Key Races & Bets for Saturday March 2nd, 2024

Gulfstream Park Mile Stakes – Race 11 at Gulfstream Park -Post Time 4:20 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba
Other contenders: Castle Chaos, Steal Sunshine

Ticking may be disregarded by many bettors and go to post at decent (high) odds, which is fine for us who believe he can win. The recently turned four year old won by large margins at seven furlongs on dirt at Gulfstream last February and March, then ran poorly on turf, on all-weather and around two turns. Given nearly six months off, he returned in December and finished fourth but then ran the best race of his career on January 20, once again around one turn at Gulfstream. In that race Ticking stalked the pacesetters in third early, went four paths wide on the turn and drew off. He was 42 to 1 that day but ran as well, or BETTER, than the horses coming out of the Fred W. Hooper Stakes on January 27, as he earned a career-best and field high last race Equibase Speed Figure of 103. He’s making his third start off a layoff and is a four year old which suggests he will not regress and Edgard Zayas, who has been aboard for all three of his carer wins, rides back, more reasons to look at Ticking first when considering our win bets in this race.

Shaq Diesel also won in January over the track, one day earlier than Ticking, and with the second best last race figure (102) in the field. He’s now won five of 13 races, three at Gulfstream, and just like Ticking is on a pattern for a new best effort given his speed figure was 95 one before the 102 last out. Bravo was up for both is recent wins, the other in a 100K stakes for Florida breds at seven furlongs, and with that in mind Shaq Diesel must be respected as a win contender.

Tumbarumba won the Hooper on January 27, at odds of 8 to 1, rallying nicely from second with an eighth of a mile to go and out finishing Castle Chaos (who ended up second) and Steal Sunshine (who finished third). Saez was up for the third time and all three times Luis has ridden they have won, including back-to-back wins last April and June. Since the win last month came second off the layoff and since Tumbarumba has won two in a row before, he certainly has a shot to do so here and rounds out a strong trio of contenders.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We absolutely should bet two of the three contenders above at odds of 3 to 1 or more, taking advantage of any errors in judgement the public is going to make. Therefore I recommend waiting until about 10 minutes to post (or less) and betting whichever two of the three – Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba, are at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

With the likely opportunity to bet two horses to win, we should consider DUTCHING the bet, which means to prorate wagers for the best value, is quite useful. There’s a free DUTCHING tool at Amwager which allows us to set the total amount we want to win and prorates our wagers for the maximum edge.

Box Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba
Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba over Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba, Castle Chaos, Steal Sunshine

Trifecta: Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba over ALL over Ticking, Shaq Diesel, Tumbarumba

When playing both the exacta and trifecta (even if just for the $0.50 minimum) we will win if the any two of the three top contenders finish first and second, or first and third.

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Canadian Turf Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:53 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T
Other contenders
: Saratoga Flash, Siege of Boston, Atone

The early pace is likely to be faster than average, as both Saratoga Flash (on the rail) and Giant Game are need-the-lead types. Others may press the pacesetters as well, and that faster than average early tempo benefits all three of the contenders nicely but probably benefits Ice Chocolat most of all. Returning from two months off on January 27 at a mile here at Gulfstream on grass, Ice Chocolat rallied impressively while five wide on the turn, going from sixth to fifth to first in the last eighth of a mile. He did so from the 10 post the same as today so with his style the outside is not a disadvantage one bit. Prior to the rest Ice Chocolat missed by a nose and by a neck in two stakes races so he fits on all counts at this level, particularly as he ran the last quarter mile in his most recent race in a rock solid 22.5 seconds.

Emmanuel won the 2023 Canadian Turf Stakes, making his second start off a layoff from the previous August to February and having won the Tampa Bay Stakes in his comeback. This year he is making his first start since last August but he proved he can win a graded stakes off a layoff last year so that is not a concern. He also won the Poker Stakes at a mile on grass in June, a grade 3 stakes like this one. He only other start of 2023 came when overmatched in the Grade 1 Fourstardave so he’s definitely a contender here, but likely a poorer bet to win as compared to Ice Chocolat because he was the 6 to 5 favorite last year and will likely be one of the favorites today.

Smokin’ T was list seen winning the nearly identical Grade 3 River City Stakes at Churchill Downs in November, John Velazquez in the saddle then as now, as well as for a win last August off a two and one-half month layoff. The layoff is similar coming into this race and the horse also fired fresh to win last May under John V so he rounds out the top win contenders in this group.

Saratoga Flash held on for second a couple of times as he might today after battling with Giant Game, so he is one of three to be considered for second on some exacta tickets. Siege of Boston has finished first or second in seven of 13 races on turf and could get up for a share, while Atone drops in class off an 11th to 4th place finish in the tougher Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and is another who might get up to complete the exacta.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Similar to the previous race the three top contenders have about the same probability to win and there is every reason to go the opposite direction of the public at large and bet one or two at the highest odds to win. taking advantage of any errors in judgement the public is going to make. Therefore I recommend waiting until about 10 minutes to post (or less) and betting whichever two of the three – Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T are at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

This should be another opportunity to gain the mathematical edge provided by using the free (and easy to use) DUTCHING tool at Amwager which allows us to set the total amount we want to win and prorates our wagers for the maximum edge.

Box Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T
Ice Chocolat
, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T over Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T, Saratoga Flash, Siege of Boston, Atone

Trifecta: Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T over Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T, Saratoga Flash, Siege of Boston, Atone over Ice Chocolat, Emmanuel, Smokin’ T

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Honey Fox Stakes – Race 13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 5:23 PM Eastern

Top Win contender: Candy Light
Other contenders: Be My Sunshine, Walkathon, Ancient Peace

Candy Light was returning from three months off on January 27, also having moved to the barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr. since her last start in October. She won three of eight races in 2022 including the Tropical Park Oaks, but was winless last year in five races (with two runner-up efforts). She returned as a new horse in January, going three wide into the stretch and tipping out to the seven path after straightening away, moving up from fourth with an eight of a mile to go to win and draw off late. That race was on all-weather but likely it was because there wasn’t a grass race for her and no matter it was a PERFECT prep for this race as it was a 100K handicap race, not much different than this 150K stakes race. Gaffalione was aboard for the first time in victory in January and the fact he stays aboard is fantastic, not to mention that effort in January earned Candy Light a 105 Equibase Speed Figure which not only is the best last race figure in the field it is likely to be improved upon in her second start off the layoff. Additionally, her late kick will benefit from the fact that Spansive, For the Flag and Time Passage are all need-the-lead types likely to set or press a much faster than average early tempo.

Be My Sunshine, Walkathon and Ancient Peace all have decent form this year and can be part of the exacta and trifecta.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Candy Light can (and should) be bet to win at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

Exacta: Candy Light over Be My Sunshine, Walkathon, Ancient Peace

Trifecta: Candy Light over ALL over Be My Sunshine, Walkathon, Ancient Peace

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Fountain of Youth Stakes – Race 14 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 6:10 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Locked, Dornoch, Frankie’s Empire

In the 2023 running of the Fountain of Youth, Forte won off a four month rest, having won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile the previous fall. The only horse in this year’s Fountain of Youth to have run in the Juvenile is Locked and although he didn’t win the Juvenile (he finished third), he may be the one to beat in this field particularly as Forte was trained by Todd Pletcher, who also conditions Locked. Locked also ran faster in two of his three route races as a two year old than any other horse in the field, evidenced by a 109 Equibase Speed Figure earned in his seven length win last September at a mile in the second start of his career. Having earned a 98 Figure winning the Breeders’ Futurity the following month, Locked ended his two year old campaign with a 100 figure effort when finishing third, a half-length behind Muth and a length and one-quarter in front of Timberlake. Muth made his three year old debut following the Juvenile, winning the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita and Timberlake just made his 2024 debut a winning one in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn last weekend. Considering Timberlake was coming back from the same amount of time off as Locked to win a Road to the Derby race like the Fountain of Youth, and considering Locked should run even faster as a mature three year old than he did as a two year old, Locked is the one to beat in this year’s Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Dornoch is another we can expect to run even faster as a three year old than he did when last seen in the fall winning the Remsen Stakes the first week of December with a 99 Figure, having earned the same figure one race prior to that. Other horses returning from the Remsen in their three year old debuts have run exceptionally well, with Remsen runner-up Sierra Leone having captured the Risen Star Stakes two weeks ago and Remsen third place finisher Drum Roll Please winning the Jerome Stakes earlier this year. In addition, the seventh and ninth place finishers in the Remsen recently placed in the Holy Bull and Swale Stakes. Dornoch is also a full brother to Mage, who finished fourth in this race last year before finishing second in the Florida Derby then capturing the Kentucky Derby. As such, there is little doubt Dornoch has all the right physical and mental qualities to run well enough to win this race as well, but he appears slightly less probable because if both he and Locked improve at the same rate from their two year old form, Locked still may be faster.

Frankie’s Empire is the potential upsetter of note, having run this year whereas the other two main contenders have not. Frankie’s Empire enters the Fountain of Youth off a career-best effort in the Swale Stakes four weeks ago at Gulfstream Park. The colt returned from a two month layoff in late December, earning a then career-best 89 figure with a strong win. Improving nicely in the Swale, Frankie’s Empire displayed an impressive turn of foot to go from fourth on the far turn and to the lead in the stretch before drawing off late to earn a new career-best 94 figure. If he were to improve by a similar margin to a 99 figure, Frankie’s Empire would be in range of Dornoch’s last two figures of 2023, but Frankie’s Empire might even improve further. This is because he’s bred to excel in a two-turn race like this one. His sire is Classic Empire, winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Futurity (the same race Locked won last year) and also the 2017 Arkansas Derby, with a lot of stamina provided by his dam’s family because Dixie Union is the damsire. As such, I would not count out Frankie’s Empire as a strong contender in the race.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Although Locked and Dornoch have a strong probability to win, neither is likely to offer value for a win bet.
Frankie’s Empire will offer necessary return for the risk and can be bet to win at odds of 5 to 1 or more.

Frankie’s Empire is 10 to 1 or higher odds near post time, we should consider an exacta (even for $1) of ALL over Frankie’s Empire as it is much better than a place bet.

Then I would also play exacta boxes of Frankie’s Empire and Locked as well as Frankie’s Empire and Dornoch
Additional exactas of Locked and Dornoch over Frankie’s Empire are also warranted.

Trifecta: ($0.50)
Locked and Dornoch over ALL over Frankie’s Empire
If we are going to play the exacta of Locked and Dornoch over Frankie’s Empire, this inexpensive Trifecta is a good play as well because in the event one of the two favorites wins, and the other does NOT finish second (and a longshot does), with Frankie’s Empire finishing third the ticket could be very profitable.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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