This week in horse racing: spotlight on Gulfstream over New Year’s Eve weekend

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No less than 10 stakes races, including the first step toward the 2023 Florida Derby, will be held New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at Gulfstream Park this Saturday and Sunday.
The New Year’s Eve card includes 6 stakes, 5 of them graded, with a strong dose of grass action slated. New Year’s Day features the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes for freshly turned 3-year-olds among 4 stakes races.
The Mucho Macho Man kicks off the Florida Derby preps in earnest. The series ramps up with the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4. This year’s $1 million Florida Derby is set for April 1. This weekend’s Gulfstream stakes events also figure to be a springboard toward the Pegasus World Cup program on Jan. 28. Among those expected to be prepping for various stakes engagements include Art Collector and Colonel Liam.

What To Watch For This Week

Laurel Park’s Christmastide Day program with a half-dozen stakes races will be offered this Friday, rescheduled due to weather on Monday … Oaklawn begins its Arkansas Derby series on Sunday with the Smarty Jones Stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds. Entries close Thursday for that card … Route runners are featured at Aqueduct with 1 1/8 miles stakes Saturday (Queen County, colts and geldings) and Sunday (Ladies Handicap, fillies and mares) … Maryland-based trainer Dale Capuano has announced his retirement at year’s end, amassing more than 3,600 wins (No. 22 all-time in North America). Some of his stable will be transferred to his nephew, trainer Phillip Capuano.

 

Friday Weekend Firestarter

Among Laurel Park’s six-pack of rescheduled stakes races on Friday is the $100,000 Heft Stakes (Race 4). It’s last call for the local 2-year-olds and few this year have been any more impressive than #7 Prince of Jericho. He’s won his last 2 starts by 17 combined lengths and will be racing in the stakes ranks for the first time. Expect him to handle it and then see where he may fit in a bigger Triple Crown trail prep early in 2023. The field includes Grade 3 Nashua runner-up Full Moon Madness invading from New York, but I’m solidly behind the local rising star Prince of Jericho.

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage:

40% Zia Park 
33% Tampa Bay Downs 
30% Mahoning Valley 
28% Delta Downs 
27% Parx

Tracks With Most Reliable Favorites Last Week (By Win %) 
55% Zia Park 
51% Tampa Bay Downs 
47% Mahoning Valley 
39% Delta Downs 
38% Fair Grounds

Tracks That Were Longshot Havens Last Week (Most Winners 10-1 or More) 
7 Turf Paradise 
5 Mahoning Valley 
4 Delta Downs 
4 Turfway Park 
3 Gulfstream 
3 Fair Grounds

America’s Hot Jockeys Last Week 
Alex Birzer (6-10, 60%) // Delta Downs 
Samy Camacho (7-14, 50%) // Tampa Bay Downs 
Reylu Gutierrez (6-13, 46%) // Fair Grounds, Turfway 
Luis Fuentes (6-13, 46%) // Zia Park 
Erik Barbaran (6-14, 43%) // Mahoning Valley

America’s Hot Trainers Last Week 
Greg Tracy (3-3, 100%) // Delta Downs 
Neil Pessin (3-4, 75%) // Fair Grounds 
Patricia Farro (3-4, 75%) // Parx 
Haleem Lee (3-4, 75%) // Parx 
Gerald Bennett (5-10, 50%) // Tampa Bay Downs 
Bret Calhoun (4-9, 44%) // Fair Grounds, Delta Downs

Pegasus World Cup Feeder Contests Scheduled

Xpressbet will offer a series of 6 low-entry ($40) qualifiers toward the $500 Pegasus World Cup Feeder Tournament on Jan. 7. Contest players can take part Dec. 30, Dec. 31, Jan. 1, Jan. 4, Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 in the low-cost springboards. Top prizes include cash and entries into the $5,000 Pegasus World Cup Betting Challenge on Jan. 28. For contest races, registration and more, visit xpressbet.com/tournaments.

– Statistics courtesy Betmix