G3) is one of five stakes races Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and 7 fillies and mares will chase the $60,000 first place prize over 1 mile on the main track. Genre (9-5) and Curlin’s Approval (5-2) are the top contenders along with Eskenformoney (3-1).

Curlin’s Approval enters off a fourth-place finish in the Raven Run (G2) on Oct. 2. She’s had two strong works over the track including a bullet 4 furlongs in 45.90 on Nov. 30. She’s won 3-of-5 starts this year at Gulfstream and is fast enough to get a pressing spot. Trainer Martin Wolfson wins at a solid 38% clip when stretching runners out to a mile or more, which is her first try at the distance.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has a pair of fine fillies in here including the favorite Genre, who is the class of the field and drops down from her 3rd place finish in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 9. The daughter of Bernardine is 4-2-1 in 7 starts this year, but her 4 furlong works have not been sharp the past month. Her stablemate Eskenformoney is 2-1-1 in four lifetime starts over the track for Pletcher, and she was 2nd to Genre by a neck at Monmouth July 31. Those two rivals will challenge each other a fifth time Dec. 17. With 19 races to her credit and 11 in the money finishes, Eskenformoney will challenge Genre and Curlin’s Approval for top honors again Saturday.

“They’ve run against each other and it’s been pretty close. They’ve been training together, too, so hopefully it’s a dead heat … for first,” Pletcher said. “I think both fillies have run well here at a one-turn mile and both have won at a one-turn mile here, and both of them seem to be training very well.”

The Rampart Stakes is Race 5 at Gulfstream on Sat., Dec. 17 with post time at 2:00 p.m. ET and will be followed by the day’s headliner in Race 7, the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes.

Rainbow 6 Carryover Reaches $1.15 Million at Gulfstream

Wednesday’s Jackpot Rainbow 6 Carryover Reaches $1.15 Million

Gulfstream’s popular multi-race wager has gone unsolved for 25 consecutive programs, and the 20-cent Rainbow 6 carryover has reached $1.15 million when live racing continues at Gulfstream Wednesday, February 17. First race post time is 12:30 p.m. ET.

The atmosphere at Gulfstream and other tracks can become electric when fans have a chance to shoot for a high six or seven-digit payoff. A week ago, the jackpot had reached $665,851.50, and on Monday’s President’s Day card the carryover had soared to over $1 million. The last time a unique winner won was on January 13 when one lucky bettor hit the jackpot for $76,799.38. The largest payout of the current Championship Meet was $262,634.84 on Jan. 7.

Modeled after a bet that originated at little Beulah Park in Ohio, the Rainbow 6 differs from the pick six in two crucial ways. In a pick six, if many bettors select all six winners, they share the pot. If nobody picks six, part of the wagering pool is paid out as a consolation and the rest goes into the carryover jackpot for the next day’s card.

But in the Rainbow 6, the whole pool is paid out only if a single ticket has all six winners. Otherwise, a consolation is paid out to the perfect tickets while 30 percent of the day’s pool goes into the jackpot (The single-ticket rule doesn’t apply on the final day of the racing season, when there is a mandatory payout of everything in the pool).

The other crucial difference between the Rainbow 6 and the pick six is their cost. The betting unit of the Rainbow 6 is 20-cents, compared with $2 for the pick six.

There were multiple tickets sold with all six winners on Monday, each worth $6,084.70.

In addition to the Rainbow 6, there will be a $1 Super Hi-5 carryover of $59,902.97 in the Wednesday’s first race.

Mohaymen is ready for 2016 Holy Bull Stakes

Mohaymen Ready for 2016 Holy Bull Stakes

The 2016 Holy Bull Stakes cracks its gates open next weekend on January 30th, and all eyes will be focused on Mohaymen. The three-year old son of Tapit is undefeated in three races, having won the Remsen and the Nashua at the end of 2014. He is also the second favourite amongst Triple Crown hopefuls this coming season, ranking just behind the front running Nyquist.

Two weeks ago, Mohaymen ran like he was shot out of a canon, covering five furlongs in just 0:59 2/5 which brought some excitement from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.  “It’s very exciting. He’s training great and done everything right. He works well every time and comes back, and doesn’t blow out a match…We know he can handle most things thrown at him at this stage. We just hope we have a good trip and a clean trip.”

It certainly seems like the winner of the Gulfstream main event next weekend is a given, and excitement for Mohaymen continues to rise as we march down the road to the Kentucky Derby.

Conquest Big E might stand as the biggest threat to Mohaymen at the 2016 Holy Bull Stakes. His disappointing 8th place finish at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile notwithstanding, the highly rated Conquest Stables product topped the podium at an impressive allowance hosted by Churchill Downs to finish his 2015 campaign. He ran a mile in 1:37.62.

Greenpointcrusader also remains an intriguing entry. He placed 7th at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile just after winning the one-mile Champagne (GR1) with a time of 1:36.25. This will be Greepointcrusader’s first race at Gulfstream and he remains, quite literally, a dark horse in the 2016 Holy Bull Stakes.

Fellowship will also compete at the 2016 Holy Bull Stakes with the hopes of generating the same buzz he had at the tail of 2015.  The Stanley Gold trainee finished first in a Gulfstream maiden while placing second at the Birdonthewire and another allowance at Gulfstream West. He also finished a respectable 5th at the Mucho Macho Man Stakes to start his sophomore season.

Perfect Saint and Frontier Ranger are also projected to race in the 2016 Holy Bull Stakes, but nobody feels more important than Mohaymen. Truth be told, running this race just seems like a formality. Everyone just wants to see how fast McLaughlin’s star truly is as a three-year old.

The 2016 Holy Bull Stakes is a 1 1/16 mile race on dirt at Gulfstream Park, scheduled for January 30th. It offers a purse of $350,000.