The featured event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday is a one-turn mile named after Florida's famous Hal's Hope, who won the Florida Derby in 2000. The race showcases a field of nine led by 2-1 favorite Jackson Bend. Here is the analysis:
#1 Jackson Bend- 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, his last win came in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga in September. However, he has yet to win in four tries at Gulfstream Park, running second in three of those. Trainer Nick Zito will have the riding services of John Velazquez for this 2012 debut try.
#2 Sky Venture- Ran in two Grade 3s at Calder in the fall of 2011. He ran fourth in both of those efforts. He is another that is winless in multiple races at Gulfstream, having gone 0 for 6. However, unlike Jackson Bend, his best result is a solitary third, which came in his last race in the Harlan's Holiday on December 17.
#3 Sangaree- Was overpowered in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 26, running last of six entrants. However, he did perform better in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler three weeks prior, finishing second after a touch of a wide trip.
#4 Successful Mission- While his recent form is strong with three wins in his last four races, it isn't all that recent. He has been away from the races since May. His last race was taken off the turf at Monmouth and resulted in a win with a Beyer of 108 in the Elkwood. The bulk of his other past performances have come on the turf.
#5 Decisive Moment- Scored a win in the ungraded Delta Mile last time out on November 19. It would appear he has a fondness for Delta Downs, since he also won the Jean Lafitte in January 2011. His recent workouts have been speedy. I would expect him to be part of the pace setup in this race and could very well go all the way up top.
#6 Our Dark Knight- Has not been a winner in almost a year. He spent 2011 facing the likes of Tackleberry, Tizway, Eldaafer, and Apart. This is second of the Nick Zito entries in this race. The recent workout tab at Palm Meadows has been just fine. Jersey Joe Bravo has the riding assignment.
#7 Soaring Empire- Sire is 2003 Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker. Has been off since winning the Majestic Light at the end of July. However, the workouts for this horse have been a string of successive bullets, including one on January 6, covering a half-mile in 47 seconds flat. Julien Leparoux will be in the irons here.
#8 Cool Blue Red Hot- Won an Optional Claiming race at Belmont Park in October and then took some time off. Couldn't contend with the likes of Caleb's Posse and Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga in August. While he has hit the board in seven of nine lifetime tries, I think he might be in over his head here.
#9 Will's Wildcat- Won the Jimmy V in the mud at Churchill Downs in November and then set the pace in the Grade 1 Clark under the Twin Spires before fading to eighth. His previous win before the Jimmy V was a one-turn mile at Churchill in June, so he does have experience with this kind of race setup.
TOP FOUR SELECTIONS: 7-5-4-1
Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!