2018 Mr. Prospector Stakes Preview

Saturday’s lone graded race at Gulfstream takes its name from a pretty good sprinter.  Mr. Prospector won seven of his 14 career starts, including the 1974 Gravesend Handicap and the 1974 Whirlaway Handicap.

Of course, the racetrack was not where this son of Raise a Native made his biggest impact — he ruled the stud barn.  He commanded six-figure stud fees in the 1980s, and led the sire list in 1987 and 1988.  He also became a seminal sire of sires, with sons including Fappiano, Unbridled, Gone West, Forty Niner, Kingmambo, and Smart Strike.

The Mr. Prospector Stakes was previously known as the Hallandale Handicap (and, at times, the Hallandale Stakes), named after Hallandale Beach, the city in which Gulfstream Park lies.  The race was not always a dirt sprint; it has been run on turf before, as well, at distances as long as two miles.  It has been on dirt since 1983.  Its most common distance was six furlongs, which it covered from 1994 through last year; this year it was stretched out to seven furlongs.

It was renamed in 2000 as a posthumous honour to Mr. Prospector, who passed away in 1999.  Notable winners of the race have included 2010 Champion Sprinter Big Drama (2011), Churchill Downs stakes namesake Kelly’s Landing (2007), and multiple G1-placed X Y Jet (2015, 2017).  Of more local interest is 1990 winner Beau Genius: a two-time stakes winner at Arlington, and also the damsire of five-time Illinois-bred stakes winner Luv Bandit.

X Y Jet romps in the 2015 Mr. Prospector Stakes, the first of his two victories in this race.

Gulfstream Park – December 21

Race 10: Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3), three-year-olds and up, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 4:36pm EST

The pace should be at least honest, as a few of these runners need to be up front to put in their best efforts. KROY drew nicely inside, but CONQUEST BIG E, BELLE TAPISSERIE, and COAL FRONT all will have to gun it from the outside and try to contend. BELLE TAPISSERIE does not look sharp enough early to actually get the forward placing he needs, but CONQUEST BIG E and COAL FRONT should be sharp enough to contest the pace.  HEARTWOOD should also be forward — he’s a six-furlong type who can be even more forward when going a bit longer than that, though it’s hard to see him staying this longer trip..

UNO MAS MODELO may be familiar to some Picks and Ponderings readers: he began his career here in Chicago with trainer Brian Williamson. It took him a while to find his best surface and distance, but he finally found his sea legs this year for trainer Anthony Quartarolo. He has done his best work sprinting on dirt — and though he effectively cut back to six furlongs to win the Bet on Sunshine Stakes at Churchill, he has done his even better work at six and a half and seven furlongs. The new distance of the Mr. Prospector hits UNO MAS MODELO right between the eyes. Though this is tougher than the Claiming Crown field he beat over this course and distance last time out, this son of Macho Uno is fast enough on his best day to be competitive against this bunch. And, UNO MAS MODELO has tactical versatility. He can win when stalking just off the pace, or he can score from well off the pace. His rider today, Albin Jimenez, has won with him in both of those ways.  All in all, UNO MAS MODELO is the one they’ll have to beat.

Loooch Racing and Anthony Quartarolo send out the one to beat in UNO MAS MODELO, but they have another well-spotted runner in this spot, too.  STORM ADVISORY comes into the Mr. Prospector with some muddled form: he has been a claim box darling, and through the year, he has been trying dirt and turf, routes and sprints.  But, hone in on the dirt sprints and you’ll find a stalking to mid-pack type who is fast enough to compete against these kinds of foes on his better days.  Hone in on seven furlongs specifically, and you’ll see STORM ADVISORY loves it: three wins and another four money finishes in nine tries over the trip.  With so many questions about the short-priced horses other than UNO MAS MODELO?  STORM ADVISORY looks like a dependable type when he’s running in the right spot — which this absolutely is.  As long as he takes to the Gulfstream footing well come race day, he should be coming on well late, and may prove his stablemate’s toughest threat.

Two of the key contenders in this race both come second off a long layoff: WILD SHOT and COAL FRONT.  Though trainer Todd Pletcher always comes to Gulfstream loaded, and COAL FRONT can improve second off the break, it’s hard to like COAL FRONT a lot here.  Though he showed some ability last year to stay on despite a contested pace, the plethora of speed combined with the far-outside post diminish his appeal.  On the other hand, WILD SHOT not only will be a longer price, but offers more to like.  (The 10/1 morning line looks a pipe dream, but something more like 7/1 is both viable and appealing.)  WILD SHOT didn’t draw the parking lot, and has shown that his speed is more tactical than the likes of COAL FRONT, KROY, CONQUEST BIG E, or BELLE TAPISSERIE.  Seven furlongs may be on the short side for WILD SHOT, but he has achieved a placing at seven furlongs, and also won the Pat Day Mile (G3) over the one-turn trip at Churchill last year.  The connections also inspire confidence.  Trainer Rusty Arnold wins at a solid 17% rate second off a lay over the last three years, with a positive ROI to show for it.  And, the switch Brian Hernandez in the irons with WILD SHOT is a good one.  Hernandez has been riding well in a limited amount of starts so far this Gulfstream meet, and has been doing well with Arnold recently.  Hernandez should be able to carve out a trip drafting just off the front end, and get the best from WILD SHOT.




#7 WILD SHOT (10/1)

Longshot:  Among the longer shots, SWEETONTHELADIES appeals for the undersides: even on his best day he is probably not fast enough to get all the way there, but his late kick ought to be enough to get him in the frame.  If you’re not scared to go for a real bomber, take a look at #5 K CHOICE (30/1).  He is one of two entrants for trainer Ben Colebrook and owner KRA Stud Farm — and between the two, he is the one whose race record suggests he is a sprinter.  Though this isn’t an easy ask for K CHOICE — it’s only his fourth lifetime start, and his first start against older winners — his maiden score at Keeneland makes him a promising prospect.  It was his only try at an extended one-turn distance, and he won that three-and-up maiden by two lengths.  He rallied from midpack, a running style that should give him a chance in this spot.  And, though K CHOICE loses regular rider Albin Jimenez to morning line favourite UNO MAS MODELO, he does lure Luis Saez to the saddle.  Saez has started the Gulfstream meet winning at a lively 21% clip, making him a solid replacement.  K CHOICE is speculative, but we’re not only dreaming.  You don’t need much at 30/1.  Extended-sprint upside, the ability to pass horses, and a top rider add up to more than enough to consider him at the price.


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