The biggest weekend of stakes races in the short year took place this last Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The first Grade 1 race of the handicap division; the Donn Handicap, was an excellent ten horse betting race. Without a major 'superstar' horse, the handicap division should unfold this year with deep fields of valuable betting interests. The other grade 1 race was the highly anticipated showdown between the most exciting second place finishers of the Breeders Cup; that being Animal Kingdom, and Point of Entry. But the beauty of handicapping is that whether it's a stakes race or low level claiming race, there is always some value to find in between the results charts. So lets take a look at horses coming out of these races poised to get back into winners circle.
Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship -Close it out-Broke poorly, but he usually does, didn't get going till they passed the quarter pole. From there he had to shift out into the middle of the track. From there he came with a late run closing strong, and just missed hitting the board at 13-1.What was noteworthy is that he closed strong on a track that seemed to favor inside speed. If Close it Out is ever going to run a big race it should be his next race. His Beyers have been steadily improving and his next race will be his third race off the layoff. If trainer Steve Towne gets the Florida bred to run in another race against open company like the GulfStream Park Handicap, which is run at a mile, expect to get good value on this one.
Donn Handicap-Bourbon Courage- The 'wise guy' play going into the Donn Handicap was Bourban Courage who was bet down to 7-2 from his 8-1 morning line price. The four year old son of Lion Heart nearly lived up to the hype as he was set down for the drive by jockey Javier Castellano and finished strongly to secure a second place finish. The winner Graydar showed what he could do given an open length lead down the back stretch. Ridden by Edgar Prado, Graydar looked to be gaining strength down the lane, finishing the mile and an eighth in 1:48.25. But look for Bourbon Courage to run big next out, and possibly have a big year in the older horse division. Trainer Kellyn Gorder has impressive stats with getting horses ready off long layoffs.
GulfStream Park Turf Handicap- As for the highly anticipated showdown between Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry, it certainly lived up to the hype, as they finished 1-2 in an exciting finish. The news of the race was Joel Rosario's early move he made on Animal Kingdom. But another story maybe how well third place finisher Unbridled Command ran. The four year old went off as a legitimate 7/2 shot, but few really expected to see the upset. However as the big two were battling it out down the stretch there was Unbridled Command right there posing a threat right up to the last jump. What was also impressive about his run was that he went extremely wide on both turns, and closed well despite getting caught flat footed by the early sprint to the wire. This race should serve as a great learning experience for the N.Y. bred who had won three in a row including the G1 Hollywood Derby.