Horse racing has been one of the few constants during the coronavirus shutdown of sports. Several tracks, including Churchill Downs, are slated for starts this weekend, but our focus here is a track that has been humming pretty much all along.
We’ve been covering some of the big races from around the country and we’ve got a big one at Gulfstream Park on Friday in the Hollywood Wildcat. This is a race for three-year-old fillies that could feature some contenders in the Kentucky Oaks and the Triple Tiara series towards the tail end of the year.
A field of eight fillies is set for the Hollywood Wildcat, which is Race 10 on the Friday May 15 card at Gulfstream. This 1 1/16 mile dirt race will be a good test of distance for the field as a whole, as only three of the eight have run at this length in their careers. The second favorite, Cheermeister, is actually making her dirt debut, so we have a lot to consider in this one.
Here are the post positions, horses, trainers, and jockeys, and the morning line odds from the form for the Hollywood Wildcat:
|1||Wanderlust||K. Ritvo||N. Juarez||20/1|
|2||Pleasant Orb||B. Tagg||J. Bravo||10/1|
|3||Tonalist’s Shape||S. Joseph Jr.||I. Ortiz Jr.||8/5|
|4||Money Never Sleeps||T. Pompay||M.A. Vasquez||15/1|
|5||Up In Smoke||G. Weaver||L. Saez||4/1|
|6||Vigilantes Way||C. McGaughey||E. Zayas||8/1|
|7||Dream Marie||M. Williams||R. Maragh||5/1|
|8||Cheermeister||A. De La Cerda||E. Jaramillo||7/2|
This is a pretty good field for a Friday afternoon race in May at Gulfstream. Of course, Tonalist’s Shape should be resting from a run for the lilies two weekends ago at Churchill Downs, but that isn’t the case. She’s the easy 8/5 favorite here looking to bounce back from a disappointing seventh in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Cheermeister, the daughter of Bodemeister, makes her dirt debut here after two wins and a second on the turf at Gulfstream. She’s 7/2 to be a winner in her first official run around the big track. She’s followed by Up In Smoke for George Weaver and Luis Saez, who has been one of the most successful jockeys over the last 18 months. Unraced as a two-year-old, she’s 3-for-3 this year at six furlongs.
It is the spring in Florida, so rain is most certainly in the forecast. Let’s take a quick look through the eight horses and find us a $20 Bet Slip for the 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park:
Wanderlust (20/1) is outclassed in this race. She won her maiden at Tampa Bay and has fallen short of the board in a couple of allowance optional claiming races with low speed figures in her last two sprints. She’s a non-factor.
Pleasant Orb (10/1) only raced once as a two-year-old and finished a very distant second to Portrait at seven furlongs in her debut last August. She wasn’t brought back until February and again finished second, albeit by one length to Spartanka at a mile. With Joe Bravo in the irons, she scored her maiden with a career-best speed figure and one that can compete in this race. The daughter of Orb is coming back on about seven weeks rest and could have a big race in her once again.
Tonalist’s Shape (8/5) never wanted to go in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 28. She was a month removed from winning the Davona Dale Stakes to keep her perfect record in tact and finished seventh, nearly 12 lengths back of Swiss Skydiver. We know Saffie Joseph Jr. has a powerhouse horse and Irad Ortiz Jr., who won with her in the Forward Gal Stakes in her three-year-old debut is back in the mount.
Ortiz opted to err on the side of caution as the coronavirus outbreak started, but he is now back. Tyler Gaffalione had been riding in his absence. Tonalist’s Shape doesn’t have to break from outside like she did in the GP Oaks and won’t have to waste that extra energy. She’ll be tough to beat, as she was five times before.
Money Never Sleeps (15/1) for Teresa M. Pompay was previously a Todd Pletcher horse. This is her third race with the My Purple Haze barn and Pompay in charge. The daughter of Munnings topped the field at seven furlongs back on April 23 and is apparently ready to be brought back in short order. She’s been consistent, but she seems to lack the top-end speed to win this race. She is, however, a contender for the back end of trifectas and superfectas having run a mile three times and 1 1/16 miles once.
Up In Smoke (4/1) would seem to be the primary competition for Tonalist’s Shape here. While the odds have Cheermeister second at 7/2, Up In Smoke is 3-for-3 on dirt here in 2020. The bloodline isn’t as noteworthy as the rest of the field’s lineage, but George Weaver has got Luis Saez, John Velazquez, and Irad Ortiz Jr. to be on this filly and all have won. She won her maiden from the 11th post and won her most recent scamper by three lengths from the second slot, so she’s shown versatility.
This is a massive step up in class and a step up in distance as well. The workouts have not been great in the lead-up to the Hollywood Wildcat. But, Weaver thinks he has a Kentucky Oaks or Black-Eyed Susan Stakes contender here, so he’s willing to take the chance. Who are we to argue?
Vigilantes Way (8/1) only has two races to her name, but she improved in a big way from her first race to her second race. Edgard Zayas is in the irons for Shug McGaughey here with one of the many daughters of Medaglia d’Oro. After fading at 6.5 furlongs in the cold of Aqueduct in December, she returned in April at Tampa Bay to top the field in an $18,000 maiden special weight. Like Up In Smoke, she faces a big step up in class. Her most recent Equibase Speed Figure was good. Can she repeat it? That’s the question.
Dream Marie (5/1) had a bad trip in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Finishing behind Tonalist’s Shape and Spice Is Nice in the Davona Dale was a pretty impressive feat, but the momentum of three wins and a show finish dissipated with a sixth-place finish in her second career stakes race. She was over 11 lengths off the pace. Rajiv Maragh replaces Richard Mitchell in the mount. She’s run at distance more than any other horse in this race, having gone at least a mile in six of seven events. Consistency has been too much of a problem to overlook, but don’t say we didn’t warn you if she hits the board. She’s done so in four of five on dirt.
Cheermeister (7/2) is the wild card to this race. The daughter of Bodemeister makes her turf debut after three wins and two runners-up on the turf. Her speed scores are among the best in the field, but now she goes to the big outside track and also starts from the far outside post. Cheermeister has never started further from the rail than fifth. Now she takes the long route to the first turn. As a pacesetter and the best breaker in each of her six career races, that could be interesting.
Her workout times have been pretty good in early May on the dirt and Emisael Jaramillo has been the rider for each of her last five races, so he knows the horse. Oddly enough, this could be her lowest odds in a race, having never been better than around 11/2 in her career. Is she ready for that on dirt?
We’ve got a good field here. The fact of the matter is that Tonalist’s Shape should win. It’s not the sexiest of picks at 8/5, but Irad Ortiz Jr. is back and Saffie Joseph Jr. is an excellent trainer. It’s what we do after Tonalist’s Shape that we have to figure out.
Up In Smoke is a closer and the extra distance should suit her very well. She’s been a stalker early in races, but when the pedal goes to the floor, she responds. I like her as part of an exacta box with Tonalist’s Shape and also on her own Win/Place ticket.
I also like Pleasant Orb. I’m going to skirt Cheermeister in her dirt debut on what could be a very sloppy track. Pleasant Orb has looked great in two races as a three-year-old and may simply be turning a corner at that edge. Joe Bravo is the question mark for me, but he should have enough horse.
$2 Win/Place: 5 ($4)
$2 Exacta Box: 3/5 ($4)
$2 Trifecta Box: 2/3/5 ($12)