Race of the Week: Mr. Prospector Stakes, by Joe Wulffe

Saturday December 22nd: Race 10 at Gulfstream Park. The $100,000 Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes run at seven furlongs on the dirt for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 4:36 PM EDT).

Joseph Wulffe

Twitter: @Whtnbourbonguy

 

Selections: 8-7-6

 

(8) Uno Mas Modelo: Could today be the day when trainer Anthony Quartarolo finally secures the first graded stakes victory of his career and does so with a runner bearing the iconic lime green silks of Looch Racing Stables?  It certainly looks that way and it appears that this five year old son of Macho Uno could be the one to bring home that early Christmas present for his trainer. Since June 9th, Uno Mas Modelo has done nothing but deliver win after win for his connections as he has won five of his last six starts when sprinting, with the lone exception coming in the ten furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park back in September when he was way overmatched competing against the likes of Discreet Lover, Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn. In his most recent effort in the $110K Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes over today’s course and distance, Uno Mas Modelo could not have had a worse beginning as he literally walked out of the gates and found himself far back in the field early on. Yet somehow despite running five wide through the final turn, he was able to rally in time and just win by a neck to capture his third win in five tries at seven furlongs. Although the 95 Bris Speed Rating (BSR) that he earned in that effort is a tad slow, to be fair he likely bounced off of the career best 104 BSR he earned when sprinting six furlongs at Churchill Downs in the $100K Bet on Sunshine Stakes back in November and should likely move forward from this most recent effort.

Uno Mas Modelo’s running style is fairly versatile as he has proven himself to be effective not only when stalking the pace but also when rallying from well back too; he possesses good quality tactical and closing speed which should work to his benefit given the projected pace scenario for this race. There are a number of early speed type runners entered into this field, with the majority of them being drawn to his outside and the TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that it is probable that he will be situated towards the rear of the field, at least early on before trying to close behind what should likely be a swift pace. Over the past three years, Quartarolo has done fairly well with runners that won their last race as he has been winning at a 14% rate. Additionally, although jockey Albin Jimenez has been off to somewhat of a slow start thus far in the current Gulfstream meet, he has been aboard Uno Mas Modelo for each of his last two stakes wins and over the past 60 days has won with 31% of his mounts for Quartarolo. While the morning line is 2-1, expect that number to drift a little bit higher as there are several other runners in this field that might attract more attention; however, this Looch runner should certainly be considered as the most likely winner of this race and a deserving one at that.

 

(7) Wild Shot: The barn of the ever dangerous Rusty Arnold sends out this four year old son of Trappe Shot looking to make just his second start of 2018 after finishing second in an $82K Allowance race run over seven furlongs at Churchill Downs back on November 23rd. Once a promising three year with Kentucky Derby ambitions, Wild Shot’s hopes of immortal glory on the first Saturday in May came crashing to a halt with a seventh place finish behind Irap in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland last April. He was able to rebound off that effort though with an impressive victory in the Pat Day Mile (G3) before his career went off the rails again with three consecutive poor performances in graded stakes efforts. However, his most recent start after a fifteen month layoff was not terrible and provided he can move forward from the 93 BSR he posted in that allowance effort, Wild Shot should certainly be competitive against this field of assembled rivals. Although he has yet to contest a race over the Gulfstream Park surface, his new pilot today, Brian Hernandez Jr., has been riding well thus far in the meet and should prove to be a valuable addition in the saddle today.

Wild Shot’s preferred running style is a that of a pace-stalker and while he has shown glimpses of early speed as a three year old, his speed is much more tactical than that of the majority of the true early speed runners in this field, many of which are drawn to his outside. Thus I would expect, and the TimeForm Pace Projector echoes these sentiments, that Wild Shot will likely be running somewhere near mid-pack in the field early on with Hernandez trying to position his mount to give him the best chance to be able to move up to challenge for and take over the lead as the field turns for home. Over the past three years, Arnold has done quite well with runners making their second start off of a layoff as he has won 17% of his past 109 starts; moreover in this year alone Arnold has gone 12 for 43 (28% win rate) with runners racing under this condition and furthermore 56% of those 43 runners ended up finishing in the money. Over the past year, Hernandez has been riding quite well when aboard E/P type horses such as Wild Shot as he won with 19% of his past 446 mounts. Additionally, Wild Shot’s most recent four furlong work over the Palm Beach Downs training track was quite sharp and it would appear that Arnold has this colt in good form and ready to fire today. While the 10-1 ML on Wild Shot might be a bit high, demand at least 5-1 odds on this runner as he has a legitimate chance of not only hitting the board today but also possibly scoring a nice graded stakes victory in his first try against stakes company in nearly 16 months.

 

(6) Heartwood: Trainer James Chapman sends out this four year old son of Tapit today looking to improve upon a second place finish in the six furlong Fall Highweight Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct last month. For his efforts in that race, Heartwood earned a 105 BSR which ranks as the highest last out speed rating amongst the entire field. Additionally since August, Heartwood has been fairly competitive in each one of his efforts against stakes competition and although this is a much tougher bunch than he faced in his most recent outing, Heartwood certainly fits here, especially from a class standpoint. However, there are two concerns regarding this one: first, he has never contested a race over the surface at Gulfstream (although the addition of Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle today certainly helps) and secondly, is that over the course of his career he has never finished in the money in any of his four starts at today’s seven furlong distance as it appears he is at his best when sprinting at six furlongs instead. Yet despite these concerns, Heartwood still is a very quality horse and given his running style, should certainly fit very well in this field.

Heartwood appeared to turn a corner back in July of this year when Chapman likely switched up his running style; since then Heartwood has shown a preference for running on or near the initial lead as he has posted very good Brisnet E1 and E2 pace figures over the course of his last six starts. While the TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that it is possible that Heartwood will be found tracking the likely initial leader Coal Front, I disagree with this assessment as not only are there several other runners in this field with early speed figures rivaling those of Heartwood but also Heartwood tends to run better when stalking the pace not setting it. Thus I would expect for Ortiz to allow the other early speed runners to go out to the front and wear themselves down battling for the lead whilst he allows Heartwood to take up a nice stalking trip positioned behind them which should allow him to strike for the lead when the pacesetters begin to falter. Not only has Irad been off to a brilliant start thus far at the Gulfstream meet (26% win rate from 54 starts) but also over the course of this year he has been riding quite well in sprint races (21% win rate from 540 starts). Additionally, Heartwood’s most recent work over four furlongs on the training track at The Thoroughbred Center was quite sharp suggesting that Chapman has this one in prime form and ready to give another good account of himself today. It may be a bit difficult for Heartwood to score an upset today, especially given his dislike for seven furlongs, but there is no reason to not see him remaining in contention late in this race and hitting the board at a modest price.

 

This space here is going to take a stand against the likely favorite, the (11) Coal Front trained by Todd Pletcher as his most recent effort in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct last month simply was not good at all. Additionally there appears to be a number of other rivals entered into today’s field that have enough early speed to break well from the gates and challenge Coal Front from the get go such that he will not be able to enjoy an uncontested lead. Rather I will take the other Looch runner, the (3) Storm Advisory also trained by Anthony Quartarolo and ridden today by Robby Albarado. In his most recent effort in the nine furlong Clark Handicap (G1), he was simply overmatched and could not compete with the likes of Leofric, Bravazo and Seeking the Soul. However, prior to that effort he had won two races when sprinting and when looking at his form at today’s seven furlong distance he possesses the best record in the field having finished in the money in seven of his nine tries at the distance including three wins. Additionally with 10 career wins and lifetime earnings of nearly $450K, the highest amongst the field, he must be given some respect as a legitimate contender in this race. The 102 BSR that he posted back at the end of June in the $75K Kelly’s Landing Stakes at Churchill ranks as the highest speed figure amongst the entire field at today’s distance and if he can find a way to return to that form then he will certainly be dangerous today. Although Storm Advisory has yet to contest a race over the Gulfstream Park surface, his most recent work over four furlongs back on December 15th on the track was an absolute scorcher and if he can carry that affinity for the track into today’s race, watch out. At 15-1 on the ML and with his odds surely to rise by post time, it would be quite unwise to leave Storm Advisory off your tickets, especially as an underneath play.

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