Santa Ynez and Tropical Turf Stakes 2022 Preview and Picks PLUS Sunland Park, Turfway, and More

On Saturday, January 8, Gulfstream Park will feature the Grade III Tropical Turf Stakes that will welcome Largent back to the racetrack after nearly a year layoff. Gulfstream’s Saturday card features the biggest trainers and jockeys in the industry and I break down the stakes races as well as other stakes races taking place on Saturday on The Win Place Show podcast and YouTube channel, so check those out to get more in-depth analysis of the biggest races. Additionally, play along at StableDuel where you can enter Gulfstream contests for $60 ($15,000 pot) and a $100 Double Up game where you double your entry fee if you finish in the Top 40% of stables. Get in the action and have some fun! How? Download the StableDuel app and then pick 10 horses with your $50,000 fantasy budget. If your stable comes out on top, you’re a winner! In addition to picking the winners below, I’ll also include the “price” in the StableDuel contest.

Race 1

Post time: 12:00 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $12,500 Maiden Claiming

Age: 3-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Let’s kick off a big Saturday with a crowded maiden claiming race. It would appear to set up nicely for morning line favorite Flor de Plata (7-2) since she’ll get to the lead with Chantal Southerland aboard and the slight cutback in distance from her last race will help. Additionally, she’s getting class relief as she ran a $35,000 maiden claiming race last time out and finished a fading 5th. To her inside is Alarm Clock (9-2) who showed progression last time when she stepped down to this level and finished a close second to Adios Dixie. Getting off the synthetic appears to have agreed with this filly and the thought of her progressing again would not be surprising. The biggest thing she has going for her is her jockey, Luis Saez, who has been cleaning up early races at Gulfstream Park the entire meet. Perhaps some of that will change with the entry of Irad Ortiz Jr. but Saez has been nearly automatic early and will get a stalking trip on Alarm Clock. Angelic Storm (5-1) is a nice filly who turned in a solid performance last time out which was her second race from a layoff. She still faded a bit but saw significant improvement from the previous effort. Additionally, she’s getting a small class drop in this field compared to last time out. Sweetcandyfactory (6-1) is coming off a four-month layoff, which is always concerning but fired a fast three-furlong workout earlier this week and looks primed to return to action. Prior to the layoff, she showed significant improvement in her last effort when she switched surfaces to dirt and dropped to this level. The inside post position and her natural running style coming from well off the pace does not serve her well in this spot. Golden Bow (10-1) is a double-digit longshot to consider as he ran competitively behind Alarm Clock last time out and showed improvement after a poor first effort on the slop.

Win: Alarm Clock (StableDuel price $7,500)

Place: Angelic Storm (StableDuel price $6,000)

Show: Flor de Plata (StableDuel price $8,500)

Race 2

Post time: 12:29 PM ET

Distance: 5 furlongs

Type: $10,000 Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Synthetic (tapeta)

Overview: A smaller field on the tapeta without a lot of value from an odds perspective but this should still be a solid race. Earth (7-2) and Captain Ron (5-2) have both taken nicely to the synthetic surface at Gulfstream and turned in solid performances last time out. Captain Ron is dropping down a bit in class and has a trainer, Carlos David, who is winning 29% of races off the claim. Earth, on the other hand, dropped down to this level last time and won in addition to having a perfect stalking style that works perfectly on the surface. His jockey, Leonel Reyes, has impressed me thus far at Gulfstream and he’s winning 13% of his mounts despite rarely getting a favorite to ride. Trilogy (9-2) and Boru (4-1) are similar horses that feel like they’re not in a great spot in this race. Trilogy has never run on the synthetic and is coming off a three-month layoff with very limited official workouts. While Boru ran on the synthetic last time out and faded down the stretch. He’s cutting back in distance this time out, which should help but he’s been strictly a turf horse to this point. The horse that intrigues me a bit from a value perspective is Marcelino (5-1) who has been running at this level the last few races and seems to have taken to the tapeta nicely. He isn’t a strong bet to win but he’s consistent at hitting the board and has a stalking style.

Win: Earth (StableDuel price $7,500)

Place: Trilogy (StableDuel price $8,500)

Show: Marcelino (StableDuel price $6,000) 

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Race 3

Post time: 12:58 PM ET

Distance: 5 furlongs

Type: $60,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Synthetic (tapeta)

Overview: Another small tapeta field brings some uncertainty as morning line favorite, Comedic (5-2), is also entered in a race on Friday, so she may be scratch. If that’s the case, this is a very wide-open field. Comedic is a very nice filly who has never run on synthetic and would appear to be suited for the turf but is easily the class of this field and would probably win if she runs. Bali Baby (3-1) is another turf horse with an impressive maiden where she finished second by two lengths. Her workouts look crisp and she’s likely to take over as the favorite if Comedic scratches. Interestingly, she has Luis Saez aboard for her maiden effort but now has Irad Ortiz Jr. Saez, instead, will be running on Mouffy (4-1) who is making her debut and has a few very important things working in her favor. First, she’s got Saez and the outside post in a sprint. Second, she’s got a trainer, Jonathan Thomas, who is winning 29% of his first starts and an astonishing 35% of his starts on synthetic. I like those numbers a lot. Plus, Mouffy has a dynamite bullet gate workout this week and should flash speed. Awesome Lady (8-1) is a horse to consider playing on the backend of exotics as she’s worked out on the tapeta, the only horse in the race to do so, and posted nice workout figures. La Casa d’Oro (7-2) has very strong connections and is the horse with perhaps the strong synthetic pedigree. Additionally, Christophe Clement doesn’t enter many horses at Gulfstream Park, but when he does, he wins 35% of the time this meet. I’m going to assume Comedic is a scratch and play this without her.

Win: Mouffy (StableDuel price $7,000)

Place: Bali Baby (StableDuel price $8,000)

Show: Awesome Lady (StableDuel price $3,000)

Race 4

Post time: 1:27 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $60,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: In this maiden special weight, eight of the nine entrants are making their debuts, so this race requires a lot of examination of pedigree, workouts, trainer stats, and jockeying. Iron Works (4-1) carries the highest price tag of the group having been purchased for over half a million dollars. He’s got Luis Saez aboard and is trained by Todd Pletcher who are teaming up to win 32% of their races this meet at Gulfstream Park. That said, the workouts haven’t blown me out of the water to this point and I’m not sure he’s got the tactical speed to take advantage of the outside post position, though Saez will do his best. Particular (9-2) is a nice Saffie Joseph Jr. maiden that’s flashed nice speed from the gate in workouts and may be the one who pounces on the early lead. To his inside is Awesome Aaron (7-2) who represents the morning line favorite and is a Chad Brown runner who gets Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. Awesome Aaron has also shown solid speed in his workouts and has slightly better dirt sprint pedigree than Particular, but pedigree can only take you so far. That said, Master of Arms (5-1) has the best dirt sprint pedigree in the race and has had consistently strong gate workouts the last few weeks. He provides a little value and the best competition to the trio of outside favorites. Meanwhile, there is Mitico (6-1) who is the only horse to have run to this point and he turned in a solid third-place performance in his debut. However, that was four months ago, and he’s had a vet scratch since then. He’s been working out more regularly in recent weeks and showed solid speed with a 35 second 3-furlong workout on Wednesday. That said, this feels like a tough spot for him going against horses with a lot of class and expectations.

Win: Particular (StableDuel price $6,500)

Place: Awesome Aaron (StableDuel price $7,500)

Show: Master of Arms (StableDuel price $6,000)

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Race 5

Post time: 1:57 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $75,000 Allowance

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: After a lot of races where I felt like the morning line favorites might be vulnerable, this one feels like a potential blowout by Dean’s List (1-1) who is the Todd Pletcher horse that romped to an impressive 5+ length victory and 83 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut. No other horse in the field is within 12 points of that figure and this Winstar colt might be able to show off that impressive speed again when drawing away from the field. What I like about Dean’s List here is that he’s stepping up in class after easily breaking his maiden, but Pletcher is keeping him at the same distance. In general, I’m a fan of moving up in class or distance, but rarely at the same time. There are some other nice horses in the field, led by Dean Delivers (7-2) who also cruised to a maiden victory and then barely missed out by a neck at a $100,000 stakes race. However, that was six months ago, and he’s not run since. The workouts look great, and Tyler Gaffalione will give him a good ride, but I’m worried about some regression in this spot. In Due Time (5-1) is another horse coming off a six-month layoff who posted a nice maiden victory in his debut at Monmouth. However, it was a frontrunning effort on a muddy surface. Now, he might get the muddy surface on Saturday as the forecast calls for rain but he won’t get the lead as he doesn’t have the speed to clear Dean’s List. Shastree (6-1) took a step backwards last time out when stepping up in class but ran the second fastest speed figure in the field behind Dean’s List in his maiden. His recent workouts look solid and he’s the only horse in the field who has run behind a pace like what Dean’s List put up in his maiden effort, so he’s not going to get cooked by the speed. Spuntacular (8-1) is traditionally known for being the early speed but much like In Due Time, I have my doubts about his ability to hold Dean’s List at bay early. I questioned Dean’s List in his maiden and regretted that decision. I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.

Win: Dean’s List (StableDuel price $10,000)

Place: Shastree (StableDuel price $5,000)

Show: In Due Time (StableDuel price $6,000)

Race 6

Post time: 2:35 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 mile

Type: $35,000 Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: The first turf race on the card features a solid morning line favorite, Tackle (5-2). However, before we get to the horses, I mentioned earlier there is a significant chance of heavy rain on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. If the races get taken off the turf, then they are not run on dirt, but rather the taptea. Keep that in mind when handicapping at home on Saturday. Getting back to the race, Tackle is a solid favorite here since he’s shown the ability to win at this distance and has posted the best speed figures in the field. However, if there is a reason to be concerned, he’s come up just short twice in three races since breaking his maiden, which is always concerning. He’s a deep closer and needs some pace, which he may get from Propensity (9-2), Caribbean Gold (6-1), or Rally Squirrel (4-1), however, none of those horses are natural frontrunners but tend to be forwardly placed behind a hot pace. Rally Squirrel wired the field in his maiden effort but faded severely at the same distance last time out at Aqueduct against Tackle and others. The same thing happened to Propensity in that same race. Caribbean Gold has shown more ability to maintain his position around the track no matter the pace and might have the ability to stick around and get a piece of the board. The other deep closers to keep an eye on are Maker of an Empire (6-1) and Holy Emperor (5-1) both of whom are running their second races after a layoff. Holy Emperor is more experienced but hasn’t hit the board since breaking his maiden while Maker of an Empire got a 9-month layoff after his maiden victory. He came back strong last month at Gulfstream and while he finished 6th, he was in good position until late and had a fresh 3-furlong workout earlier this week.

Win: Tackle (StableDuel price $8,500)

Place: Caribbean Gold (StableDuel price $5,000)

Show: Maker of an Empire (StableDuel price $5,000)

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Race 7

Post time: 3:05 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $60,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Another nice maiden race before the Tropical Turf Stakes. We have another strong Pletcher contender with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard in Calipari (3-1) who is the morning line favorite. The horse’s workouts look very strong and another number for Todd Pletcher that I didn’t mention earlier is that he’s winning a befuddling 47% of races he’s entered at Gulfstream this meet. Calipari has a tremendous pedigree and is bred and owned by Winstar Farms. Charge It (4-1) is another Todd Pletcher horse making his debut and his workouts have largely mirrored those of Calipari. It’s hard to differentiate between these two and in a race with other nice horses, it’s hard imagining both of them will run up to expectations. Of the horses that have already run, Touch Code (7-2) is the class having run second at a comparable maiden special weight last time out at the same distance. He did lose ground late, but every other horse who ran previously did the same, including Logico (10-1) who finished 5 lengths behind Touch Code in that maiden race. Two longshots to consider here are Ten Extra (20-1) and Bernie Lomax (12-1). The two of them ran in the same $120,000 maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs in late November on what was a miserable cold, rainy day. Track conditions were sloppy and while it was only a six-furlong race, both have routing pedigrees, particularly Bernie Lomax who is sired by Bernardini. The other horse to consider is Volcanic (5-1) who is coming back after a four-month layoff since running at the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga. He’s still trying to break his maiden but came close a couple of times at Saratoga and Churchill Downs. The layoff is mildly concerning but he’s also stretching out another furlong coming off the layoff. He did show the ability to make up ground at six furlongs but was outclassed at The Hopeful. Obviously, this is not as strong of a field and he’s getting blinkers, so he’ll be more forwardly placed. The workouts look good, and the outside post position should work to his advantage. All that said, it’s hard to bet on horses that are unknowns, but Pletcher has been rolling out several impressive first-time starters at this meet and having a lot of success. This was the toughest race to handicap on the card and could go a few different ways, but I think experience will end up outdoing potential.

Win: Charge It (StableDuel price $7,000)

Place: Calipari (StableDuel price $8,000)

Show: Bernie Lomax (StableDuel price $750)

Race 8

Post time: 3:37 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: Tropical Turf Stakes – Grade III

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: An exciting stakes race with two heavy favorites in Value Proposition (8-5) and Largent (9-5). It also pairs two great trainer-jockey combinations against each other at Value Proposition is trained by Chad Brown and jockeyed by Irad Ortiz Jr. while Largent, who is coming off a one-year layoff is trained by Todd Pletcher and jockeyed by red-hot Luis Saez. Despite the long layoff, I really like Largent in this spot. Value Proposition is a solid horse but also hasn’t gotten to the winner’s circle in a graded stakes race yet and his last few efforts leave something to be desired. Stretching back out to a mile will be helpful but this feels like a nice landing spot for Largent to make his return to the track. The last time we saw Largent, he was just getting edged out by Colonial Liam at the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and prior to that he won the Grade II Ft. Lauderdale Stakes. He likes this turf course and outside of Value Proposition this is a softer field. He should get an ideal trip behind the early speed of Clear Vision (6-1) and Call Curt (20-1) who will set the pace. Additionally, Largent is accustomed to running well over a mile, so the fact Pletcher has him only running a mile feels like a smart move to ensure Largent won’t get taxed late in the race. Speaking of the early speed, Clear Vision offers nice value as a horse that has completely changed his riding style the last three efforts and now goes to the lead. The change coincides with a trainer change, and he’s shown better results winning two lower-level races and then finishing a close second in a non-graded stakes race. If he doesn’t get caught up in a speed duel with Call Curt, I think he has a good chance of hitting the board. Belgrano (15-1) is a decent long shot play to hit the board. Yes, his last few performances aren’t great but he’s 7-10 hitting the board at a mile and while he’s regressed a bit since coming down to Gulfstream Park, I think he could get a nice trip sitting behind Largent and making a move late. Phat Man (5-1) is coming off a short layoff and is a purely dirt horse who has worked out on turf recently and worked out nicely. It’s possible this is the change he needs and his trainer, JK Sweezey, wins 14% of races when making the surface transition. Still, he feels like a dangerous play at this price and likely won’t be a factor unless the race is moved to the synthetic surface. The race really comes down to whether you think Largent, off a year’s rest, is better than an active Value Proposition. I do, so that’s the way I’ll play it.

Win: Largent (StableDuel cost $9,200)

Place: Clear Vision (StableDuel cost $5,000)

Show: Value Proposition (StableDuel cost $9,400)

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Race 9

Post time: 4:11 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $12,500 Allowance Optional Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: This is a salty race for a $12,500 optional claiming race with several horses coming off strong recent performances. Morning line favorite Twice too Many (9-5) is coming off back-to-back best performances as he finally broke his maiden after eight tries and then followed it up with a near victory in a similar level optional claiming race that saw him post a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, which is the class of the field. The question here is whether that’s sustainable given that prior to his last two performances he had never posted anything higher than a 74. His jockey, Paco Lopez, will be aggressive in getting him positioned and the outside post position will help but one can’t help but think there may be some regression after two career efforts, but the workouts look blazing. Meanwhile, Raise the Rent (3-1) is also coming off a career-best performance in a claiming race just two weeks ago. The quick turnaround is curious since he’s not had an official workout since, and he’s never run on such short rest before. The horse I think that can add some value is Doo Wop Don (6-1) who ran big last time out in a claiming race where his biggest competition scratched the morning of the race. Still, he turned in a professional effort and dispatched the field by 8+ lengths. He’s coming off three weeks rest but has run off similar layoffs before. Ampersand (8-1) is another nice value play who will be sitting a little further back as the three favorites since he’s run at this level before and had decent success hitting the board. He’s going to have to hope the leaders push too aggressive of a pace and collapse coming down the stretch but if that happens, he’ll be well-positioned to capitalize. A longshot to consider is Handsome Prince (20-1) as he’s run against better recently and while he’s not a win candidate he does tend to hit the board at this distance.

Win: Twice too Many (StableDuel price $9,200)

Place: Doo Wop Don (StableDuel price $5,000)

Show: Handsome Prince (StableDuel price $250)

Race 10

Post time: 4:42 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs 

Type: $25,000 Optional Claiming

Age: 4-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Three of the five favorites raced against each other a month ago and saw We Miss Susie (4-1) come out on top convincingly with Wild America (5-1) and My Destiny (6-1) finishing a nose apart three lengths back. However, two new horses enter the fray including morning line favorite Psychic Ability (7-2) who is dropping down in class after running solid allowance and stakes races. However, he’s also coming off a seven-month layoff but his new trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr. has a surprising 21%-win rate when training horses coming off an extended break. Another horse among the favorites, Sprout Wings (9-2), is also coming off a three-month layoff but has a lot of other positives to note. Prior to the layoff she was showing increasing speed figures and had won three consecutive races at different levels. Distance should be ideal, and her workouts are solid, if spread apart. Wild America came in second last time out but that was also coming off a brief layoff and should improve and has Luis Saez aboard again, which is always a good sign. The thing working against Wild America, who likes to get to the lead, is that World Gone Wild (8-1) is to her outside and may press the pace, which would open things up nicely for the favorites. The fact there is not a short price in the field shows how even it is in the eyes of the oddsmakers. I’m concerned about Psychic Ability’s layoff, and I think Wild America will get sucked into a speed duel because World Gone Wild has Paco Lopez aboard who will push the pace. The good news is there are plenty of other strong contenders in this field who can pick up the pieces.

Win: Sprout Wings (StableDuel price $6,500)

Place: We Miss Susie (StableDuel price $7,000)

Show: My Destiny (StableDuel price $5,000)

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Race 11

Post time: 5:14 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $43,000 Maiden Optional Claiming

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Turf

Overview: Finish up the day with some horses hoping to break their maidens now that they are three-year-old. Several are taking class drops, including morning line favorite Gooch Go Bragh (7-2) who started his career on turf and ran in a Grade III race at Saratoga this summer but has since faltered running on dirt and synthetic. Returning to grass will be a big help, as well the class drop, but the horse was not a world beater on turf and is vulnerable given the caliber of the rest of the field. Globes (9-2) is a horse that has had a similar trajectory at Gooch Go Bragh in that he started off turf and then ran, without success, on dirt and synthetic. He’s returning to his best surface and has strong pedigree. Charming Charlie (4-1) is a horse that woke up a bit when he finally got to run on the turf last time out at Aqueduct but didn’t take advantage of good positioning and faded down the stretch. This race is a ½ furlong shorter so perhaps that will make a difference and it’s hard to bet against Christophe Clement’s barn on turf. The two first-time runners who catch my eye are Sensual Chocolate (8-1) and Ableton (12-1). Sensual Chocolate has been running blistering workouts for Saffie Joseph Jr. but they’ve all been on dirt and his pedigree doesn’t scream turf so I’m not positive this will end up being his best distance, but he’s got speed. Meanwhile, Ableton has been working out on turf and has a tremendous turf pedigree, particularly underneath. This field has a lot of question marks and horses that have not quite panned out as expected so I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those two runs big. From a pace perspective, Space Runner (10-1) will serve as the rabbit but given he’s stretching out three additional furlongs over his previous longest effort, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be around at the end.

Win: Charming Charlie (StableDuel price $7,000)

Place: Sensual Chocolate (StableDuel price $3,000)

Show: Globes (StableDuel price $6,500)

Get all of Matthew’s horse racing coverage by following him on Twitter at @failedtomenace, by subscribing to Amalfi Media’s YouTube channel, and following The Win Place Show podcast.

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