The 26th of December to Remember includes no less than 14 stakes across the 1/ST tracks, 6 at Santa Anita on opening day of the newly named Classic Meet, 6 at Laurel Park on what's dubbed the Christmastide Day Stakes and a pair at Gulfstream Park on the new opening day for the famed Championship Meet. We'll focus our attention here on the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park because it's perhaps the best betting race of the lot -- with 12 horses entered and a pair of also-eligibles.
1/ST BET and Xpressbet customers Monday will be playing for a whopping $40,000 in additional Hit & Split promotional dollars in the multi-race bets at Gulfstream, Laurel and Santa Anita. Hit the featured wagers and collect not only your parimutuel winnings, but also share in extra profits only with others on the 1/ST and Xpressbet platforms who also win.
Grade 2 winner STOLEN BASE and Grade 3 winner/Grade 2-placed GRAND SONATA (pictured above) both have won above this listed class level and hold the class edge. GOLDEN GLIDER and AXTHLEM are Grade 3-placed. Listed stakes winners include RED DANGER, DAKOTA GOLD, FORT WASHINGTON, NIGHT JUMPER and CHURCHTOWN.
This 1-1/16 miles turf test figures to be contested early by wide-drawn CHURCHTOWN, DAKOTA GOLD, GRAND DAVID and STEADY ON. The pace figures to be above-average and horses from off the pace should have every chance to fire late if on their game.
The top-4 finishers from Aqueduct's Gio Ponti Stakes re-match here. They include CHURCHTOWN, STEADY ON, GRAND SONATA and DAKOTA GOLD, who finished within 2 lengths of one another in that order. GRAND SONATA merits the edge with the change in venue to Gulfstream. He's 2-for-2 locally, albeit over a different course prior to the summer/fall changeover. The rest of these are 2-for-14 combined at GP on grass. Fortune continues to smile on GRAND SONATA, who starts in post 2 and has drawn the 1 or 2-hole in an incredible 7 of his last 9 starts.
The other common prep is Gulfstream's Showing Up on synthetic, where the top-3 finishers are back in action. NIGHT JUMPER, VENEZUELAN TRIUMPH and GRAND DAVID comprise that trio in order of finish. While in form and locally based, none of these jump off the page moving to turf against tougher competition.
RED DANGER won the Pulpit Stakes here nearly 13 months ago, but has not been able to match strides with STOLEN BASE since. Late-running STOLEN BASE gets pace to chase and is a classy sort whose last try in the off-the-turf Commonwealth at Churchill was at least a step in the right direction after falling badly out of form.
First-time turfer GOLDEN GLIDER and late-running FORT WASHINGTON are the X-factors. GOLDEN GLIDER returns from a July break and has been gelded after his form went sour. FORT WASHINGTON adds blinkers for the first time as the Shug McGaughey trainee makes his 9th start at an 8th different track. His form has carried better at some locales than others. FORT WASHINGTON finished just behind AXTHELM last time in Keeneland's Bryan Station, and note AXTHELM gets in light here at 118 pounds, receiving 6 from the high-weights.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
GRAND SONATA is 10-for-12 in the superfecta lifetime and has only 1 poor race on his form. He's well-drawn for top connections.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
DAKOTA GOLD was a troubled fourth at 7-1 in the Gio Ponti against 3 in here who beat him that day. This is a quality colt who was defeated by the talented Modern Games by only 2-1/2 lengths a little more than a year ago.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$60 win GRAND SONATA. $10 exacta box GRAND SONATA with DAKOTA GOLD and AXTHELM ($40).