Sunshine Stakes Day hits the Atlantic coast Saturday at Gulfstream Park with a series of Florida-bred stakes races. Among the 4 features are the Classic, Sprint, Filly & Mare Turf and the Turf. The latter may be the best betting race of the quartet, and goes as Race 11 of 12 on the card. First post time Saturday will be earlier than usual at 11:45 am ET.
This group of 9 matches up very similar on class with several listed stakes winners and common opponents across Florida's stakes scene. There's no discernible class edge among the likes of VENEZUELAN HUG, GALLEON MAST and MONFORTE. PROVEN STRATEGIES joins the local state-bred stakes scene after competing in open company in New York and Toronto.
PROVEN STRATEGIES has fired to the front in 5 of his last 6 starts and from post 2 probably will be hustled along again. MONFORTE next door is always in the pace mix, as is MAX K.O. This should be a solid early pace with late runners having no excuses to fire if they get a clean trip.
VENEZUELAN HUG won the Sunshine Turf Preview at Gulfstream Park West and won his only 2 starts over this course in 2020 at Gulfstream Park proper. That Preview victory was his first attempt against older horses, and the now 4-year-old looks poised to be a long-standing member in this state-bred turf division. He was getting a 3-pound break in the Preview from photo-finish runner-up SECOND MATE. He'll now tote co-top weight of 122 pounds and give 4 to his past rival. That's a 7-pound weight shift and we're only talking about a head difference in margin Nov. 21. You could make the case that the value play was VENEZUELAN HUG at 7-2 last time, and now SECOND MATE offers more value. Note SECOND MATE finished a decent fifth in the Sunshine Turf last year against an arguably tougher field that included winner March to the Arch. SECOND MATE is working well for this.
The top returnee from last year's Sunshine Turf is third-place finisher GALLEON MAST. Like SECOND MATE, he's now 8 years old and both are just 1-for-their-last-10 while posting several solid losing efforts. But GALLEON MAST never got uncorked in the Sunshine Turf Preview across town and his workout tab gives no indication of a big wake-up.
PROVEN STRATEGIES recently turned 4 and has yet to take on elder stakes runners. I like the way Mark Casse's barn perked up with 3 winners last week after needing the first month of the Championship Meet to tally his first 3 scores. PROVEN STRATEGIES has done all his best running on the front, and it should be contentious with MONFORTE latched to him from the outside. MONFORTE was the beaten favorite in the Sunshine Turf Preview when battling on the front end and tiring to seventh. He'll get a new pilot in John Velazquez, which never hurts, but he's got to prove himself against this pace pressure and older stakes horses. The price likely will be an underlay on the rider change and 8 straight starts being bet to 3-1 or less.
OVER THE CHANNEL has won 2 of his last 4 and has done his best running on the GP turf. David Fawkes removes blinkers after a wide trip in the Claiming Crown Emerald.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: VENEZUELAN HUG has won 4 of 6 since moving to trainer Danny Gargan's barn, and that outfit has been sharply on point with limited starters at the Championship Meet.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: SECOND MATE will offer another solid price, and MAX K.O. doesn't have a great pace set-up for his front-end style, but he's a recent $50K claim for a Mike Maker barn that's made a career out of high-dollar claims turned turf stakes winners.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $50 win and place SECOND MATE.
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