2015 Summit of Speed Preview

Once upon a time, when Gulfstream Park West was called Calder, the Summit of Speed was their Big Race Weekend: a sprint showcase Early last summer, the race dates squabble between Calder and Gulfstream was finally coming to a close, but too late for the Summit of Speed to be transferred to Gulfstream in its full, graded form.  Gulfstream vowed to bring back the Summit of Speed as an event in 2015.  True to their word, it returns July 5.

The Summit of Speed is just part of a packed weekend of racing.  Paul Mazur covers Saturday, July 4: the Purple Violet Stakes at Arlington, as well as the six graded stakes on Belmont Park's Stars and Stripes Day card.  In addition to Gulfstream's big day, Monmouth also hosts one of only two Grade I stakes of its meet, the United Nations Stakes, on Sunday.  I look at that race, as well as the Salvator Mile on its undercard.

Full video for the Summit of Speed, just as for all racing from Gulfstream Park, is available on Gulfstream's online live streamHorse Racing Radio Network will also broadcast audio, as well as provide discussion and analysis, from 4:00pm-6:00pm EDT.  This coverage will stream live on HRRN's website, as well as on Sirius 92.

Selections for the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint are made turf-only.  Morning lines were not available at original publish time, but the piece was edited July 5 to add them.  Post times are approximate, as Gulfstream habitually runs late.

Race 6: Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint (Listed), three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf, post time 3:08pm EDT

This race honours the memory of Bob Umphrey, a lifelong racetracker and longtime racing official.  Before working in the racing office at Calder, he spent time at a number of racetracks, including Arlington Park.  As the racing secretary at Calder, he cultivated a number of big race days at the track, the most enduring of which being the Summit of Speed.  He died on the final day of the Calder meet in 2006, and has had a race named after him since that year.  In 2006, the race that bore his name was a two-mile marathon won by Tacit Agreement.  Since 2009, however, the Bob Umphrey has been a five-furlong dash -- at Calder until last year, when it moved to Gulfstream.  The most accomplished of its winners over the years has been Tale of a Champion (2012).  That was his first stakes win, though the next year he returned to win the Charles Whittingham (GII) at a mile and a quarter, edging ahead of favoured All Squared Away to win at odds of 10/1.

This year, nine runners will see the starter for this $75,000 race.  A trio of runners all enter from a five-furlong allowance on June 7.  The winner of that race, SUCCESSFUL NATIVE, came from off a blazing speed duel between Guderian and NOBLE PRINCE that day to win emphatically.  With STORMING INTI, LITTLE BALTAR, and HOLD ON SMOKEY all likely to join NOBLE PRINCE on the front end, SUCCESSFUL NATIVE should get that setup again.  He has shown better form in his most recent two outings, since being claimed into the Audrey Maragh barn, and Juan Leyva gets the return call.   BREITLING FLYER struggled through the winter, but found his form again in his last two start.  He wired a seven and a half furlong turf allowance at Gulfstream two back, and then close from off the past last out to miss catching Fast Anna by just half a length.  He has local form and a sharp work leading into this race; if he can stay out of the early mayhem and come late like he did last out, he should be well set.  AT LARGE is one of two entries by Sally Mitchelhill, the other being NOBLE PRINCE.  Though she has never run a race under her own name before this weekend, her operation is a familiar one -- she is an assistant for high-percentage local trainer Kirk Ziadie, and is running his horses under her name while he deals with licensing issues.  AT LARGE was claimed into the Ziadie barn two starts back for $16,000, and dominated a starter-optional field at six furlongs over the Gulfstream dirt last out.  He does have two turf dash wins in the past, both at Gulfstream, and does his best work stalking the pace.  This will be his first try in stakes company, but if he runs back to his last out, he stands a chance at a long price.  The last work also stands out -- he drilled six furlongs, longer than the actual race distance.

Selections:

#1 SUCCESSFUL NATIVE (6/1)

#3 BREITLING FLYER (9/2)

#7 AT LARGE (5/2)

Longshot:  #2 ANYRIDERILL DO (10/1) will have been away an entire year before this race; his last time out was his third-place finish behind Saint Leon in the Arlington Sprint last year.  Still, he has shown form off lays before.  He broke his maiden first off a seven-month lay, and finished a very close third first off of a nine-month lay.  He has a long worktab, and trainer Ronny Werner has a 19% record with runners off long lays.  He should be fit.  If he returns the same horse at five that he was at three and four, his form fits right in with these.  ANYRIDERILL DO can run a good race from the front, the rear, or anywhere between, and solid local rider Tyler Gaffalione has the call.

Race 7: Azalea Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 3:39pm

Inaugurated in 1975, the Azalea Stakes is a sprint open to three-year-old fillies.  It has oscillated between six and seven furlongs throughout its history, though it was a six-furlong race from 1007 through 2013.  It stretches back out to seven furlongs effective this year.  It has held a Grade III since 1996, though was not run last year due to the short notice in shifting Calder's meet to Gulfstream.  Notable winners of the Azalea include 1979 Monmouth Oaks (GI) winner Burn's Return (1979), 2005 Test Stakes (GI) winner Leave Me Alone (2005), and Pica Slew (2010), who only won three races -- but, all at Calder, and decisively enough to make her a stakes namesake there.  Two Azalea Stakes winners have then gone on to win the Chicago Handicap (GIII) at Arlington: 1997 winner J J'sdream (1996), and 2006 winner Ebony Breeze (2003).

This year's Azalea keeps the same $150,000 purse it had before its brief hiatus, and drew nine sophomore fillies to compete for it.  HUASCA will likely go off favoured, but for very good reason.  She has hit the board in four of five starts over the Gulfstream dirt, including two wins, and finished in the money in all five starts at this specialist seven-furlong distance.  She consistently turns in performances that would beat this bunch.  Early in her career HUASCA looked like a one-way speed type, but in her last few races she has turned in good performances from just off the pace -- helpful here, given that there is other quality speed in DOGWOOD TRAIL, FOND OF SARAH, and possibly WARRIORSCMOUTTOPLAY.  The road to the winners' circle goes through HUASCA.  Her toughest competitors are those 2-3 finishers from the Tangelo Stakes, a seven-furlong local prep that HUASCA won on June 6.  FOND OF SARAH, the third-place finisher, was engaged in an early duel with DOGWOOD TRAIL, but could not keep up late.  However, that was her first race in three months.  She should be sharper and fitter here.  Before that layoff she showed the ability to fight for the lead and come out on top, and her best gives HUASCA a run for her money.  She also has two wins in four starts at Gulfstream, and a 2-1-0-1 career line at seven panels.  DOGWOOD TRAIL got the better of FOND OF SARAH in that speed duel last out, but was just eclipsed by HUASCA late.  That was her first race off a two-month lay, and she turned in a game performance.  The question is how much it took out of her -- which is what puts FOND OF SARAH slightly ahead.  DOGWOOD TRAIL's 4-2-2-0 Gulfstream line inspires confidence, however, as does trainer Stanley Gold's 18% record second off the lay.

Selections:

#3 HUASCA (3/1)

#7 FOND OF SARAH (10/1)

#6 DOGWOOD TRAIL (4/1)

Longshot:  #1 SWEET SWINGIN (6/1) drew the rail, a position from which she won an allowance at Churchill Downs last out.  She has some back Gulfstream form; she broke her maiden there, and also has two second-place finishes over the track.  That win came from a few lengths off the pace early, showing an ability to rally on a typically speed-friendly track.  Though she finished off the board in her only seven-furlong try, that came over the slop and can thus be excused.  Trainer Dale Romans has a 14% win rate in graded stakes with a +$0.24 ROI; if the pace completely falls apart here, a late rally from SWEET SWINGIN could add to those figures.

Race 9: Carry Back Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 4:41pm EDT

Hall of Fame inductee Carry Back was a Florida-bred, though his highest-profile performances did not come at sprint distances.  He won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 1961.  He won the Whitney and the Met Mile the next year, and despite an injury-plagued five-year-old year, went out on top with a win in the 1963 Trenton Handicap at Atlantic City Race Course.  Though he was at best an average stallion, Carry Back did sire one horse of local interest: multiple graded stakes winner Sharp Gary, who won the 1974 Illinois Derby.


Newsreel footage of Carry Back's 1061 Kentucky Derby win.

The stakes run in Carry Back's name began as a two-year-old event at Calder Race Course in 1975.  In 1979 it was open to horses aged three and up, and has been open to three-year-olds only since 1980.  It has been run at distances as short as five and a half furlongs and as long as seven.  Run at six furlongs from 1997 through 2013, it first earned a Grade III in 2003.  It was a Grade II from 2005-2011, and reverted to Grade III status in 2012.  Like the Azalea, it was not run last year due to the transition from Calder to Gulfstream.  It returns this year with its same Grade III status and $150,000 purse, but stretched back out to seven furlongs.  Smile, the namesake of the featured race for older horses, won the Carry Back in 1985.  The only horse to win a championship the same year as they won the Carry Back was champion sprinter Lost in the Fog (2005), who followed his Carry Back win up with a win in the Grade I King's Bishop, and won eight of his nine starts during that championship year.

The Carry Back drew a field of ten three-year-old colts.  BARBADOS marks himself as the one to beat.  His only losses to date have come on grass, in the first two starts of his career.  He has two wins over the Gulfstream main, including the Hutcheson (GIII) going this seven-furlong distance.  With a rash of runners who do their best on the lead (ROD MCLEOD, BLUEGRASS SINGER, SONOFADERBYWINNER), no clear speed of the speed, and GRAND BILI almost certain to press very close to that set, he should be well set to come running at them late.  The one thing that gives pause about BARBADOS is the layoff.  He has been on the shelf since that Hutcheson in January, and trainer Michael Tomlinson has a questionable 9% record with runners coming off of lays of three months or more.  If he returns the same horse first off, he will be tough.  However, the value lies in beating him -- and that value abounds in JUAN AND BINA.  He is another coming off a lay; he hasn't run since finishing seventh in the Fountain of Youth.  However, trainer Gustavo Delgado is a robust 23% off of lays of 90 days or more, with positive ROI.  He also cuts back to seven furlongs, the shortest distance of his career.  Given his breeding, that ought to hit him square in his wheelhouse.  His running style should keep him out of the early melee for the lead.  His rail draw should allow him to save ground, and inside posts have been doing well recently at Gulfstream.  If he comes back sharp -- likely, coming from Delgado's barn -- he is fast enough to take this.

Another runner who appeals is MY POINT EXACTLY.  With the plethora of speed, his likelihood to be one of the farthest off the early going helps his chances.  Though he has never tried seven furlongs before, he does have a win over the Gulfstream track going a flat mile, showing he can handle the surface.  He has been on grass in his last two starts, ut his decent fifth in the Penn Mile (GIII) two starts back (beaten just a length and a half) suggests class.  Trainer William Kaplan has a 21% win rate and a +$2.66 ROI over his last 29 starts in graded company, and there is just enough to suggest that MY POINT EXACTLY could be another one of his bombs.

Selections:

#1 JUAN AND BINA (15/1)

#8 BARBADOS (9/5)

#5 MY POINT EXACTLY (12/1)

Longshot:  #3 ROYAL SQUEEZE (6/1) steps into graded company for the first time, but showed grit and class when coming from off the pace to take it to Mr. Jordan last out in the Tarpon Stakes.  Mr. Jordan got his head on the wire first, though ROYAL SQUEEZE won by disqualification.  ROYAL SQUEEZE returns here going a furlong shorter; he has already won over seven furlongs on the Gulfstream track.  He has been on the shelf since that Tarpon win April 25, but has a solid worktab for trainer Martin Wolfson, who wins at a solid 20% off of similarly long lays.  The 6/1 morning line seems a little short, but some the Summit of Speed morning lines have been questionable at best.  If he drifts into double-digit range, he will be worth it.

Race 10: Princess Rooney Stakes (GII), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:12pm EDT

Like Carry Back, Princess Rooney is a rather odd namesake for a sprint.  However, she indubitably deserved a graded stakes named after her, and Calder fit well.  Born in 1980, she began her career with four straight wins at Calder before advancing into graded company.  She won the Frizette (GI) that year as well, as well as the Kentucky Oaks (GI) the following year.  She carried her form into her four-year-old year, and finished her career on a high note: a win in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Distaff (GI) in 1984.


Princess Rooney draws away to win the inaugural Breeders' Cup Distaff.

The inaugural Princess Rooney was run at Calder the next year, going seven furlongs on the dirt.  The race dialed back to six furlongs in 1997, and first earned a grade two years later.  Most recently run as a Grade I in 2013, it is now a Grade II, with a $250,000 purse -- solid enough, but the lowest it has offered since before it was graded.  In addition to purse money, the winner also receives an automatic Win And You're In berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.  To date, no horse has won the Princess Rooney on the way to Breeders' Cup glory.  Musical Romance is the only horse so far to win both a Breeders' Cup title and this race: she won the Filly and Mare Sprint in 2011, and the Princess Rooney in 2012.

SWEET BASIL is improving at just the right time to make a mark in the Princess Rooney.  She won an allowance at Gulfstream two starts back, and followed that up with a win over former Chicago runner PHANIEBDANCING in the Alachua Handicap last out.  That race was her stakes debut.  That race was also at a mile and a sixteenth.  She cuts back to six furlongs here, the same distance at which she won over the Gulfstream track two back.  She has proven to be a horse for the course, scoring by daylight in all three attempts over it.  The Princess Rooney will be a class test, but her recent form suggests she should be fit and fast enough to run down the speed late at a good price.  MERRY MEADOW will likely go off favored, and like SWEET BASIL should be one who comes to run down the speed late.  She ran a clunker last out in the Inside Information (GII), but has won her other two starts at Gulfstream.  She got a freshening in the three and a half months since.  Though trainer Mark Hennig only wins at 9% off of lays of three months or longer, he hits the board at 43% in that circumstance, and Merry Meadow herself has won off of a break of about three months before.  Her best would win this race unless one of her competitors runs the race of her life -- though, given the likely short price combined with the clunker last out, she is worth trying to beat.  Still, she is a legitimate favourite, and should be covered in any multi-race wager.

If speed holds, R FREE ROLL stands the best chance.  She is the speed of the speed, and though a plethora of runners (KISS TO REMEMBER, PHANIEBDANCING, FLUTTERBY, TEA TIME, NESSO, NAVAL COMMAND) have shown speed to some extent, none of them reliably have the sort of early zip that R FREE ROLL shows, and all of them have shown some ability to sit a bit off the lead.  R FREE ROLL has been able to take some pressure early and kick away, something she could do here if it becomes a game of chicken on the front or if the track plays particularly well for speed that day.  Combine that with the fact that she has a sharp record over the course (8-2-3-1) and distance (13-6-2-1), and it would be no surprise to see her take this if she is not pressed unreasonably hard early.  The trainer's name, Sally Mitchelhill, may not be familiar, but she is an assistant to R FREE ROLL's regular trainer Kirk Ziadie, a high-percentage trainer at Gulfstream.

KISS TO REMEMBER merits special mention.  Class-wise, she compares well to this group.  However, she has a penchant for finishing second.  She should be stalking off of R FREE ROLL and anyone else who tries to go with her, but has enough of a tendency not to finish the job that she will be best relegated for use underneath.  Her class and consistency make her useful even as a key underneath, but she is an underlay in multis and on top.

Selections:

#4 SWEET BASIL (10/1)

#6 MERRY MEADOW (2/1)

#7 R FREE ROLL (7/2)

Longshot:  File #9 NAVAL COMMAND (10/1) under "just crazy enough to work."  She is a three-year-old facing older, but trainer William Kaplan is already sending stablemate Moment of Delight against the three-year-olds in the Azalea (GIII)...but decided to put NAVAL COMMAND here.  NAVAL COMMAND has not seen the starter since October, when she finished fifth in the 1 1/16 mile Alcibiades (GI) out at Keeneland.  Though Kaplan's win percentage with similarly long lays is just 4%, his in the money rate is 40%.  Furthermore, when he wins graded stakes, he frequently does so with bombs.  He has a 21% graded stakes win rate -- with a +$2.66 ROI.  On the track, NAVAL COMMAND has been able to win from on or off the pace, and has two wins and a second in three starts over the Gulfstream dirt.  At two, she was able to show some speed numbers competitive with this bunch.  If Kaplan has her fit enough to return to her best, she could be a huge price in the exotics.

Race 11: Smile Sprint (GII), three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:43pm EDT

Originally run in 1984 as the Miami Beach Sprint Handicap, the race was renamed after 1986 champion sprinter Smile in 1999.  Smile started his career at Calder, rattling off seven wins in a row there (including the 1985 Carry Back Stakes) to begin his career.  Smile was, at one point, also a stakes namesake at Arlington Park.  He won two graded stakes there: the 1985 Arlington Classic (GIII) and the 1986 Equipoise Mile (GIII).  (The Equipoise Mile is now known as the Hanshin Cup.)  He also won a race downstate, annexing the Fairmount Park Derby (GIII) in 1985.  On hiatus last year due to the move from Calder to Gulfstream, the Smile Sprint returns this year under stakes, not handicap, conditions.  It retains is Grade II, and offers a purse of $250,000.  It also offers a Win And You're In berth to the Breeders' Cup Sprint for the winning horse.

To date, the Smile has not produced a Breeders' Cup Sprint winner.  The most accomplished winner of this race to date has a somewhat more tenuous local connection than Smile himself: he shares a name with a Chicago sports mascot.  Benny the Bull, 2008 Eclipse award winner for champion sprinter, won the Sunshine Millions Sprint, the Golden Shaheen (GI - UAE), the True North (GII), and the Smile (GII) during his championship year.  He returned the next year to finish second in the Smile, beaten a length and a half by Zayat Stables longshot Eaton's Gift.

WILDCAT RED stretched out and did the Derby Trail last year, but his performance in the Hutcheson Stakes (GIII) last year suggested that his real brilliance could lie in sprinting.  He has also shown himself to be a Gulfstream horse-for-course.  All five of his career wins have come over the Hallandale Beach oval.  The only time he finished worse than second over that track was last out in the Sunshine Millions Classic.  Not only was that race 1 1/8 miles, but he came out of that race with a back muscle injury.  He has been on the shelf since that January 17 outing.  He has been working for about a month, and gets Javier Castellano back in the irons.  Castellano last rode WILDCAT RED to the Hutcheson victory last year.  Notable in that race is that he sat a bit off the pace early and took command.  Though he often set or pressed the pace going long, coming from a bit off here should help him with the likes of FAVORITE TALE, WORK ALL WEEK, and (if he fires) FALLING SKY in the field.  Here in the Smile, WILDCAT RED looks to be back exactly where he belonged all this time: sprinting at Gulfstream.

ALSVID has been in very strong form lately.  It took a couple races for him to get going, but he has won his last three, all in stakes races.  He handed WORK ALL WEEK his first dirt loss at Churchill last out.  And, if the pace falls apart (a possibility, particularly if WILDCAT RED gets locked up on the front), ALSVID is the most likely candidate to be making up ground late.  He can do well from close to the pace, a helpful way out if the Gulfstream track tends to play for speed that day.  However, in his last three starts with rider Chris Landeros (who returns today), he has found his stride coming from off.  He also has a record befitting a salty, durable six-furlong specialist: 27-10-7-1 at the distance.  The biggest question is that he has never raced at Gulfstream before, but as the sort of hard-knocking horse who can take his show on the road, he is in good enough form that he should fire here.  Another horse new to Gulfstream is defending Breeders' Cup Sprint champion, Illinois-bred WORK ALL WEEK.  On his best day, he is the fastest horse in this field.  Last out, ALSVID handed him his first dirt loss over at Churchill.  However, that was his first race off of a seven-month lay, and he stumbled at the break.  Second off the lay, he could well return to his best.  Earlier in his speed he seemed like a speed horse, though his last two races last year showed a more ratable dimension.  He should be within a length or so of the early lead, but will be fine if he does not get right to the front.  The outside draw should not hurt him, either; he has shown the ability to handle far outside draws, as he did in the Breeders' Cup.  WORK ALL WEEK is probably the one to beat here, but his price will likely be an underlay given the possibility that he may not take to the Gulfstream track.

Selections:

#2 WILDCAT RED (10/1)

#4 ALSVID (6/1)

#8 WORK ALL WEEK (9/5)

Longshot:  #5 GRANDE SHORES (5/1) faces his toughest class test yet in this race.  A seven-year-old horse, he has seen the starter 44 times before, but only run in graded company once.  That day, he ran a valiant second behind Valid, beaten only a length, in this year's Fred Hooper (GIII) at Gulfstream.  That covered a mile, but he has solid six furlong form as well, having amassed a 16-5-6-1 career line at the distance.  He also has a 16-4-8-1 record over the Gulfstream main, suggesting a consistent affinity for the surface.  In terms of speed figures he fits well with the field, and Eddie Castro returns to the irons after a small stakes win last out.  Pacewise, GRAND SHORES is versatile -- he can win on the lead, fighting for it, or coming from off of it.  He is versatile, salty...and if he passes this class test, he will do so at a solid price.

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