Still haven't quite gotten over my visit to Gulfstream in November, and how it sucked much more than I could even imagine. God damn it, Frank. What the hell were you thinking? Fuck.
Somewhere, I must have some photos of the way it was. Which was just about perfect. I used to fly into Ft Lauderdale in the morning and head straight to the track, and man, what a feeling when walking in, through the clubhouse backyard entrance, for the first time each year. I literally kissed the ground on more than one occasion. (OK, more like I blew it a kiss, but still.) The backyard was expansive and always lively; and one thing I particularly recall was the way it emptied out during a race, as people went up front or to a TV to watch. Imagine the backyard at Saratoga, except that people actually go to watch the races. What an odd scene that would be.
I was told after this recent depressing visit that I missed out on a Tiki Bar area at the eighth pole (which I'm not even sure was open when I was there before the "official" start of the meet) and it sounds pleasant enough, but I'll never be back there to see it for sure. In fact, I was so disgusted that I entertained the idea of boycotting the track for the rest of my life, and not writing about it either.
Well, that didn't last too long. It's the best winter racing, hands down in my opinion, as east-coast biased as it may be. (Other than the fact that Frank screwed up the track itself as well, with the start for route races being far to close to the first turn.)
Two more winners for Pletcher on Wednesday, giving him 24 from 84 starters (29%). Interestingly enough, both horses were making their first starts since running at Churchill in May, and their first for the Toddster, as both had previously been conditioned by Dale Romans, for breeder/owner Siena Farms. In the 5th, Alaura Michele ($10.60) had lost her last seven races, for Romans and Bill Mott; and got her first win since taking an overnight stakes at Saratoga in 2012. 8th race winner Private Ensign ($5.20) was winning her third race over this track from four tries; and yes, the third dam of this four-year old daughter of AP Indy, out of a Horse Chestnut mare, is the inimitable Personal Ensign.
Another barn which is sharp at Gulfstream is that of Christophe Clement. He was a close third to Pletcher's first winner with Long Face (which is what those who bet him have had after the race the last ten times he's run); and a second with first-timer Henry's Song in the 7th. This barn is now 6-1-2 with its last 14 starters going back to New Year's Day.
Chad Brown has gotten off to a "slow" start, hitting "only" at 20% with six winners from 30 starts. In the 9th, his Ack Rider ($4.80) won easily off a drop in class, and I wrote on Today in Racing before the race how the TimeformUS pace figures helped to point him out.
Pletcher had two debut winners over the weekend, and in the 5th on Thursday, he has a couple of high-priced three-year olds making their career debuts. Hartford (5-2), a 700K purchase as a yearling at Keeneland, is by Tapit out of an Editor's Note mare, and he's a full-brother to the Grade 1 winner Dance Card. Againsome (5-1), a 400K yearling purchase at the same sale, is by Awesome Again out of an AP Indy mare who's a full sister to none other than Pulpit. Looks like the two worked heads up at Palm Meadows on Sunday, with Againsome getting the nod by a tick. That one has a long, long workout tab going back to May, though with a long hiccup from August to November.
Still, he certainly seems ready for the races, and if Hartford gets overbet with Castellano aboard, one could do far worse than have Againsome if he's around that morning line.
In the 10th, Win Exchange (5-1) returned in December from a layoff of 608 days, and has shown some high speed in his two return efforts, earning TimeformUS early pace figures that compare quite favorably to the others in here. He lasted for second at this mile distance in his last, beaten out by a Chad Brown 9-5 favorite. Hails from a low percentage barn, but figures to be tough to run down if he gets his way up front. To Dare is to Do (6-1) missed the place spot that day by a nose to Win Exchange, and trainer Scott Volk has a TFUS trainer rating of 90 (out of 100) for maiden claiming races that exceeds his general performance. This horse's best efforts have generally been preceded by a workout a week before the race though, and the lack of one here is of some concern. Best of luck and have a great day.