January’s hottest racing card arrives with the Pegasus World Cup anchoring a 7-stakes lineup. Gulfstream Park offers a $750,000-guaranteed late pick four and late pick five pool, the latter beginning in Race 8 with the La Prevoyante Stakes. This 1-1/2 miles turf marathon for the fillies and mares honors the Hall of Fame filly La Prevoyante, who was part of the magnificent 1973 sophomore class that included Secretariat, and few recall as juveniles that Secretariat and La Prevoyante finished 1-2 in a split Horse of the Year vote.
ALWAYS SHOPPING has the field’s best win at the Grade 2 level. HEAVENLY CURLIN and ENGLISH AFFAIR are Grade 3 winners. COURT RETURN is Grade 1-placed. The likes of SISTER HANAN, DELTA’S KINGDOM and TRAIPSING are Grade 3-placed. There’s not a massive class edge in this race, though ALWAYS SHOPPING, LOVELY LUCKY and COURT RETURN have come out of the strongest races. TRAIPSING has shot to the front in her last 3 starts and will compete for the lead with LOVELY LUCKY. ALWAYS SHOPPING should be forwardly placed from the rail. The pace does not look fast, as would be expected for 1-1/2 miles on grass.
None of these
dozen runners owns a victory at 1-1/2 miles on turf, but there are a few races
at the trip on their resumes that stand out. Chief among those was ALWAYS SHOPPING’s
narrow runner-up in the Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland. CAMEBLIZA also was second
over the assignment on the Keeneland lawn in allowance company in October,
while DELTA’S KINGDOM finished third just behind her in that same heat. The
rest will have something to prove over the 12 furlongs.
ALWAYS SHOPPING boasts big late pace figures in each of her last 2 starts, the aforementioned Dowager runner-up and a strong, 3-length Via Borghese victory at Gulfstream over 1-3/16 miles. She’s perhaps the best finisher in this race, and should be sitting no worse than third down the backstretch, perhaps even closer-up, which makes her a very tough out for her competition. Irad Ortiz Jr. rides for Todd Pletcher, and they’re just the leading jockey and trainer at the Championship Meet heading into Pegasus Week.
The Via Borghese victory by ALWAYS SHOPPING will be put back to the test as her 2-4 pursuers get a re-match. TRAIPSING was favored in that Dec. 19 race, but faded to fourth after making the lead. She’ll switch pilots to stakes maestro Joel Rosario, in from California to ride the Pegasus World Cup card. The impeccably bred Tapit-Light Jig mare CAP DE CREUS was an unthreatening third in the Via Borghese and will get another crack at her Todd Pletcher stablemate ALWAYS SHOPPING after a troubled trip earned her a steward’s promotion last out.
LOVELY LUCKY gets some class relief after battling in October’s Grade 1 Flower Bowl, where she set the tempo and faded to seventh. The Tom Albertrani trainee will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, who piloted both of her career victories, and whose Gulfstream turf marathon record over the last 4 years shows a sharp 7-for-12 finish in the exacta.
HEAVENLY CURLIN aims for 4 straight wins, racking up a trio of scores at Woodbine to close 2020. Trainer Mark Casse’s barn hasn’t had the kind of meet we’ve come to expect, but has perked up a bit in recent weeks. Fellow Canadian COURT RETURN surprised all in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor in October when second at 41-1, but it’s worth noting that historically stout race lacked the international flair and quality it typically has due to pandemic travel restrictions.
Another streaking mare is SISTER HANAN, seeking her third straight win and first stakes. She’ll team with hot-riding Corey Lanerie, who has been outstanding on turf in recent weeks at Gulfstream.
#1 Always Shopping – Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr and trained by Todd Pletcher. Coming out of a very nice win going 1 and 3/16 mile she will try to keep that form in here and has a big chance to do so. She is going to get a great trip on the rail, and shouldn’t be too far off the pace which given the speed outlook in this race you will need to be up close in order to win. She just missed in a Grade 3 two starts back and seems primed and ready to go for this one. She has 4 career wins and they are all stakes victories. I would not be surprised to see her make it number 5.
#2 Sister Hanan – Ridden by Corey Lanerie and trained by Ben Colebrook. Returned from a lengthy lay-off to get the win last time out at Gulfstream going just a mile. She will setep up in class and in distance here for this one. So far in her career she has done nothing wrong though finishing outside the top 3 only once in 7 tries, and that includes 3 wins. Corey Lanerie as noted has been absolutely on fire and this daughter of Orb should have no worries about getting the mile and a half.
#3 Irony of Reality – Ridden by Victor Lebron and trained by Ron Potts. This will be the best field she has faced in her career, and I believe it will much too tough for her. She could only manage a 4th place finish against weaker stakes company back in December. I believe that to be her ceiling in here as well.
#4 Aunt Hattie – Ridden by Julien Leparoux and trained by Rohan Crichton. She last raced in October 2020 and it did not go well. Neither did the start prior to that. She has been beaten very soundly in her last 2 starts, and then was claimed and is coming off a lay-off. There is not much to like here for this one. The one plus is that trainer Rohan Chrichton wins with 20% of his 1st time starters off the claim, however I expect this one to be very long odds.
#5 Lovely Lucky – Ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Thomas Albertrani. Last time out in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl she tried to take the field wire-to-wire and faltered down the stretch losing by 5 lengths in the end. That was against Civil Union and My Sister Nat who are much better than what she faces here in this field. With the lack of speed it’ll be interesting to see if Jose Ortiz can get this one to the front. If Lovely Lucky is able to use that early speed and get a comfortable lead she may be able to hang on throughout at a nice price.
#6 Cambeliza – Ridden by Edgard Zayas and trained by Arnaud Delacour. Tough to recommend this one coming off the last few efforts. Two starts back she eased up and was beaten by 53 lengths. Next time out she lost by 6 to Always Shopping and Cap de Creus. She would need to really up her game in order to be competitive in this one. I believe she is a longshot that can be used underneath the winner, but it is difficult to want to play her to win in this race.
#7 Heavenly Curlin – Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by Mark Casse. Winner of 3 in a row in very much trending in the right direction as she has improved with each start. Last time she won a Grade 3 at Woodbine by more than 5 lengths to set her up for this race. Those races were on artificial dirt at Woodbine, and the knock on her is she has only tried turf one time. That one race was Gulfstream Park in which she finished 10th, but she was bumped at the start of the race and then steadied again at the first turn losing all chance in her debut race. I think her current form makes her have a very live look in here.
#8 Delta’s Kingdom – Ridden by Junior Alvarado and trained by William Mott. She hasn’t been able to win since September of 2019, but she continues to come close every time she races. She has three straight 3rd place finishes, and all of those are within 2 lengths. All of this makes it tough to like her to win, but obviously she can’t be ignored on any other type of wager. She also has a perfect running style for this race, as she will be right up on the pace throughout.
#9 Cap de Creus – Ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Todd Pletcher. She is the second of the Todd Pletcher trainees and will be the one that is likely forgotten about at the betting windows. Finished 3rd to Always Shopping last time out, but prior to that was unable to get wins against weaker competition. She will stalk from mid-pack, but I don’t believe she has enough to beat some of the horses that will be sitting closer. She is a longshot in here and should be played as such.
#10 English Affair – Ridden by Joe Bravo and trained by George Arnold. Was absolutely no match for Traipsing or Delta’s Kingdom last time out in the Grade 3 Long Island. With both of those horses entered in here, and the tough trip she is likely to face I think she will suffer the same fate of finishing well behind those 2 plus some others in here. Her style of sitting well off the pace combined with an outside post makes it very tough for her in this spot. She will have to cross over early and sit close to last, and then hope there is a lot of speed up front for the race to come back to her.
#11 Traipsing – Ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Christophe Clement. Here is the likely front runner in this race. Previously, we mentioned speed from Lovely Lucky but she is normally a stalker. Joel Rosario from the 11 post has no choice but to fire out of the gate and take Traipsing right to the front. The question will be is how much does he have to use early in the race, and can she hold on in the end. She has set very slow fractions the last 2 times out and has faltered just at the end of the race. Both of those times she broke from the inside. Now that she has to break from the 11 post, and use a little more speed than normal to get to the front plus the added distance it is hard for me to envision Traipsing staying in front all the way around.
#12 Court Return – Ridden by Luis Saez and trained by Josie Carroll. In October she finished 2nd in the Grade 1 EP Taylor at Woodbine at odds of 40-1. She then tried her luck against Always Shopping and Cap de Creus last time out and was beaten by 7. It is hard to really nail down what this horse is going to do here. She has been inconsistent, but if she gets a good trip she can be dangerous in here. I don’t like the post, but if Saez can keep her from being very wide in the first turn it will certainly help. I just think there is too much to overcome in this race for her.
1: #1 Always Shopping
2: #5 Lovely Lucky
3: #7 Heavenly Curlin
4: #8 Delta’s Kingdom