Sports Betting

Pair of Canadians playable in Gulfstream stakes

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February 26, 2016

When it comes to handicapping Canadian horses who are racing in Florida during the winter, I generally discount their chances, viewing them as typically being prepped for their eventual return to Canada in the spring. But on Saturday, I couldn’t get past a couple of Canadians at Gulfstream Park in a pair of undercard races on the Fountain of Youth card: Tower of Texas in the appropriately named Canadian Turf and Elusive Collection in the Sand Springs. Both horses should offer value and show a steady number of encouraging workouts leading up to their first starts of 2016.

Starting with Tower of Texas, here are two reasons I like him. First, he comes off a fine year in 2015, running first or second in five of six starts, with the exception coming when he was unplaced in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in his final start of the year. And second, he should catch the kind of firm turf that he loves. Last year, he won the Grade 2 King Edward in blazing time on the quick Woodbine course and then was a near-miss loser when second, beaten a nose, in the Grade 2 Play the King over similarly fast ground. Only in the Woodbine Mile, when the course was yielding, did he fail to keep up, though certainly the outstanding company played a role, too. That race consistently draws many of the best turf milers in North America, along with some European raiders.

Drawn on the inside with Javier Castellano up, Tower of Texas also figures to get a favorable stalking trip, at least saving ground into the first turn. And thereafter, it will be a question of whether he is classy enough to catch the streaking front-runner Heart to Heart. The public will be betting that Heart to Heart will be long gone on the lead, but with Notacatbutallama having some degree of speed, and Fredricksburg perhaps showing more with the addition of blinkers, I’m hopeful that Heart to Heart will not get a free pass up front. Elusive Collection, racing in the Sand Springs, is very similar to Tower of Texas in that she hasn’t started since the fall and made all of her starts last year at Woodbine. But she’s different in another respect: She hasn’t ever raced on grass. Her three starts, all coming in 2015, were on Woodbine’s Polytrack. She won her first start in fast time, repeated in a small stakes, and then ran a respectable third in the Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes, losing by three lengths to the synthetic-loving Miss Mischief.

Since heading to Florida shortly after the Nov. 15 Bessarabian, Elusive Collection has recorded nine works, with five on grass at Palm Meadows. It stands to reason that if Elusive Collection did not pass those trials on grass to the satisfaction of trainer Josie Carroll, she wouldn’t be in the Sand Springs, a one-mile turf race. But her promising grass works aren’t the only reason to like Elusive Collection, a daughter of Elusive Quality. Her pedigree also points to turf success, with her dam, Recollect, being a full sister to Grade 1 Diana winner Winter Memories and her second dam being none other than Memories of Silver, who won the Grade 1 Beverly D., among other prestigious grass races.

Mobile Bay pick in Maxxam Gold Cup. Lastly, let’s turn to Sam Houston, which has four open stakes Saturday night, headlined by the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, which drew a deep field of 12. There, I like Mobile Bay, who looks set to rebound with a shift from turf to his preferred surface, dirt. I’m hopeful that his last race, in which he ran eighth of nine in the 1 1/2-mile John Connally, will darken his form to some extent, along with a prior defeat in which he ran a distant second in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic on dirt at Fair Grounds. But those willing to overlook those defeats should find his prior form appealing. He won six races last year, making more than $614,000, and won the Zia Park Derby and Super Derby for two of his biggest victories. Admittedly, those races were restricted to 3-year-olds, but they were good-enough efforts to suggest that he can be a force in an ungraded, $100,000 race for older horses like the Gold Cup. Although listed at 6-1 on the morning line, Mobile Bay seems more likely to start in the 4-1 or 5-1 range.



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