Gulfstream Park begins its Championship Meet on Dec. 26, but a pair of Saturday stakes races gets you in the spirit of the season to come. Staying power will be spotlighted in the $100,000 Via Borghese at 1-3/8 miles on turf for the distaffers, as well as the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Handicap at 2 miles on turf in open company. The latter drew a capacity, 12-horse field with 2 also-eligible entrants. Talk about a handicapper's challenge.
Grade 3 winners here include ANOTHER MYSTERY, SOLE VOLANTE and READY FOR THE LADY. Meanwhile, REIGNING SPIRIT and AGITARE are Grade 3/Group 3-placed. ANOTHER MYSTERY has consistently held the strongest company lines in the field.
The past 3 editions of this race have seen 2 wire-to-wire winners and a pacemaker finish second. In fact, last year's Jerkens boasted the same 1-2-3 carousel runners around the course. TIME FOR TROUBLE would seem the most likely pace player among the main body of the field, while also-eligibles BASSO and SIX MINUS figure to be pace players if able to draw into the race. OCEANS MAP with an inside draw and some ability to sit first-over could get a good trip.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race 2 of the 4 years since first offered, but his entrant SIX MINUS is stuck on the also-eligible list and has only won for claiming tags. There should be a new sheriff in Jerkens Town on Saturday.
TIME FOR TROUBLE has 2 wins at Gulfstream, 1 more than the rest of the field combined. And given the new lawn that has been laid, there's little to draw in terms of a horse-for-course here.
As for the 2-mile journey, a few of these have ventured that far at steeplechase venues - including AGITARE's victory at Far Hills in the John Forbes Memorial. KINENOS was a respectable fourth in the Belmont Gold Cup over the 16 furlongs on a more traditional course.
READY FOR THE LADY gets in light at 116 pounds as a 3-year-old and lures ace local turf pilot Paco Lopez. Pedigree doesn't suggest he wants to go this far, but his style and trainer Roger Attfield are suited for such tasks. Also in very light and dangerous is fellow 3YO Barberini at just 114 pounds. He's got a run-all-day pedigree and has won 3 straight (4 of his last 5) for a good stamina trainer in Arnaud Delacour.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
ANOTHER MYSTERY was dialed in from June through October and has a good draw and classy company lines.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
PLEASECALLMEBACK can run all day and will be rolling late from far, far, far back in the pack. That style could land underneath in the exotics for connections not likely to take a lot of money.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$60 win BARBERINI. $5 exacta key-box BARBERINI with AGITARE, ANOTHER MYSTERY, TIME FOR TROUBLE, READY FOR THE LADY ($40).