Sunshine Stakes Day hits the Atlantic coast Saturday at Gulfstream Park with a series of Florida-bred stakes races. Among the 4 features are the Classic, Sprint, Filly & Mare Turf and the Turf. The latter may be the best betting race of the quartet, and goes as Race 11 of 12 on the card.
This group of 9 matches up very similar on class with several listed stakes winners and common opponents across Florida’s stakes scene. There’s no discernible class edge among the likes of VENEZUELAN HUG, GALLEON MAST and MONFORTE. PROVEN STRATEGIES joins the local state-bred stakes scene after competing in open company in New York and Toronto.
#1 Second Mate – Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by Michael Maker. Second Mate finished in 2nd behind Venezuelan Hug in the Turf Preview leading into this race. The rail draw is a good thing for Second Mate since he has no gate speed. This one will be sitting in the back and hoping to make 1 good run. He has been off since November, but comes into this race sharp and will certainly have value coming into this race. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione and trainer Michael Maker are 2 of the best in horse racing which is only a plus here.
#2 Proven Strategies – Ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Mark Casse. Comes into this one racing about as well as you can. He has 4 wins and 2 second place finishes in the last 7 starts. He loves to be on the front, but there is other speed in this race, and it won’t be nearly as easy getting to the front in this one as it has been in prior races. If Jose Ortiz is able to get this one to the front then he may never look back, but I don’t think it will be that easy. He has also been off the track since October 30th which could hurt the fitness.
#3 Monforte – Ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Ruben Garcida. Speaking of other speed in this race, Monforte only has one running style and that is get as far as he can as fast as he can. He tried this style in the Millions Turf Preview and faded back to 7th place well beaten. Prior to that he had won 6 of 7 races, so maybe freshening up with a 3 month lay-off will be exactly what is needed for Monforte. I am guessing there is too much speed in here, and the front could fall apart.
#4 Shamrocket – Ridden by Irad Ortiz and trained by Todd Pletcher. Shamrocket may sit the perfect trip in this race. He is likely to be mid pack stalking the speed horses and ready to roll at the top of the stretch. He came back off a 3 month lay-off to get a victory at Gulfstream in which he came well off the pace. He has finished behind Proven Strategies and Venezuelan Hug in the past, but I believe Shamrocket is better now, and sits the perfect trip.
#5 Over the Channel – Ridden by Emisael Jaramillo and trained by David Fawkes. This is another one that should sit a good trip, but not sure if he is as good as some of the others in here. Last time out finished 6th, but only beaten by 2 lengths. The worry for me is he sat a perfect trip and had nothing for the stretch run. However, in 4 starts at this distance he has 2 wins and a second place so he clearly loves the distance, and with 3 wins over the Gulfstream turf he also loves the course. Could be a longshot look in here.
#6 Galleon Mast – Ridden by Paco Lopez and trained by David Fawkes. He will be sitting well off the pace, however he has trouble closing into fast paces despite that being his running style. He hasn’t had a win since November of 2019, and I don’t anticipate that changing in this race. He could finish in the top 3 as a price, but that is the ceiling for Galleon Mast.
#7 Max K.O. – Ridden by Julien Leparoux and trained by Michael Maker. He has been in very poor form coming into this race. Two starts back against Venezuelan Hug and Second Mate he was absolutely no match finishing a well beaten 8th place. Then last time out against weaker competition he finished in 9th beaten by 20 lengths. It just seems as though he is going in the wrong direction.
#8 Clear Destination – Ridden by Edgard Zayas and trained by William Tharrenos. This is another one who hasn’t won since November of 2019. Last time out against weaker competition he finished 2nd at 35-1 so he ran over his head a little bit. He is another one who will be coming off the pace, but doesn’t have the kick of the others so I will pass on this one as well.
#9 Venezuelan Hug – Ridden by Luis Saez and trained by Danny Gargan. Winner of 4 of the last 6 races, and trending in the right direction. He will sit a pretty solid trip on the outside. Yet again another one who is coming off the pace, and will require the speed to come back to him. The big thing for me here is Luis Saez and Danny Gargan combine to win 42% of the starts when they team up. When you match up this jockey/trainer combination with a horse in good form like this then he will be tough to beat.
1: #1 Second Mate
2: #9 Venezuelan Hug
3: #2 Proven Strategies
4: #4 Shamrocket