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With the $3 million Pegasus World Cup and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf only four weeks ago, Gulfstream Park will host their preview day on Saturday. There will be four stakes races on the card, with the Grade 3 Halan's Holiday and Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale feeding runners into the track's richest afternoon on January 27.
Fresh off a graded stakes win at Keeneland, the Chilean-bred O'Connor tops the Harlan's Holiday on the main track, while trainer Chad Brown holds a strong pair on the turf in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale. Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets in four of the strongest races from the solid afternoon of racing.
An impressive winner of this race one year ago, Maryquitecontrary looms once again as the one to beat when she headlines a compact field of six fillies and mares in the one-mile Rampart Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
A 4-year-old daughter of First Dude trained by Eddie Plesa, Jr. she sports an outstanding record at the South Florida oval with six wins and two seconds from eight starts at her home base. An easy winner of two straight stakes races there this past winter, she was a strong closing second in the Grade 3 Princess Rooney over the track when last seen in October
Chief among her competition in the first of the four stakes races in the afternoon will be the Bill Mott-trained Nostalgic. A graded stakes winner at 3, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro returned in the summer and has run four solid races for her strong connections. Most recently, she finished second in the Grade 3 Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Down while going the one mile distance.
Another interesting Rampart contender is Unifying. A 3-year-old daughter of Union Rags, she has good tactical speed and looked to be developing into a nice filly this spring for trainer Riley Mott. She comes in on a two-race winning streak, and became a stakes winner in her last, but has not raced for six months. Overall, however, I can not look past the favorite. Maryquitecontrary is the top pick.
$20 Exacta Part Wheel - Maryquitecontrary over Nostalgic and Imonra = $40
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Beaten just three lengths against strong competition last time at Santa Anita, Full Count Felicia looks to return to her winning ways when she headlines a field of ten older turf females in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Brittany Russel, the 4-year-old daughter of War Front was a romping winner of the All Along Stakes at Laurel Park two starts back before venturing west. Her three-race winning streak was broken, but she still was a solid performer in a fast edition of the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes last month on the Santa Anita turf.
To be saddled by top turf trainer Chad Brown, Saffron Moon should be a major threat in the Suwannee River. A winner of three of five career turf races, she should appreciate the firm turf she will see on Saturday. Last out, the daughter of Malibu Moon was a well beaten second in the Grade Cardinal Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Another interesting candidate in this one mile turf test is the Bill Mott-trained Poca Mucha. She likes to rally and comes in off a brief freshening after running a sharp second behind the talented Lindy this summer at Kentucky Downs. Saffron Moon, however, looks like the most likely winner here. She is the top pick
$20 Exacta Part Wheel - Saffron Moon over Poca Mucha and Full Count Felicia = $40
$10 Exacta Part Wheel - Poca Mucha and Full Count Felicia over Saffron Moon = $20
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A full field of eleven dirt males will look to prove that they belong in next month’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup by running big in Saturday’s Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Leading the way will be the Chilean import, O’Connor.
A Group 1 winner in his native land, the 6-year-old was a flashy six-length winner of his American debut at Gulfstream Park in the fall of 2022. He was beaten in six consecutive graded stakes races after that, but finally broke through last time out when he rallied to earn a hard fought victory in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland.
The Todd Pletcher Gasoline is a likely second choice in the wide open 1 1/16-mile race. A sharp winner of two straight allowance races at Churchill Downs this fall, he comes into this test off a middle of the pack finish in the Grade 2 Clark as one of the choices in the prestigious race in Kentucky.
An upset possibility in the Harlan’s Holiday will be the two-time stakes winner, Steal Sunshine. The Florida-bred son of Constitution earned one of his stakes wins over the main track at Gulfstream last season and comes into this affair off a very sharp win at the track in October. He will be the top pick to win this with attractive odds on Saturday.
$20 Win & Place - Steal Sunshine = $40
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A prep for next month’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale has drawn a field of ten older turf males. Leading the way in the 9-furlong grass test will be the Chad Brown pair of Running Bee and Stone Age.
Running Bee is the less accomplished of the two, but might have the potential to step up with a big performance on Saturday. A good-looking winner of his final race as a sophomore, the English Channel colt was away from the races for a year before returning last month at Aqueduct, where he was a sharp front-running winner.
Stone Age, meanwhile, has been a regular runner in graded stakes turf racing over the past two years. A son of Galielo, he has only won twice in 17 career starts, but has been competitive in a number of big races. Most notably, he finished second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2022. He will be cutting back in distance here, having run at 12-furlongs in his last five starts.
A potential upsetter to the Brown duo could be the Shug McGaughey-trained Fort Washington. A confirmed late-runner, he got up to win his last race in an Aqueduct allowance race. The stakes winner has finished in the money in five of six races this year. Without much speed in the race, however, the pace scenario should suit the promising Running Bee nicely. He is the top pick.
$50 Win - Running Bee = $50
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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