Key Races & Bets for Saturday March 30th, 2024

Ghostzapper Stakes (Grade 3) – Race 7 at Gulfstream -Post Time 2:26 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Lure Him In, Mbagnick, Tumbarumba, Steal Sunshine

YES, there are four win and exacta contenders listed in an eight horse field. HOWEVER, with it being highly likely Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba, the one-two finishers in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile, will be the top two betting choices, there could be a good deal of profit potential on win bets and on exacta bets with Lure Him In, Mbagnick, or both.

I have to start with Lure Him In, who has a big shot to win in (at least) a mild upset if he repeats his effort in the Sunshine Classic Stakes on January 20, one race before last. It does not matter that was a state-bred restricted race but what does matter is it was at the mile and one-sixteenth (two-turns) distance of the Ghostzapper, NOT the one-turn mile of the Gulfstream Park Mile. Lure Him In drew the two post that day, similar to the rail today, and Edwin Gonzalez rode him, as today, so those are more reasons to expect the horse to repeat that effort which earned him a graded stakes quality 115 Equibase Speed Figure which is TWENTY-ONE points better than the 94 figures Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba earned in the GP Mile and for which they will be heavily bet. Although Lure Him In did not run as well one month later in a classified allowance when (101 figure) he still finished second of 10 in a fine effort to show he’s still in top physical form. Since that race, the horse changed trainers to the high percentage barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr., so there is every reason to believe Lure Him In is capable of winning.

Mbagnick won two-turn races last November and December at Delta Downs, the best of which earned a decent 104 figure, which matches up with the 104 career-best figure Steal Sunshine earned last October and the 108 career-best figure Tumbarumba earned when second in the Louisiana Classic Stakes in December. He returned from more than two months off on March 9 in the Grade 3 Challenger Stakes at Gulfstream, at the distance of this race, and finished third behind multiple stakes winner Skippylongstocking, with a 100 figure effort he should improve upon second off the layoff.

Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba don’t need much talking up, having won 11 of 33 races between them for combined earnings of nearly $1 million. As mentioned previously, although their 94 figures from last month in the GP Mile appear to indicate they may not be as fast as either Lure Him In or Mbagnick, if either of those two repeat or improve on their recent efforts, both Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba have shown they are very competitive, and fast, when in the mood. On the other hand it must be noted that combined, these two have not won their last five races around two-turns, and neither has won at this distance, so it is difficult to consider betting either to win, particularly at low odds.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider a win bet on Lure Him In at odds of 3 to 1 or more, and on Mbagnick at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.

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.

There is every reason to try to maximize profit here by avoiding any exactas which combine the two likely favorites (Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba) in the first and second position, so the best exactas to play are:

Lure Him In and Mbagnick over Lure Him In, Mbagnick, Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba
Lure Him In, Mbagnick, Steal Sunshine and Tumbarumba over Lure Him In and Mbagnick
(This way we win twice if Lure Him In and Mbagnick finish first and second)

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Sand Springs Stakes – Race 12 at Gulfstream – Post Time 5:15 PM Eastern

Top contender: Candy Light
Other contenders: Cairo Consort, Marketsegmentation, Angel Nadeshiko

It doesn’t happen nearly as often in North American racing as it does in Europe and elsewhere, but occasionally it is obvious when two horses from the same barn are entered in a race, one is a “RABBIT” who is designated to insure a fair (or fast) pace, for the benefit of the other. Such is the case in this race with Angel Nadeshiko appearing to be the RABBIT for Candy Light, and Angel Nadeshiko does have some things going for her as well. Angel Nadeshiko joined the Saffie Joseph, Jr. barn just prior to the Very One Stakes on March 2, having earned both her two-turn wins leading from start to finish, including in the Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes in December. In the Very One, Angel Nadeshiko set a very strong half-mile pace in 47.8 while in front by four lengths, holding the lead until over a mile and one-eighth had been run, then she faded to 10th. On the same card, in the Honey Fox Stakes at a mile, Candy Light was running beautifully and about one length off the leader when the field entered the stretch but found herself in significant traffic trouble when shut off, which stopped her momentum. She too had joined the Joseph, Jr. barn recently, prior to her January 27 race on the all-weather at Gulfstream, a $100,000 handicap, which she won with a big burst of late speed. Candy Light also won the Tropical Park Oaks in December, 2022, with a big late kick. With Candy Light getting a jockey change to Zayas, the #1 winning jockey for the barn, and with any racing luck at all enabling her to run as she did on January 27 or in the Tropical Park Oaks, Candy Light is very likely to emerge the winner in this race.

Cairo Consort gets Irad Ortiz, Jr. for Pletcher, while Marketsegmentation gets Jose Ortiz for Chad Brown. Cairo Consort led with an eight of a mile to run in the Very One then faded so shortening up in distance from 11 furlongs to a mile and one-sixteenth increases her chances of success, however noting she has gone winless in six starts since winning the Sweetest Chant Stakes on this turf course 13 months ago. Marketsegmentation has won five of eight starts in her career, all on grass, including the Grade 1 New York Stakes last May. She returns in a non-graded stakes off an eight month layoff and Brown does better than average with horses returning from layoffs of six months or more so she is a contender. On the other hand, both Cairo Consort and Marketsegmentation are likely to be much lower odds than Candy Light, or even Angel Nadeshiko for that matter, and the 104 best Equibase Speed Figures both have earned are NO BETTER than the two best figures of 105 and 104 Candy Light has earned in races representative of today’s conditions.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Candy Light has at least a 25% chance to win this race, and so I will strongly consider a win bet at odds of 3 to 1 or higher.

Exactas: Exacta boxes with Candy Light in first, and in second, along with the other three contenders, appear to be very good bets:
Box Candy Light, Cairo Consort
Box Candy Light, Marketsegmentation
Box Candy Light, Angel Nadeshiko

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Florida Derby – Race 14 at Gulfstream – Post Time 6:42 PM Eastern

Top Win contenders: Conquest Warrior, Hades, Frankie’s Empire
Exotic wagering contenders: Le Dom Bro, Seminole Chief, Fierceness

Conquest Warrior has a couple of things going for him that helped me decide he might be the most probable among a number of good three-year-olds in this year’s Florida Derby. Most importantly, Conquest Warrior is the only horse in the field that has won at this mile and one-eighth distance. That win came in his most recent start, four weeks ago, at Gulfstream, where he earned a career-best 85 Equibase Speed Figure. While that figure may not yet be in the same rarified air as the 97 figure Hades earned when winning the Holy Bull Stakes, the way Conquest Warrior won the race suggests he will improve markedly. In that effort, Conquest Warrior stalked in fourth for the first half-mile then moved quickly to second, then to lead, with an eight of a mile to run. He was effortless after that, drawing off to a five length margin under jockey Jose Ortiz, who rides back. Trained by Shug McGaughey, who teamed up with Ortiz to win the 2021 Holy Bull Stakes and Fountain of Youth Stakes with Greatest Honour before a third place finish in the Florida Derby that year, Conquest Warrior appeared to have the equivalent of a full tank of gas at the end of his last start which could enable him to post the mild upset in this field.

Hades might be the top pick in this year’s Florida Derby but I have slight concerns about his being off since winning the Holy Bull on February 3, whereas Conquest Warrior ran on March 1. Perhaps Hades is the kind of horse that doesn’t need to run about every four to six weeks to keep in top shape and he did win the Holy Bull after five weeks off, but in this case he is returning from eight weeks off. Otherwise, Hades has no knocks, as he’s a perfect three-for-three in his career, with 97 and 95 speed figures in his last two starts. Additionally, Hades breaks from the two post and has excellent tactical speed, with the horse inside of him in the gate (Frankie’s Empire) not likely to try for the lead. This allows jockey Paco Lopez, who has been in the saddle for all three wins aboard Hades, to get the horse on the lead and running easily from the start. In the Holy Bull, Hades led for the first half-mile, was a head behind after three-quarters of a mile had been run, then accelerated in the stretch to win by a couple of lengths. As such, Hades could be the horse to catch, and beat, in the Florida Derby.

Frankie’s Empire is a very interesting horse, not only because of his three race pattern of improving speed figures, from 89 to 94 to 99, but because the career-best 99 figure earned four weeks ago in the Fountain of Youth was his first two turn race of the year. Prior to that he had changed trainers and won the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream as he rallied from sixth of seven in the early stages. Although no match for Dornoch in the last quarter mile of the Fountain of Youth, Frankie’s Empire held Le Dom Bro safe the entire length of the stretch, demonstrating mental toughness. As a son of Classic Empire, whose son Angel of Empire won the 2023 Arkansas Derby at this distance, and as the 99 figure earned in the Fountain of Youth is a bit higher than the 95 figure Hades earned in the Holy Bull, Frankie’s Empire deserves consideration as a contender to win this race.

Le Dom Bro, Seminole Chief and Fierceness appear a cut below the top three in terms of probability to win but might be profitable if used on some exacta tickets. Le Dom Bro earned a career-best 99 figure in the Fountain of Youth but he ran evenly in the last quarter mile in that race so it appears he may prefer shorter distances. Just the same, he’s still improving and could get a piece. Seminole Chief earned a 96 figure in his allowance win last month but that was on the all-weather track and the figure was earned leading from the start, which he may not be able to do today with Hades breaking from a better inside post and wanting the early lead as well. On the other hand, Rosario gets on and can be a master are rating speed horses so Seminole Chief may be stalking Hades from the start and could stick around for a share at the end. Fierceness disappointed as the heavy favorite when checking in third in the Holy Bull with a 90 figure, nowhere near the 110 figure he earned winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, but he can improve.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Conquest Warrior should be considered for a win bet at odds of 3 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount than the bet on Conquest Warrior, Frankie’s Empire can be considered for a win bet at 4 to 1 or more.
Hades has the same minimum odds (fair odds) as Conquest Warrior, but it is likely he will be one of the favorites and may not make that threshold.

This is another excellent race were, if we are considering bets on more than one horse, in this case Conquest Warrior and Frankie’s Empire, a dutching tool to allocate our wagers based on the odds, might maximize our edge in the race. This should ensure a smaller amount is bet on Frankie’s Empire (as mentioned above) than on Conquest Warrior given the difference in their odds.

Frankie’s Empire, Hades, Le Dom Bro and Conquest Warrior over Frankie’s Empire, Hades, Le Dom Bro, Seminole Chief, Conquest Warrior and Fierceness

Conquest Warrior over Frankie’s Empire, Hades, Le Dom Bro, Seminole Chief and Fierceness

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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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