Spectacular, Spectacular! The Turk is settling in with a roaring fire, a red gel pen and the form and have the cards at Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Santa Anita sized up for what should be a truly exciting day in horse racing, albeit one that may ultimately end up pretty chalky for bettors, but exhilarating for fans of the sport nonetheless.
Uncle Mo makes his long awaited return since his commanding victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The undefeated two time Grade I winner has won three times by a combined 23 1/4 lengths but is placed in a soft spot in The Timely Writer. Far be it for Turk the handicapper to question Trainer Pletcher but horse racing fan The Turk hates the idea of two preps and a Kentucky Derby run. I hate it! This race isn't much more than a hand ride morning work and while I love the horse, I wouldn't be sad to see someone shock him, but I cant see it happening.
At Tampa Bay Downs, Brethren looks very strong but there are a few untested and interesting runners and connections (always love to see a Nafzger/Tafel combination)who will try and shake this apple cart.
Finally around 7:07 Eastern Time, The San Felipe goes off over fast dirt at Santa Anita (doesn't that still sound great? I almost have the fake dirt taste out of my mouth)and Runflatout looks like a monster in the making but also has a handful of very serious contenders who are trying to make their hooves heard.
That handsome fella above is Soaring Empire, my chalk in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. The picture came from a very nice Flicker feed and I thank them for the unauthorized not for profit use.
I hope you're as excited as I am, let's get it on!
Race 8, The Timely Writer was hand picked by Pletcher who has been sharpening the son of Indian Charlie patiently and regularly. Uncle Mo seems like he's just throwing his hockey stick over the boards and expecting a win but give some consideration to two of the challengers, Rattlesnake Bridge and Rocking Out. Rattlesnake Bridge, if he can rate within a few lengths, can close fast, and the son of Tapit has connections in McLaughlin/Lezcano with experience while the horse makes only his second start. Rocking Out represents Dick Dutrow's attempt to be a spoiler.
In the Grade III Palm Beach over the grass, I'm expecting Pluck to scratch but I left him in until that's official. Pluck is with Graham Motion's barn now since leaving Pletcher and will most likely reemerge at Tampa Bay Downs today.
Without Pluck, I like the promise of Queen'splatekitten. With a name like that, the Canadian bred Kitten's Joy colt will have serious expectations when he returns north to Woodbine. Loved the late kick last time out. The pick.
Master Dunker is a bit more seasoned than Queen'splatekitten and Trainer Fawkes comes in off of two solid races at GP. Fawkes clips along at 33% in graded stakes and clearly finds good spots in the conditions book.
Ari C is a bit of stretch but not unreasonable. The stable mate of Queen'splatekitten looks like the best of the bunch.
At 5:20 Eastern or five minutes before the final leg of the Gulfstream Park late pick three the Tampa Bay Derby goes off. With no Uncle Mo, Brethren is the looming monster both on the track and at the betting window. The son of Distorted Humor comes in off a 4 length win as the chalk. Expect to see more speed from him as he'll have to string some sub :23 3/5 times together to draw clear of this bunch.
Free Entry is trained by Chad Brown who combines with Alan Garcia to win 30% of their races. The horse has shown a strong late kick and expect to see him sitting just off the pace to apply the pressure to Brethren.
Watch Me Go will bring early speed and if he has much left at the end i see him holding on for a placing on the exotics I'm building.
The horse I am interested in seeing run is Beamer. The son of Vindication out of an Unbridled mare, Untarnished. I love seeing the two old lions in winter, Jim Tafel and Carl Nafzger campaigning together, something that makes horse racing so special.
And in Race 10, the Gulfstream Park Handicap, four or possibly five of the field of eight have honest to goodness legitimate win potential and that is something that should get bettors salivating. As I said previously, I'm backing Soaring Empire but will be watching the tote board and looking for some value in a defensive win bet and exacta. I like the son of Empire Maker's last two GP outings, and I like how he settled and rallied behind Tackleberry last time out.
Oh how tight this one appears to me. Hard to deny just how well Takleberry has run at GP this meet and the pride of Luis Olivares's barn will be strong and hard to beat again today.
The Duke of Mischief is ALWAYS in a position to win but hasn't won in his last four races. Only millionaire in the field, Fawkes puts Joe Bravo up after the injury to regular rider Coa.
Rule makes his third start after a very long layoff. He ran well for Trainer Pletcher and team WinStar in the Hal's Hope and faltered when it counted in the Donn. The horse has great numbers: 8 of 8 in the money on fast dirt, 3 of 3 in the money at the distance and 3 of 3 in the money at GP but no wins.
And finally at Santa Anita at about 7:07 Eastern, or about an hour after the Turk has his daily vitamin intake of one rare piece of aged beef, The San Felipe goes off with a field of big names and it is shaping up to be a wide open affair. Runflatout is one victory removed from being a maiden, but what promise and potential. Trainer Sadler and jock Rosario combine for a 28% win rate over 99 races at SA. Training very sharply, I particularly liked the 1:24 2/5ths 7f work and the 1:10 2/5ths 6f work in past two weeks.
Awesome Patriot returns after looking so good over the slop late last year here. Training well for Baffert, Bejarano is up. Baffert's other entry is new to the barn, Jaycito, with Garcia up. I'm taking a watch and see approach.
Premier Pegasus goes for Kwon Cho Myung. As Little Turk is Korean, we are partial to him. A 96 BSF in the San Vincente, he loses the blinkers and comes in off a strong :57 3/5ths work this week.
Watch for Albergetti to burn it up out of the gate. Comma to the Top needs to show something on dirt today. I like Quail Hill, especially at the price he'll be fetching.
Betting to me is a secondary issue today, I'm going to enjoy the bets I make of course, but today is about being a fan. A day after those idiots in the National Football League couldn't figure out a way to split up the money they fleece from suckers like me, I'm reminded that my favorite equine stars never go on strike, never holdout, are never locked out, and would literally work for sugar cubes and peppermints. The Life at Ten fiasco illustrates how humans do their best to screw up a sport that the masses just don't seem to appreciate anymore, but that's their loss and not ours friends.
Last but not least, we remember Uncle Domenico Schepis, Mama Turk's uncle who passed away in the small Sicilian village of Condro`. I am the superstitious type and the man we use to call 'Memo, or Uncle 'Memo, sure is close to Uncle Mo. That's good enough for me. Rest in Peace Uncle 'Memo.