Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida will be hosting their annual Sunshine Festival with a full slate of stakes races this weekend, all culminating with the Pegasus World Cup the following weekend. The Sunshine Millions Classic is for Florida bred 4yr olds and up, run around 2 turns for a mile and an eighth over the dirt course. This year’s version will feature a 6 horse field, including 4 geldings, that will battle for their share of the $200,000 purse.
Gulfstream does not card many 1-1/8th mile races so recent track bias stats don’t have enough datapoints to be relevant, but there have been 27 1-1/16th dirt races and 27% have been won wire to wire with most winners coming from on or near the lead. This is consistent with the historical Gulfstream inside and up close bias (even the great California Chrome was unable to overcome that bias in his swan song run in 2017’s Pegasus where he finished up the track).
The pace of the race looks to come from the outside. The #5, Richard the Great, and 6-5 morning line favorite #6, Mr. Jordan, have posted the best early speed figures and should ensure an honest pace. They will be followed by the #3, Flemish Cap and the #4, Jay’s Way who both would prefer to be on the lead, but neither of which has posted early speed figures to compete with the top 2. If either of these tries to gun for the lead, we may get a speed duel on our hands and neither should have enough to be there in the lane.
This puts us in the precarious predicament where we may have to play against the bias due to a hot pace scenario. The problem, however, is that the 2 horses on the inside who would be set up to close don’t show the speed figures to compete. The #1, Private Charlie will save all the ground around the 1s turn and will sit in a perfect stalking position, but based on his speed figures I just don’t see him getting there. And the #2, Catholic Cowboy is a deep closer with the worst speed figures in the field.
Mr. Jordan and Richard the Great are both coming in off of the G3 Harlan’s Holiday where Mr. Jordan went to the front but was forced to battle with a 19-1 shot who as intent on getting the lead at any cost, causing a hot pace scenario. Mr. Jordan overtook this longshot at the top of the stretch and held well for 2nd, beaten by a strong closing Fear the Cowboy. Richard the Great, who sat right behind the duel, was never able to pass Mr. Jordan.
I have to select Mr. Jordan to win the race, but at such a short price I can’t back him with a win bet, so I will look for an exacta. The horse I landed on for 2nd is the #1, Crocodile Charlie. At 20-1 and the longest shot in the field, I see value in his improvement last time out, and having just turned 4, I will hope for another step forward here. Breaking from the rail he should save all the ground behind a hot pace, and if Jay’s Way and Richard the Great get used early and falter, Crocodile Charlie could be the closer to pick up the pieces for 2nd.
So let’s go with a Mr. Jordan/Crocodile Charlie exacta and hope for the best.