By Jim Freer
The feature race on Monday’s holiday card at Gulfstream Park is the $60,000 Margate Stakes, and it is the kind of race you might call a “bridesmaid.”
Gulfstream has an 11-race card, with first post of 12:00 p.m. It follows the Christmas weekend, when Gulfstream did not have racing on Saturday or Sunday.
The Margate is Monday’s tenth race, with scheduled post of 4:34 p.m. It is seven furlongs on dirt for 3-year-old fillies that have never won a stakes race—thus the bridesmaid analogy.
The Margate will be part of the Rainbow 6, which has a carryover of $218,112. It is on races six through eleven.
In the first race, there is a Super Hi-5 carryover of $6,477.41.
The Margate has nine entrants. Most have past performance records that are impressive, except for the lack of a stakes win.
Four of the entrants have finished second in a stakes race, and three others are coming in off wins in allowance/optional claiming races at Gulfstream or at Gulfstream Park West (Calder).
Banree, one of the stakes runners-up, is the likely favorite. That is based largely on the fact that she has been racing mostly in graded stakes.
Banree’s second place finish was in the Schuylerville (Grade 3) at six furlongs at Saratoga on July 24. 2015. She lost to Off the Tracks by 3 ¼ lengths.
This year, Off the Tracks’ record includes a third place finish in the 1 1/8 mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 3) on April 2 and a win in the 1 1/16 mile Mother Goose (Grade 1) at Belmont Park on July 2.
Banree also has a third place finish in a graded stakes—in the Tempted (Grade 3) at Aqueduct at one mile on dirt on Nov. 4, 2015.
Trainer Wesley Ward describes Banree as a “big filly,” and therefore has given her breaks from racing for three months and for six months during her short career.
Following the second layoff, Banree finished second in a $62,500 optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 21.
“She ran a really creditable race that day,” Ward told the Gulfstream media office. “The seven furlongs here is a little bit of a question. It might be a little bit too far. But speed carries at Gulfstream, so if she is going to do it anywhere, she’s going to do it there.”
Sugar Cone, Dad’s Kiddo and Giddy Up are the other Margate runners that have finished second in a stakes. Little Priscilla, My Awesome Mom and Empreya are the Margate entrants that have last-out wins.
This past Feb. 21, Sugar Cone won a 6 ½ furlong Gulfstream stakes called the Margate. She came in 4 ¼ lengths behind Off the Tracks.
Sugar Cone has not raced since May 6, when she finished ninth in a $75,000 optional claiming race at Churchill Downs.
Since Dec. 9, she has had three fast non-bullet workouts at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach.
Sugar Cone has the rail post. Joe Bravo will ride for trainer George “Rusty” Arnold.
We will look at some of the other Margate entrants this afternoon on our blog.
Through Friday, the 15th day of Gulfstream’s championship meet, Todd Pletcher leads trainers with 14 wins in 45 starts.
Jorge Navarro is second with eight wins in 31 starts.
In terms of hitting the board, the deep Pletcher stable also has six second place and six third place finishes.
Navarro has just one second place finish and one third place finish. In meets at Gulfstream and at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, he usually has high percentages in place-show as well as in wins.
Pletcher has led trainers in wins at 13 straight Gulfstream championship meets. Navarro finished second in wins in the 2015-2016 championship meet. Pletcher’s wins margin was 62-46 in that meet.
Ralph Nicks and Fernando Abreu have five wins each and are tied for third in the standings.
Paco Lopez leads jockeys with 20 wins. Luis Saez is second with 15 wins and Luca Panici is third with 11 victories.
Defending champion Javier Castellano and Nik Juarez have ten wins each and are tied for fourth place.