Thursday at Gulfstream features some personal favorites, including in race 7 the return after nearly 10 months of Twilight Meteor who is out of the same Smart Strike crop as Curlin. Nicely bred (his dam One Over Prime is a half-sister to G1 Gamely victress Citronnade, as well as Canadian champion filly Primaly), his best success has been on grass, including the 2007 Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream. It may be a big ask for him here, especially with others enjoying strong current form. Most tantalizing at long odds is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Furthest Land (another Smart Strike) who, since being claimed and stretched out has looked very strong—excellent 4f bullet work most recently, and I always love Julien Leparoux on Gulfstream’s turf. I’m also taking a hard look at El Sultry Sun who gains Alan Garcia and should improve in second effort off long layoff. In addition to Twilight Meteor, Bill Mott-trained Equitable (last seen finishing well-back in the G1 Sword Dancer) and Rick Dutrow-trained Adagio (who has never quite lived up to his G3 Craven Stakes victory in England) both return here after lengthy breaks.
In race 8—a 6f allowance—Xtra Heat’s first daughter Elusive Heat will undoubtedly go off as the overwhelming favorite, as no one in the field comes close to her speed figures. I for one will skip betting her, as she’s likely to go off at around 1-5, if not shorter. Interestingly, Alan Garcia replaces Edgar Prado, but Garcia is McLaughlin’s regular jock so maybe not so telling. The real question to be asked, however, is why is she in here and not the G2 Forward Gal on Friday, which features both Gemswick Park and Frolic’s Dream, the duo that flanked her at the line in the G3 Old Hat last out? The only thing I can think of is McLaughlin doesn’t want to try her at 7f for now—and she should get an easy win.
Another famous sibling runs in race 9—turfster Kristi With a K, half-sister to G1 winner Bit of Whimsy. With Edgar Prado up again, she should enjoy stretching out the additional furlong, and improve second out. The other one entered that has long been in my Virtual Stable is 4-year-old Venetian Causeway who comes in off a nearly four month layoff for Shug McGaughey. It took five races before she broke her maiden at Belmont last September, but she was never far back. Talk about a horse bred for turf—by Giant’s Causeway (‘nuff said), her dam Alleged World is out of Miss Alleged, a multiple-G1 turf victress over males including the 1991 BC Turf over Sky Classic. Not many works coming in, so a win would surprise—but she could be a nice stakes filly this year.