Key Races & Bets for Saturday December 31st, 2022

Suwannee River Stakes – Race 7 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 3:09 PM Eastern

Top contenders:
Bay Storm is the KEY to making a profit in the race as she is exceptionally probable to win or finish second, as she’s done now in eight of 10 turf races in her career, including in her most recent seven races, including three stakes. She returns from more than three months off but that’s not an issue as she returned from two and one-half months off to win in July and from six months off to finish second this past April. She does not need the lead to win and should establish a second or third position early as she did in her last two starts, including when missing by a nose to multiple graded stakes winner Campanelle when last seen in a similar Grade 3 stakes race.

Scotish Star, Keeper of Time, Stolen Holiday and Touch of Class are contenders who are more likely to finish second than first but who can win if they slightly exceed their best efforts and if Bay Storm regresses a bit off her career-best effort last time out.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Bay Storm to win at odds of 3 to 2 or higher.

Straight: Bay Storm over Scotish Star, Keeper of Time, Stolen Holiday and Touch of Class
Box: Bay Storm and Scotish Star, Bay Storm and Keeper of Time, Bay Storm and Stolen Holiday, Bay Storm and Touch of Class

Pick 3s (and Doubles from race 7 to race 8)
Race 7: Bay Storm
Race 8: Uncle Ernie, Seal Beach
Race 9: Pao Alto, Shadow Sphinx, City Man, King Cause, Colonel Liam

Race 7: Bay Storm, Scotish Star, Keeper of Time, Stolen Holiday, Touch of Class
Race 8: Uncle Ernie, Seal Beach
Race 9: Pao Alto, Shadow Sphinx, City Man, King Cause, Colonel Liam

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Mr. Prospector Stakes – Race 8 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 3:41 PM Eastern

Top contenders:
Uncle Ernie has won five of 10 but his last two were by far the two best of his career and there is no sign of him regressing as Irad Ortiz, Jr. gets on. The last time he ran this seven furlong trip he won by nearly eight lengths and although he has the speed to get the lead over the other potential “early” pace types he can also stalk the pacesetter and go by to win.

Seal Beach is one of the only horses in the field who has shown the ability to sit back early, as far as nearly last, and close. With it possible that horses on the rail like Surly Furious and a horse in the two and three posts like Speaking and Sibelius will go as hard as they can from the start and at any cost, even Uncle Ernie may be effected and then Seal Beach can win by repeating his most recent race near the end of November, at this seven furlong trip and under Saez (who rides today) where he won by three lengths.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Minimum odds for win bets on Uncle Ernie, and on Seal Beach, are 3 to 2.

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Box Uncle Ernie and Seal Beach
Uncle Ernie and Seal Beach over ALL

Pick 3s (and Doubles from race 8 to 9)
Race 8: Uncle Ernie, Seal Beach
Race 9: Pao Alto, Shadow Sphinx, City Man, King Cause, Colonel Liam
Race 10: O’Connor

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Ft. Lauderdale Stakes – Race 9 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time 4:10 PM Eastern

Top Contenders:
City Man has won as the odds-on favorite in his last two races, but may not be favored in this year’s Ft. Lauderdale Stakes because those wins came in races restricted to horses bred in New York. He won the Ashley T. Cole Stakes at the distance of the Ft. Lauderdale in September, with a very strong 111 Equibase speed figure then followed that up with a two and one-half length win in the Mohawk Stakes in October with a fine 108 figure. Even though those two wins came in state restricted races, City Man has proven capable of winning in open company, as he won the Danger’s Hour Stakes in April and the Forbidden Apple Stakes in July, the latter in which he earned a career-best 112 figure. Best of all, jockey Joel Rosario rode him to two of those three wins and has now been in the saddle for six of the horse’s eight career wins. With it likely there will be a contested early pace scenario whereby both Street Ready and Winfromwithin both want the early lead at any cost, City Man looks quite capable of earning another stakes win in this year’s Ft. Lauderdale Stakes.

King Cause may be the one City Man has to run down late to win because this hard-knocking horse has the style to be third in the early stages. He won the Knickerbocker Stakes in October when leading from start to finish but on very slow fractions when no other horse wanted to be in front early but has won from off the pace as well. King Cause was so highly regarded after his Knickerbocker victory he was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but did not run and has been waiting for a race like this one since then. King Cause also won two races prior to that when fourth in the early stages, earning a career-best 109 figure in the process. That’s the race I’m expecting him to run under Jose Ortiz, who gets on after not having ridden the horse since January but having ridden him to a win at this nine furlong turf trip before that.

Colonel Liam is likely to go to post as the betting favorite in this race, because he’s won seven of 11 races and banked $1.8 million. His biggest wins came in the 2020 and 2021 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational over this turf course and at the distance of the Ft. Lauderdale. Colonel Liam returns to the races not having run in nine months, which could be an issue except for the fact he won the Tropical Park Derby at the end of December in 2020 following a four and one-half month layoff, and won this year’s Pegasus following nearly eight months off. In this year’s Pegasus, Colonel Liam earned a 113 figure, the same as he had earned in May of 2021 winning the Turf Classic Stakes, but then again the 112 figure City Man earned in the Forbidden Apple Stakes last July and the 109 figure King Cause earned winning this past summer both suggest Colonel Liam is not a standout if both those other horses run their best races.

Honorable mention goes to both Shadow Sphinx and Pao Alto. Shadow Sphinx and Pao Alto finished second and third, respectively, in the Artie Schiller Stakes last month and earned 109 and 107 figures with those efforts. Shadow Sphinx has won 11 of 32 career starts and banked nearly $400,000 on grass in his career. He’s trained by Mike Maker, who also saddles King Cause, so I feel we’d be remiss to ignore his chances. Pao Alto is in the hands of top trainer Graham Motion and has only run three times in the U.S. since importing from his native France. He led late in the Baltimore-Washington Turf Cup in his U.S. debut in September before settling for second, and he ran similarly well in the Artie Schiller, so could be good for another in-the-money finish in the Ft. Lauderdale.

Handicapper Picks

Win: City Man at odds of 2 to 1 or higher and King Cause at 5 to 2 or higher.

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Box City Man, King Cause and Colonel Liam
City Man, King Cause and Colonel Liam over Pao Alto, Shadow Sphinx, City Man, King Cause and Colonel Liam

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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