Key Races & Bets for Saturday March 9th, 2024

Florida Oaks – Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs -Post Time 4:45 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Style Points, Dynamic Pricing
Other contenders: Pharoah’s Wine

Style Points is on a strong pattern for improvement off a neck defeat in the similar Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month, at this distance on turf. She had broken her maiden on 12/24/23 in her second career start, at this distance on turf, improving to a 93 Equibase Speed Figure in the Sweetest Chant which is tied for the best 2024 figure in the field with Dynamic Pricing, who finished another neck behind in third. Dynamic Pricing is making her third career start and second following the return from three months off in the Sweetest Chant so is likely to improve, but Style Points gets slight preference because in the race she stalked in third, moved up to lead late in the race, before being beaten right near the wire, while Dynamic Pricing was rallying from seventh. In this race Poolside With Slim and A Primera Vista both draw inside and led from start to finish in their most recent races, as did Destiny Star, so that puts Style Points in a great early position third or fourth before rallying and before Dynamic Pricing gets her late rally going.

Pharoah’s Wine may go to post at decent odds because she finished sixth in the Sweetest Chant. She was decently regarded at 4 to 1 odds, lower than either Style Points or Dynamic Pricing, but lost position at the start when she threw her head and was last of eight for most of the race, eventually closing for sixth. Last October, Pharoah’s Wine was four lengths back in the early stages of the Grade 2 Jessamine Stakes and finished well for second, so with a better start and early position it is possibly she could be rallying from the back along with Dynamic Pricing.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should consider a win bet on Style Points at odds of 5 to 2 or more.
Minimum odds for a win bet on Dynamic Pricing are 3 to 1. Pharoah’s Wine can be considered for a win bet at 4 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.

Style Points, Dynamic Pricing over Style Points, Dynamic Pricing, Pharoah’s Wine
Box Style Points, Dynamic Pricing, Pharoah’s Wine

Double (three plays):
Race 10: Style Points, Dynamic Pricing, Pharoah’s Wine
Race 11: Heartened, Domestic Product, No More Time, Sturdy

Race 10: Style Points, Dynamic Pricing, Pharoah’s Wine
Race 11: Heartened

Race 10: Style Points
Race 11: Heartened, Domestic Product, No More Time, Sturdy

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Tampa Bay Derby – Race 11 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post Time 5:18 PM Eastern

Win contenders: Heartened, No More Time, Domestic Product
Other contenders: Sturdy

Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Tampa Bay Derby five times in the past 11 years, and if I’m correct Heartened is the most likely winner, it will be six of 12 at about 5:20 pm on Saturday March 9. Heartened started his 2024 campaign on turf in January, rallying from 10th of 12 to get third at the end. Shipped to Tampa for a race four weeks ago, and moved to dirt, ostensibly for Pletcher to determine how the colt liked this track and its dirt course, Heartened won impressively by four and one-half lengths at the end. The most impressive thing about that effort wasn’t the margin of victory but was the way Heartened ran in the race. Heartened broke in fourth position then moved up to engage with the leader about the time a quarter mile had been run. Still battling head-and-head for the lead for another quarter mile or so, Heartened extended his stride to be in front by two lengths with one-eighth of a mile to run then widened further. Having improved to a career best 94 Equibase Speed Figure, we can compare that effort to the one put forth a couple hours later by No More Time winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes. That effort earned the same 94 figure. Jose Ortiz rode Heartened to victory last month and rides back, and the colt gets the ground saving rail so Ortiz can once again ask the colt for a burst of speed as needed. As such, Heartened appears to be a strong contender to win this year’s Tampa Bay Derby.

No More Time stretched out to a mile (around one turn) last October in his second career start and won by nearly seven lengths, earning a decent 87 Figure for a two year old. After being given more than two months off to mature physically and mentally, No More Time lost his composure in the post parade for the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on New Year’s Day, then hopped in the air at the start, mis-expended energy to move up to third, then tired. Shipped to Tampa for the Sam F. Davis Stakes four weeks ago, No More Time was much more composed and easily made the lead in a field of 10, battling for that lead through the first six furlongs, then drawing off by two lengths and holding the runner-up at bay. Improving to a 94 figure in that race, No More Time should take another step forward in his third start off the layoff. Although leading from start to finish in the Sam F. Davis, No More Time rallied from off the pace for his maiden win last fall so no matter the pace scenario this improving three year old has every right to win his second stakes race in a row.

Domestic Product showed a lot of talent in his second lifetime start last October when running a mile and one-eighth and winning by the same four and one-half length margin as Heartened did last month, earning a similar 88 figure to the one Heartened received in his first victory around the same time. Next, Domestic Product ran poorly in the Remsen Stakes last December as he faded to seventh after running in fourth from the start and through the mile mark. Given a couple of months off to grow up physically and mentally, Domestic Product rallied from fifth to run second in the Holy Bull Stakes on February 3 at the distance of the Tampa Bay Derby. Although behind winner Hades by two lengths during the entire stretch run, Domestic Product finished in front of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Fierceness and earned a 92 figure. Making his second start as a three year old, Domestic Product can be expected to take a step forward off that last effort and rounds out a trio which appears to stand out against the rest in this field.

Honorable mention goes to Sturdy, who has yet to win in two starts. Three year olds early in the year sometimes do earn their first wins in stakes races, such as Lemon Muffin two weeks ago in the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn. Sturdy finished second last fall to Domestic Product in a nine furlong race, then returned for his three year old campaign two weeks ago and finished third with an 81 figure. He was beaten just a half-length for the win in that race and should take a nice step forward in his second start as a three year old, giving him a shot at an in-the-money finish at the least.

Handicapper Picks

Win: We should look closely at the odds with about 10 minutes to post or less and at that point I would consider win bets on (either or both) Heartened and No More Time at 5 to 2 or higher.

I might also consider a win bet on Sturdy at 5 to 1 or more.

Domestic Product has minimum odds of 3 to 1 but considering Chad Brown trains I believe he will be lower odds than that and in which case we can make money if he wins using him on exacta tickets, as well as double tickets from the previous race.

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 Heartened, Domestic Product, No More Time
Heartened, Domestic Product, No More Time over Heartened, Domestic Product, No More Time, Sturdy

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Silks Run Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:06 PM Eastern

Top Win contender: Kanthari, Big Invasion
Other contenders: Panther Island, Coppola

Kanthari is a lightly raced five year old, having started five times and winning three of those. ALL five starts have come in similar short sprints like this five furlong race, and all three wins have come at Gulfstream. The most recent came on January 5 when, following seven months off, Kanthari won a classified allowance race under Paco Lopez, who rides today, running fast from start to finish and giving no other horse a chance. That effort earned a sparkling 107 Equibase Speed Figure, which is the same as Big Invasion earned when beaten a neck for the win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last fall. Rested two months, Kanthari is very capable of repeating that effort and none of the horses in this field possess the kind of early speed he has so there is every indication that effort is repeatable, and good enough to win today.

Big Invasion is a top turf sprint start, having won eight of 15 turf races, all sprints, and like Kanthari three of those have been at Gulfstream. One was the 2023 Silks Run, where he rallied from sixth of nine early as the 7 to 5 favorite, and he is likely to be the favorite today. This is because his last three races of 2023 were all top efforts, including a win in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes before nearly winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. In his last two races of 2023, Big Invasion earned 110 and 107 figures which are good enough to win if Kanthari doesn’t run as he did in January. On the other hand, when winning this race last year off a layoff just like he’s coming back from this year, Big Invasion earned a 97 figure which is inferior to how fast he’d need to run today to win, so it could be he’s a much poorer win bet than Kanthari and a couple of others.

Panther Island won the similar Janus Stakes at this distance over this course in December with a very strong 114 figure, then nearly won the similar Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint four weeks ago, moving up from third to lead late then beaten a half-length at the end with a 101 figure. Coppola won that race, rallying from sixth after getting a jockey change to Zayas for the first time. Although fourth in the Janus and behind Panther Island prior to that, Coppola had earned a 110 figure so he too cannot be counted out as a contender in this race.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Kanthari and Big Invasion should absolutely be considered for win bets at odds of 5 to 2 or more. As mentioned previously, I do not expect Big Invasion t make that threshold so we can bet exacta and double tickets to earn a profit if he should win.

Panther Island and Coppola can be considered for win bets at 4 to 1 or more.

Kanthari over Panther Island, Big Invasion, Coppola
Kanthari and Big Invasion over Kanthari, Panther Island, Big Invasion, Coppola

Doubles (two plays):
Race 9: Kanthari, Panther Island, Big Invasion, Coppola
Race 10: Red Carpet Ready

Race 9: Kanthari
Race 10: Red Carpet Ready, Spirit Wind, Olivia Darling, Lady Radler

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Hurricane Bertie Stakes – Race 10 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:36 PM Eastern

Top Win contender: Red Carpet Ready
Other contenders: Lady Radler, Spirit Wind, Olivia Darling

Red Carpet Ready has won four of six races, but one of those can be discounted as it was her effort last July when seventh that led to the eight month layoff she’s returning from today. She’s been working steadily for her return and won in her debut as well as the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes 13 months ago here at Gulfstream. She also won the Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes on Kentucky Oaks day last May, following two months off. Saez was up for her last two wins and rides today, and the 99 Equibase Speed Figure which Red Carpet Ready earned in the Eight Bells is the best figure earned by any horse in this field, ever, and is likely to be improved upon now that she’s a more mature four year old. This makes her the one to beat as she’s a perfect four for four at distances under a mile like this one.

Lady Radler proved she belongs in the female sprint division when taking the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes last September, with a 95 figure. She had run a bit faster in the Goldfinch Stakes in May with a 98 figure, but had also thrown in two poorer efforts in 2023. After being off for nearly four months, Lady Radler returned in the Minaret Stakes at Tampa and tired in the stretch after leading from the start and for the first five furlongs. She’s going to be more physically fit today, and isn’t necessarily a need-the-lead types as she won the Dogwood from off the pace. Coming off that seemingly poor effort, Lady Radler may be ignored by the betting public and noting her Dogwood win came at odds of 23 to 1 I feel she deserves some consideration as a contender.

Spirit Wind has only finished worse than second one time in eight races, winning five of the other seven. She absolutely LOVES Gulfstream where all five wins have come, including the Grade 2 Princess Rooney in July of 2022 and the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl last December. She has won the last FOUR times she’s come back from layoffs as she’s doing here and the 98 figure earned in the Sugar Swirl could make her very competitive again if repeated.

Olivia Darling was beaten by a pair of necks by Spirit Wind in the Sugar Swirl then flattered that one when winning the Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes on January 27. Making her third start after being off for almost three months, Olivia Darling can improve off the 96 and 98 figure efforts in those two races. However, it could be notable that Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode Olivia Darling in those two recent starts, is at Tampa Bay Downs today and David Egan is riding. Although an accomplished jockey, Egan is just 5 for 61 (8%) at the Gulfstream Park meeting and has never ridden the mare previously.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Red Carpet Ready should be considered for a win bet at 9 to 5 or more. Hopefully we are live to the double from race 9 as well so if her odds are lower we will be able to make our profit from her winning that way.

Lady Radler and Spirit Wind can be considered for win bets at 7 to 2 or higher. Olivia Darling can be considered for a win bet at 4 to 1 or more.

Red Carpet Ready over Lady Radler, Spirit Wind, Olivia Darling
Red Carpet Ready and Lady Radler over Red Carpet Ready, Lady Radler, Spirit Wind, Olivia Darling

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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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