Handicapping A Seven-Figure Saturday At Gulfstream Park

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 2, 2023 - Last Updated on March 3, 2023
Florida horse racing gulfstream preview

Rise and shine, Gulfstream Park gamblers.

Florida horse racing bettors have a blockbuster 14-race card Saturday at Gulfstream Park. It is marked by a special first post of 11 a.m. and several high-profile betting opportunities at the Hallandale Beach, Fla. oval.

Saturday’s main event is key for Kentucky Derby hopefuls

Saturday’s schedule is highlighted by the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, a Kentucky Derby qualifier. Forte and Blazing Sevens, who finished first and fourth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November at Keeneland, drop to a $400,000 race here. But they have been off since November.

Local favorites Rocket Can, Shadow Dragon, General Jim and Mage have recent form over the track. Their connections hope that makes the difference in this 1 1-16 race with a 5:43 p.m. post time.

In recent years, stalkers coming from four or more lengths back have been the winners. That’s what Simplification did last year and that got him to the Kentucky Derby, where he ran 16th.

Forte most likely has enough points to qualify for the Derby. For the others, the 50-point bonus for winning the Fountain of Youth will stamp the Run for the Roses ticket on May 6.

Horse racing is one of the two sports Floridians can legally bet on, while the 2021 Florida gaming compact is wrapped up in the court system. Bettors can wager from home on the TVG app and catch the action all day via FanDuel TV.

Undercard is stacked as well

There are nine supporting stakes races. Furthermore, eight of them are graded. There are five races worth $200,000 apiece.

They include:

  • Davona  Dale, 1 Mile Dirt
  • Gulfstream Park Mile, 1 Mile Dirt
  • Mac Diarmida,  1 3-8 Miles  Turf
  • Herecomesthebride, 1 Mile Turf
  • The Colonel Liam, 1 Mile Turf

Three others occur in the $150,000 category:

  • Canadian Turf, 1 1-16 Miles
  • Honey Fox, 1 Mile Turf
  • The Very One, 1 3-8 Miles Turf

The early races not only provide a preview of track conditions. But an individual betting opportunity.

Rainbow Pick 6 will feature a seven-figure prize pool

The 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 pool nears a crescendo. It began the week with a guaranteed $1.3 million pot. Saturday’s gigantic card and Sunday wagering on the mandatory payout day should vault the pot into the $3-5 million range.

The wager involves the last six races of the day at Gulfstream. Winners must pick the winners of the final six races on the card.

Until mandatory payout day, the Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot is only paid out when a single ticket with all six winners is sold. When there is no unique ticket, which is practically every day, 70% of that day’s pool goes back to bettors holding tickets with the most winners. The other 30% is carried over.

The pool entered midweek unsolved for 20 straight racing days following the last mandatory payout.

That has a benefit for this weekend’s bettors.

On Saturday, the increased betting interest will elevate all gambling pools,

On Sunday, the entire pot is distributed and divided amongst all the winning tickets. If nobody hits all six races, those with five winners split the pot.

Given the weekend betting leadup, the Pick 6 payout should be excellent.

Special First Look at Gulfstream Opener

Gulfstream is known as a graveyard of favorites, particularly in the first race on a Saturday card.

Last week, that proved true with 11-1 Invective winning and 3-1 shot Storm Victory finishing second. Sir Samuel was third at 8-1.

The $1 trifecta paid $511, an excellent return with one of the top choices in the second slot.

Storm Victory finished exactly where key-entry bettors would have liked him. The $1 trifecta key costs only $12 to put your favorite horse in the first and second spot with three others.

In this case, that would have meant the 7 first and second with the 11 and 12  horses. You could have even thrown in favored Good Soldier, 5-2, and gotten this ticket on a key-entry bet.

The magic ingredients to this payday were a big 12-horse field, a low level of claiming $16,000 and the handicapping reality accompanying this tier. In other words, claimers take turns winning and a horse who improves a little can win at a nice price.

That’s the challenge and the reward of this type of puzzle.

With this in mind, here’s a look at Gulfstream’s first Saturday race, which looks competitive. It is for allowance optional claiming on the turf and has a field of 12. Want to hit a triple before lunchtime? This is the chance.

Opening Race

Here’s a look at the field from the rail out:


This Kentucky-based horse has been away since 2021.

Smokin’ Jay

He finished second in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico in Baltimore.

Warp Ride

This horse treks down to Florida from Woodbine, outside of Toronto. Like the first two horses, he tries Gulfstream for the first time.

Under Oath

The four-year-old thoroughbred won at maiden special weights and allowance. That’s good. Has a victory at Saratoga. That’s good.

However, he hasn’t run since August. Additionally, he is trying both turf and Gulfstream for the first time. Not so good. But at this level, it could make him a contender.

Boca Boy

He runs hard to the turn and can’t finish the deal. He primarily runs on dirt, but one of his best races came on the turf in 2020. As a result, he’s probably not on his best form cycle.

Agent Peter Graves

In his last race at Gulfstream, he had a tough-luck fifth at this exact level. He led with 20 yards to go, but several horses hit the wire simultaneously. He got the worst of the photo. Unfortunately, this fits with the group.


Historically, he has mid-pack-itis at this level. However, his connections switched him to turf with his Storm Cat breeding. That’s definitely a plus. But there are mixed signals here.


He won his first two career races at Monmouth and Delaware Park circuits. But he hit the wall going to Keeneland, Indiana Downs and Aqueduct. Now, he takes his shot at Gulfstream.

Warrior’s Pride

This is the classic case of the dropper that makes sense. He had a win and second at this level, got bumped up to stakes company and flopped. He returns to the level at which he has done well. That should put him with the leaders here.

Meet Me in Kingston

This horse has 10 races under his belt and finished in the money nine times. Moreover, he gets leading rider Irad Ortiz and second-leading money trainer Todd Pletcher. Bettors might make this pick off the connections alone.

Shecky Shebaz

He already has Gulfstream credentials. The 8-year-old was third in a five-horse field in the $125,000 Turf Sprint in February. But dropped in company because of a recent race. As a result, the play makes sense.

Mamba On Three

He got third in that crazy photo finish in which Agent Peter Graves got fifth. He starts on the outside post, which is a disadvantage. But he fits this level.

For newcomers trying to make sense of the large fields, bettors often flock to the top jockeys and trainers as the deciding factor in a wager.

Top Jockeys

By Wins:

  1. Irad Ortiz – 73
  2. Luis Saez – 52
  3. Jose Ortiz – 43
  4. Tyler Gaffalione – 33
  5. Edgar Zayas – 27

By Earnings:

  1. Irad Ortiz –  $4,502,743
  2. Jr. Alvarado – $2,974,800
  3. Luis Saez – $2,484,340
  4. Jose Ortiz – $2,242,428
  5. Tyler Gaffalione – $1,800,975

Leading Trainers

By Wins:

  1. Saffie Joseph Jr – 31
  2. Todd Pletcher – 28
  3. Antonio Sano – 14
  4. Bill Mott – 13
  5. Mark Casse – 13

By Earnings:

As a caveat, some trainers win fewer races but finish in the winner’s circle for the bigger purses.

  1. Bill Mott leads with  $2,691,095.
  2. Todd Pletcher $1,893,880.
  3. Saffie Joseph Jr. $1,288, 592
  4. Michael Maker $1,160, 485
  5. Mark Casse $668, 618

Mott isn’t even close to the top of the list in wins on the circuit. But he ran 1-2 in the Holy Bull Stakes with Rocket Can and Shadow Dragon. Both are entered in the Fountain of Youth.

On the other hand, Pletcher has the favored Forte in the big race. The main event is a Derby qualifier and features Gulfstream’s top two money-winning trainers.

Bettors are flocking to Mott and Pletcher this season in the biggest races.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer. He writes NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City, iGaming Player and others. For PlayFL, he will focus on the world of Florida horse racing. 

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