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Check out our predictions and odds for the 2020 Sunshine Forever at Gulfstream Park!
|JUST WHISTLE (MTO)
|J J Toner
|M A Vasquez
|WAR OF WILL
Freshly elected into racing’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, trainer Mark Casse will look to cap off a big week when he sends out last year’s Preakness winner War of Will in the $75,000 Sunshine Forever Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
When last seen at the races, War of Will set the early pace in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, before tiring out of contention at Santa Anita. This will be his first race of the year, and it will also mark his return to turf, having not run on the grass since November of 2018. If the classic winner is to be successful in his debut as an older horse, he will do it at the expense of a full field of turf specialists.
With few tracks open this week, the 1 1/16-mile turf race has attracted a graded stakes quality field, which includes a pair from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, in Social Paranoia and Halladay. Both come off sharp wins at Gulfstream Park and figure to vie for favoritism with last year’s Preakness hero.
What: Sunshine Forever Stakes (G2)
Where: Gulfstream Park
When: Saturday, May 9 — 4:29 pm Eastern time
How to watch: TVG
The class of the field, this son of War Front displayed strong turf form as a 2-year-old, including an eventful trip when beaten only 3 ½-lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, before becoming a major stakes winner of dirt. Having said that, he has much to overcome in his 2020 opener. Away for six months, he will need to come out running near his best to beat a field with graded stakes quality. He also drew the far outside post of 12, which usually is a bit of a disadvantage at Gulfstream. There isn’t a ton of speed in here, though, so he should be able to move over nicely and secure his favorable stalking trip. As the favorite, he will not be the top pick, but you must respect his overall class.
A very consistent performer as both a 2 and 3-year-old on the lawn, he turned in his best race yet last time when storming to victory in the Appleton (G3) six weeks ago at Gulfstream. It was a huge late kick which carried him to victory in the one-mile race, in what was his seasonal debut. He had never been that far off the pace before, and the success might lead to a new running style now as a more mature horse. There won’t be as fast a pace this time, as he goes a sixteenth of a mile further, but the last one looked to be a good horse putting it together and on the verge of a big year. He is the top pick.
While I do think his stablemate has a bit more upside, this other Pletcher has also developed into a very consistent grass horse. He may also enjoy the tactical advantage of going out on the lead without serious pace pressure. War of Will and El Tormenta are the most likely to push him early, but I don’t know that either of them wants to be on the lead early. As the early leader at Gulfstream, he certainly becomes a dangerous horse in here, and it would be no surprise to take them all the way like he did last time against allowance foes.
Another who should garner plenty of support at the betting windows, he comes in of an excellent performance when second in the Mac Diarmida (G2) behind the current leader of the division, Zulu Alpha. On paper, that performance makes him one of the ones to beat in here, and he certainly fits from a class standpoint, but keep in mind it came at the extended distance of 11 furlongs. The cutback of 2 ½ furlongs in here, coupled with the lack of early pace could make his late-running job a bit too much to overcome.
Trainer Mike Maker has made a career lately of transforming high priced claimers into serious stakes performers on the turf. This one could be his next success story. He won a minor stakes nicely at Gulfstream in his first race for Maker two starts back and followed that up with a better than it looks on paper fourth-place finish last time at Fair Grounds. Back in South Florida, he only needs to continue his upward mobility to make his presence felt in this one.
A talented turf runner for trainer Jimmy Toner, he has not been able to stay healthy for much of the last two years. In 2018, he looked like a serious talent with a strong win in the Penn Mile (G2) but has only run sparingly since. The good news is that he was able to run well off the layoff last spring, including one at Gulfstream Park, and you can throw out the sprint race last fall, as that’s not his game. He’s a threat if he still has it.
Pulled off a major surprise when winning the Woodbine Mile (G1) at his home track last fall, and his follow race in the Breeders’ Cup Mile was not all that bad, considering the level of competition. His one race this year does not inspire confidence, but it looks like he was a little too hyped up in his first start back and got cooked in fast fractions. Tactical improvement second start back should see him set a better trip this time at solid odds.
On his best, this one rates a chance to get into the picture with his late run, as he was involved late in several turf stakes last year. Having said that, he does not seem to like to win against this caliber of horse, and there are a couple of closers in here who just look a little better.
This earner of nearly $750,000 certainly has some back class to keep an eye on, but unfortunately, Saturday’s race looks to be one that is out of his comfort zone, as he’s become a long-distance specialist the last few years. Factor in the average early pace expected in here, and it does not bode well for his game.
A former stakes winner, he has not found the winner’s circle in nearly two years. His most recent performance was an improvement, but still his recent form looks like a full cut below the best horses in the race.
Although a winner twice on the turf last season, it appears that he was not capable against this kind when he moved up in class. Add in his recent form which is seriously lacking, and he becomes near impossible to recommend.
Is entered to run only if the race comes off the turf, and with no threat of rain, will most certainly be scratched.
$10 Exacta part wheel Social Paranoia over Aquaphobia, Halladay, El Tormenta and War of Will = $40
$5 Exacta part wheel Halladay over Aquaphobia, El Tormenta, Social Paranoia and War of Will = $20
If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick, Social Paranoia.
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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