More than other group, the three-year-olds get the ink and the stories most times in racing. Whether they're chasing that Kentucky Derby prize or are a late-developing Breeders' Cup type, the progress of three-year-olds is scrutinized and dissected most in racing and turf writing circles. This week, Picks and Ponderings contributes some ink (well, the virtual kind) with a look at five stakes for three-year-olds. They all originate from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. It's the same venue as last week's Eclipse Awards, the Claiming Crown, and many other notable winter and early-spring race events. The quintet of sophomore stakes is headlined by the G2 Holy Bull Stakes, the first graded route prep race (and a points-giving race, too) from south Florida in the sophomore season. Two stakes for three-year-old turf types are also on the schedule as well, the Kitten's Joy and its filly-only complement, the G3 Sweetest Chant. Two more stakes for three-year-olds round out the afternoon, both going seven furlongs on the dirt. That pair is the G2 Forward Gal and its open counterpart, the G3 Hutcheson.
Authorship of each race in this piece is denoted by initials at the end of the piece, PM for Paul Mazur and NN for Nicolle Neulist. All races in this preview are slated for Saturday January 24. In races carded for the turf, selections are given "turf only" with the rail at publish time in all events set to twenty-four feet from zero. Morning line odds were not available at original publish time. All post times given below are those given by Equibase as these post times are purely an approximation and the track is known for running races after the advertised post time.
Edited on January 22 to add morning lines for selections. Edited on January 24 to reflect DOM THE BOMB scratching from the Holy Bull, and BLUEGRASS SINGER and STANFORD scratching from the Hutcheson.
Gulfstream Park -- Race 7 -- G3 Hutcheson Stakes -- Seven Furlongs on Dirt -- post time 3:30 PM ET
Housebuster, before becoming a two-time Eclipse winning sprinter, winning the 1990 Hutcheson.
The Hutcheson Stakes is named to honour William Levi Hutcheson. Professionally, Hutcheson was a craft union leader. He began as a business agent in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in 1906, and rose to its presidency by 1915. He held that position until 1952. Outside of the carpenters' union, however, he was also a part-owner of the track as part of a group led by James Donn that bought the track in 1944, and involved with Gulfstream Park's advisory board. Hutcheson died in 1953, and a stakes races was named for him the following year. It was originally a six and a half furlong race for three-year-olds, though stretched to seven in 1961. Except for a stretch to seven and a half furlongs between 2005 and 2007, it has remained at seven. Its winners over the years have included a mix of star sprinters as well as horses who stretched out to the Classic distances. Stars at longer distances included 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid (1979), 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Swale (1984), and fellow Gulfstream Park stakes namesake Holy Bull (1994). Sprinting stars who won the Hutcheson at three include 1956-1957 Champion Sprinter Decathlon (1956) and Hall of Fame inductee Housebuster (1990), seen in the video above.
This year's edition of the Hutcheson originally drew a field of eight sprinters to vie for a $150,000 purse, though it has been reduced to six with the scratches of BLUEGRASS SINGER and STANFORD. With the defection of BLUEGRASS SINGER to the Holy Bull, the only one taking a cutback in distance here is DOM THE BOMB. That Illinois-bred speedster, along with BIG FAMILY and X Y JET, comprises the front-end brigade. Among the frontrunners, DOM THE BOMB looks the most attractive, especially with Javier Castellano getting the call. He is fast enough to be near the lead, and proved in his two state-bred stakes wins that he can rate. Class remains a question, though; these horses are more difficult than the state-breds he whomped in the Sun Power and the Jim Edgar, and faltered in his one shot against open company at Keeneland. Despite that, his camp now knows that DOM THE BOMB does not desperately need to send clear at any cost, and may run better against tougher as a result. Even with the scratch of BLUEGRASS SINGER, a horse who can come in from a little off the pace looks attractive, and there is a possible monster in this field who can do just that. Enter BARBADOS. He lost his first two starts over grass at Kentucky Downs, but stalked and won going away at six furlongs over slop at Keeneland in October. He moved from the Kellyn Gorder barn to Michael Tomlinson, took two and a half months off, and returned to win the Spectacular Bid Stakes going away. In that race, going six panels over the same Gulfstream course, he stalked off a zippy pace set by It's Not Me and then exploded down the stretch. It's Not Me was not pressured much by Ready for Rye until the stretch was near; he should get an even more pressured pace to attack here. Seven furlongs will be the longest he has ever gone, but the distance should be an easy ask for a Speightstown out of a Street Cry mare. RICHARD THE GREAT looks strong on the return to his home track. He faltered last out in the Buffalo Man at Gulfstream Park West, but had a bit of trouble. At the flagship Gulfstream facility, he broke his maiden against Florida-breds at first asking, and then demolished an open N1X field when he stretched to six furlongs. His breeding (Distorted Humor out of a Doneraile Court mare) suggests the stretch to seven panels should be no trouble, and he should be able to sit just off the early fractions from the likes of DOM THE BOMB, X Y JET, and BIG FAMILY. He also gets a rider change to Joel Rosario, who should be a good fit for his stalking style.
DOM THE BOMB and BLUEGRASS SINGER were cross-entered in the Holy Bull Stakes (GII). DOM THE BOMB opted to remain in the Hutcheson; BLUEGRASS SINGER scratched to run in the Holy Bull instead.
#7 BARBADOS (9/5)
#4 RICHARD THE GREAT (5/1)
#3 DOM THE BOMB (6/1)
Longshot: #2 BRIDGET'S BIG LUVY (15/1) had a bit of tough luck in his first two maiden races, running into a few tough customers: Frosted, First Down, Bayerd. He graduated third time out in a race originally carded for turf that was moved to the Belmont slop. Drawn wide and caught wide, he still got up in time to win. With as much early speed as there is in this race, an ability to come from off will be useful, and he should be able to save a bit of ground after drawing the 2 hole. Questions remain: BRIDGET'S BIG LUVY is still unproven on fast dirt, and did not beat horses as tough as he faces here. Still, that last race was on October 24, giving him three months' rest. Trainer Jeremiah Englehart wins at 28% off of 90+ day lays, and wins at 30% with shippers. Seeing Englehart run a horse in a Grade III in Florida jumps out as less than common, but the odds here should be long enough to justify trusting his judgment. - NN
Gulfstream Park -- Race 8 -- G3 Sweetest Chant Stakes -- One Mile on Turf -- post time 4:02 PM ET
2014 Champion Turf Female Dayatthespa winning the 2012 Sweetest Chant.
This race pays homage to Sweetest Chant, a stakes winner at ages three, four, and five. As a three-year-old she won the feeder to the G3 Pucker Up at Arlington, at four the G2 Arlington Matron, and at five the G2 Orchid. As the Orchid has long been a race for lady grass types at Gulfstream (and the Pucker Up in suburban Chicago), seems fitting for Sweetest Chant's namesake race to go on the green. First run in 1986 and shelved for most of the 2000s, the race this year is upgraded to Grade Three status, though not for the first time as two iterations in 1999 and 2000 had G3 status on this race. Sassy Image, a double G1 winner of seven-furlong dirt sprints won this race in 2010. Newly crowned Female Turf Champion Dayatthespa was the 2012 heroine of the Sweetest Chant, as seen in the video above.
Given time off after a nearly four-length victory on Thanksgiving weekend at cross-turn Gulfstream Park West, CONSUMER CREDIT returns to seek more cash in the $100,000 G3 Sweetest Chant. CONSUMER CREDIT proved two turns was not an issue in that stakes effort. Further, perhaps the conditioner has learned CONSUMER CREDIT likes to swing wide in the stretch, and her draw should aid the cause. She's also made a very nice progression in speed figures in her starts, and has been given time off to perhaps mature and hold her form. She jumps off the page if she holds the two-year-old form or progresses off it based on the Gulfstream Park West effort. Add in the progressing figures, and being in the Chad Brown barn, who does quite well (28% wins/64% in the money) when giving horses a freshening. Edgard Zayas, who has been riding well down here against the northern riders, has the mount. MISS TEMPLE CITY makes only her third career start, but she got the time off during Fall to mature and develop and returned earlier in the meet to clear the first-level allowance condition over the Gulfstream green. Earlier in her career, she won at first asking on the grass in a turf sprint at Laurel. Back second off the layoff (a 21% win proposition), MISS TEMPLE CITY showed she can be near, but not on the lead, in a relatively honest paced allowance last time out and could find herself once again in a similar position with no dedicated front runner in the bunch. A John Velazquez/Graham Motion production and the same team that won on her last out. RED SASHAY ran into CONSUMER CREDIT last time and ended up being in debt to her by seven lengths at the end, finishing fifth. RED SASHAY will get a considerable jockey upgrade from local Ramsey Zimmerman to Irad Ortiz, and also sports two wins over this course, both coming as a two-year-old filly with a maiden special weight and a small stakes victory to RED SASHAY's credit. RED SASHAY should find the pace perhaps more to her liking in this event, as the interior fractions were slower in the two frosh starts that led to wins and the race could be slower upfront without someone making crazy-go-nuts early splits. RED SASHAY also has a conditioner that is hitting at 23% wins off layoffs, and she hasn't been out since the Wait a While Stakes at Gulfstream Park west won by CONSUMER CREDIT.
QUALITY ROCKS is cross entered to this race and the January 27 OBS Championship Stakes (Fillies Division).
#7 CONSUMER CREDIT (2/1)
#3 MISS TEMPLE CITY (4/1)
#8 RED SASHAY (12/1)
Longshot: #9 LOON RIVER (30/1) might seem like a perfectly named hunch play for this corner, given this space reaches out and makes selections that may be looney. LOON RIVER might be stepping up in class from a win in a New York-bred maiden special weight, but this three-year-old filly's figures aren't that far off from those of CONSUMER CREDIT or QUALITY ROCKS or others that will demand betting attention. Further, LOON RIVER goes two turns for the first time in the Sweetest Chant, and her dam won at two turns during her race career. She's also sired by Freud, and Freud progeny enjoy the weeds (especially in New York, but not exclusively there). Worth noting that LOON RIVER is trained by David Kassen, whom you may know from his exploits with 2014 G3 Hanshin Cup winner (and a Gulfstream stakes winner, too) in Nikki's Sandcastle. --PM
Gulfstream Park -- Race 9 -- G2 Holy Bull Stakes -- One and one-sixteenth miles on Dirt -- post time 4:34 PM ET
Holy Bull, 1994 Horse of the Year, defeating elders as a three-year-old in the G1 Met Mile.
This race, the first of Gulfstream Park's series of formal Kentucky Derby prep races, was inaugurated in 1990 as the Preview Stakes. It was renamed in 1996 to honour Florida-bred Hall of Fame inductee Holy Bull. A winner of thirteen of his sixteen lifetime starts, the Bull took the Florida route down the Derby trail in 1994. He won the Hutcheson Stakes (then a Grade II), and though he faltered and finished sixth in the Fountain of Youth (GII), he came back and won the Florida Derby (GI) easily. Though he failed as the favourite in the Kentucky Derby, he returned Memorial Day weekend to romp over older horses in the Met Mile (GI). That race began a six-race win streak for him, which only ended when he suffered a career-ending injury in the Donn Handicap (GI), during his anticipated match-up with Cigar. He retired to stud, and after siring horses such as Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Giacomo and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) winner Macho Uno, now lives the pensioned life at Darley's Jonabell Farm.
Currently run at 1 1/16 miles, the Holy Bull Stakes has been run at distances as short as a mile and as long as 1 3/16 miles. A Grade III for much of its history, it was promoted to a Grade II race in 2014. Two winners of this race have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. Go for Gin, who won this race in 1994, prevailed over Holy Bull himself in the Kentucky Derby. Barbaro also won this race in 2006. This year's edition features a $400,000 purse, as well as Road to the Kentucky Derby points (10-4-2-1) for the top four finishers. Lambholm South Farm serves as the sponsor of this race.
The name of the game is speed: though no one in the field has shown a fully desperate need to dance unpressured on the front, HIGH NOON RIDER, BLUEGRASS SINGER, JUAN AND BINA, and FROSTED have all done their best work right near the front end. In light of this, DECISION DAY looks to have everything he needs to spring a big upset here. Two starts back in his maiden win, his first attempt at a route, he overcame a slow start and some green racing to sweep clear late. Next out, against Canadian-breds in the Coronation Futurity on November 29, he had his act together better. He was more forwardly placed in that start, behind reasonable fractions, and fought to prevail in a late duel. These two wins have shown versatility in pace, ability to handle pressure, and ability to handle a race not going absolutely perfectly. Also, DECISION DAY's wins have been at 1 mile 70 yards and then at 1 1/8 miles -- suggesting the 1 1/16 miles of the Holy Bull should be right up his alley. He will need to take a step up in speed to prevail over this field, but his trajectory is in the right direction. He has also been working well at Palm Meadows since December: showing that he is getting used to Florida and the dirt, since all three of his races to date have been on the Woodbine poly. Finally, he gets a switch to rider John Velazquez, a rider who is firing at 22% this meet, and 21% in route races. He should fit DECISION DAY well here, and have the experience to decide whether to take him in a stalking spot or farther back. Beyond him, a couple of horses with more proven class also have some upside here. UPSTART sees the starter for the first time since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) at the beginning of November. Though he was far behind a pace-aided Texas Red, he was just nosed out for the place by another late runner in Carpe Diem. He was one of the few who was anywhere near that insane pace to be around at the end. He should be able to stalk a length or two off of the front-end fireworks here, and be one of the first horses to make a run at the leaders. His speed is dependably sharp for this field, and he is working well at Palm Meadows leading up to this race. His trainer Richard Violette is a respectable 15% off of similarly long lays, and regular rider Jose Ortiz returns to the irons. In addition to his success with UPSTART already, Ortiz has won two of his five starts with Violette in the last two months, and been in the money with all five of those recent starts for the barn. Among the speed brigade, look at FROSTED to be the most likely to stay on. Last out, in the Remsen, he was stalking wide against a pronounced inside speed bias at Aqueduct that day. Despite that, he finished a hard fighting second beaten just half a length in that race. He stayed on when the other stalking runner (Classy Class) wilted, and finished eight lengths in front of third-place KEEN ICE that day. Here, FROSTED should be able to save some ground given his rail draw. He has been on the shelf since the November 29 Remsen, but has been working well in Florida for a Kieran McLaughlin barn that is 23% with similar-length lays. FROSTED probably will not set the early fractions with the likes of JUAN AND BINA and BLUEGRASS SINGER in the field, but should be right on their flanks early, and should have more than enough stamina to see it through when others on the front end pack it in.
BLUEGRASS SINGER and DOM THE BOMB were cross-entered in the Hutcheson Stakes (GIII). BLUEGRASS SINGER opted for the Holy Bull; DOM THE BOMB races in the Hutcheson instead.
#10 DECISION DAY (30/1)
#8 UPSTART (2/1)
#1 FROSTED (5/2)
Longshot: With as much likely early pace as there is in this race, dead closer #2 KEEN ICE (6/1) should have plenty to attack late. KEEN ICE was originally slated to start his three-year-old season later (and possibly in New York), but has been working so well at Gulfstream over the last month that his connections changed course and sent him here. Though Gulfstream has a reputation for being a speed track, the bias does not seem to be quite as pronounced as it has been in previous years. It almost certainly will not be as speed-favouring as Aqueduct was on Remsen day -- a day on which KEEN ICE was far back early, able to save ground along the rail, and kicked in to finish third behind Leave the Light On and FROSTED. With the 2 gate he should be able to save ground yet again this time, and he should kick in and close up late. A mile and a sixteenth may still be short for this son of Curlin out of an Awesome Again mare, but he has fired well enough in all three route races that he should at least hit the intra-race exotics. -- NN
Gulfstream Park -- Race 10 -- G2 Forward Gal Stakes -- Seven Furlongs on Dirt -- post time 5:06 PM ET
Offering a purse of two hundred thousand dollars and a 10-4-2-1 point distribution to the 1-2-3-4 finishers, this Kentucky Oaks qualifying race serves as one of three points (the Davona Dale and Gulfstream Park Oaks the others) yielding races on the road to the Kentucky Oaks centered at Gulfstream. This sophomore filly sprint honors Forward Gal, a Florida-bred filly that took home Eclipse honors as best two-year-old filly in 1970 with wins in the Frizette, Spinaway, and Sorority. As a sophomore she carried over her precocity with wins in the Gazelle, Comely, and Monmouth Oaks - all in the pre-grading days and all but the Sorority with a grade nowadays. Run in the first third of the year each year at seven panels since 1981, this race first got its grade in 1986. Only one filly, Open Mind in 1989, took down this race and the Kentucky Oaks the following Spring. Other notable winners include Forever Together (2007), the Eclipse winning female turfer of 2008.
The key to this race is what you think of ENCHANTRESS. If you think her fifth in the G3 Tempted at a one-turn mile at Aqueduct was a clunker, you can draw a line through it and focus on a forward win going six furlongs over the Gulfstream strip being forwardly placed but on the lead, and there should certainly be an honest pace with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer bringing in G2 Santa Ynez winner SEDUIRE to the field. If you think a mile is too far, as the chartcaller's note was that she was toast after a half, then you'll be tossing ENCHANTRESS and trying to beat her. This space thinks the Aqueduct effort was a clunker, as there was a worktab gap after the race and it came over a 'good' surface, so perhaps ENCHANTRESS doesn't like a track with moisture. This is also Gulfstream, and ENCHANTRESS's trainer is Todd Pletcher. And Pletcher wins them in scads in these parts. So this space goes with ENCHANTRESS, who gets John Velazquez to pilot this filly and the riding half of a team that went four-for-eleven last week. While LASSOFTHEMOHICANS has only one win to her credit, it was over the local strip. That victory came over a one-turn mile and was very similar to ENCHANTRESS's in that she was upfront for most of the action and still around in the later stages to fight off the closers. It could be gameness, it could be the natural carousel attributes of Gulfstream, it could be both. But LASSOFTHEMOHICANS does show a nose loss going seven panels at Keeneland in the fall as well for conditioner Brendan Walsh, who has four wins and three more podium finishes among ten training effort on the turnback from routes to sprints. Shows a zippy work at Palm Meadows in preparation for this race. DISTINTA owns what no one else in the field has: a win at today's distance of seven furlongs. She won at seven panels last time out to graduate and said graduation came over the Gulfstream dirt. She's double (at a minimum) jumping to this G2, but her two other races have seen her get on the podium as well. Trained by Gustavo Delgado, who's a 20% winner/48% in the money in sprint races. Rider move to Edgard Zayas here, having a good meet among locals (as mentioned in the Sweetest Chant discussion above).
#6 ENCHANTRESS (3/1)
#8 LASSOFTHEMOHICANS (12/1)
#2 DISTINTA (20/1)
Longshot: #1 TRIPOCHA (30/1) has the same Gustavo Delgado conditioning her that is clicking at those percentages, and TRIPOCHA closed off quick fractions to graduate in a maiden claiming race over this dirt. Start two of the career indicates she can still progress, even though she's facing winners for the first time. And the closing style shown by TRIPOCHA, despite the added distance, may still be useful with the west coast speed of SEDUIRE signed on. The rail is never a peachy assignment going one turn, but Gulfstream has been known to turn the inside speed carousel on and this one could just have the coins for it, while maintaining a price and getting a pace set up. --PM
Gulfstream Park -- Race 11 -- Kitten's Joy Stakes -- One Mile on Turf -- post time 5:38 PM ET
The race is named in honour of 2004 Champion Grass Horse Kitten's Joy. Though Kitten's Joy only raced once at Gulfstream, he made that appearance a winning one, annexing the 2004 Palm Beach Stakes (GIII). Since retiring from the racetrack, Kitten's Joy (with the help of his enthusiastic owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey) has made even more of a mark in the stud barn than he did on the racetrack. He finished atop the general sire list in 2013, and third behind Tapit last year. Fittingly, one of his Kittens won this very race in 2013: Charming Kitten, whose three-year-old season then brought him to the Chicago area, and a second-place finish in the on-hiatus Hawthorne Derby (GIII). Previously run at a mile, this year's renewal of the Kitten's Joy Stakes dials back to a mile, though it features the same $100,000 purse as last year's edition.
DUBAI SKY tries stakes company for the first time here, but all signs point to it being the perfect time for him to try. He graduated second out at Belmont back in September, and then returned at Gulfstream two months later to win an allowance in a dead heat with stablemate Hard to Port. His maiden win was a frontrunning job; his allowance win was a rally from off the pace, in which he then gamely responded to a late challenge. The front end could get feisty early, especially with BRAVO CHARLIE, STEFOCHOP, and possibly even COURTIER up there. He will not likely be the speed of the speed. However, running back to his last effort puts him right in the mix. His win last out over the same distance and track suggests he already has comfort with the track, and he gets John Velazquez (22% on the meet) back from that win. Also, trainer Bill Mott wins at 18% second off the lay, and 27% with last-out winners. There is a lot to like with DUBAI SKY, and with all the money likely to go on CHIEF KITTEN, the price should be square. CRONINTHEBARBARIAN also merits consideration. This runner has been fairly consistent in his six-race career, with two wins, and his only off-board finish coming at his only attempt longer than a mile. That distance was a bit long given his pedigree (by Stroll out of a Tale of the Cat mare), and he was beaten just a nose by CHIEF KITTEN in his only start at this flat mile distance. CRONINTHEBARBARIAN returns off a late-running third behind Night Prowler in the Dania Beach (GIII), and has returned for a maintenance work since that race. He has shown improvement since shipping south, and also gets a jockey upgrade to 24% turf dynamo Javier Castellano. Castellano is also riding at 22% on the meet. CRONINTHEBARBARIAN is another who should be helped with the likely early speed. Finally, we look at the inevitable Kitten: CHIEF KITTEN. He will likely go off favoured; even though the price will likely be too short to make him the top selection, he has his merit. He is a perfect two-for-two at a mile so far, and runs for on-fire trainer Chad Brown. With the possibility of a hot pace, he could get a nice setup. Still, in his maiden victory he showed he did not necessarily need a hot pace. Despite racing greenly, he closed from off of crawling early fractions to win by two and a half lengths. After stretching to 1 1/16 miles for the Bourbon (GIII), in which he was seventh (though only beaten four lengths), he shipped south to Gulfstream Park West, cut back to a mile, and annexed the Pulpit Stakes on November 29. He won a three-way blanket finish over CRONINTHEBARBARIAN and Night Prowler; Night Prowler franked that form by winning the Dania Beach (GIII) next out, with CRONINTHEBARBARIAN third. Brown has been working him for a month now, and scores at 28% off of similar-length lays. He also gets rider Edgard Zayas back from his Pulpit win.
#4 DUBAI SKY (4/1)
#8 CRONINTHEBARBARIAN (6/1)
#9 CHIEF KITTEN (9/2)
Longshot: In addition to sending out DUBAI SKY, Bill Mott also sends out the uncoupled #5 COURTIER (6/1). He had a troubled trip first out, and then his dirt experiment was a disaster. However, he reverted to grass and found his form in his last two starts at two: he stalked early and scored by daylight going a mile at Keeneland, and then won a blanket finish with Wayward Kitten and Broughton Kitten in a 1 1/16 mile N2L at Churchill. He should be forwardly placed here, and may well end up the speed of the speed. Still, if outgunned by BRAVO CHARLIE or STEFOCHOP, he has the ability to sit off as well. His works have been regular since November, and in South Florida since early December. 19% off these sorts of lays, Mott should have COURTIER ready, and even the sort of form he showed last year should make him competitive in his stakes debut. -- NN
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