Good horse betting races have been sparse this year, but it looks like we have a great one lined up for Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the form of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Last years edition of the 39 year old race was taken by Quality Road. The then four-year-old colt smashed the competition by over 10 lengths! Notable winners of the Donn include Forego, Foolish Pleasure, Pistols and Roses, Cigar, Skip Away, Medaglia d’Oro, Saint Liam and last but not least, Invasor. Let’s take a look at this years field!
#1 I Want Revenge – It seems like an eternity has passed since this son of Stephen Got Even crushed the field to take the Gotham Stakes and then overcome big time trouble to win the Wood Memorial. After taking the Wood he missed significant time due to injury. His next race came over a year later in the Suburban Handicap where he was third beaten four lengths by the front running Haynesfield. After that he was also third in the Iselin at Monmouth. Ramon Dominguez will ride for the first time. It should be interesting to see how much speed he shows. Ultimately, this is a tough field and he is entering off a long rest so that makes him an outsider. On his best day he is the best horse in this race though!
#2 Hear Ye Hear Ye – He hasn’t got a prayer of winning. Maybe he could run fourth by some fluke, but I doubt it.
#3 Morning Line – Zabeel Racing now co-owns this son of Tiznow with Thoroughbred Legends. The $700k auction purchase (separate from Zabeel) won the Pennsylvania Derby last year before running second by a head in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. He was last seen finishing third in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hopes after setting the pace. He will be on the lead, but could catch pressure from Hear Ye Hear Ye, I Want Revenge, Square Eddie and Rule. I don’t envision that being a problem. However, I do see the distance troubling him. Even though he won the Pennsylvania Derby at this distance, I just don’t think this horse is best when routing. He is a miler and will prove that in the final furlong of the race.
#4 Giant Oak – After watching the Clark Handicap, I had no idea how he ran so well. In retrospect, this is an improving horse. In his last four races he owns a win via DQ in the Clark and a second in two Grade 3 races. Still, I’m very skeptical about him. I’ve never thought he was very good and its hard to shake that thought once its planted. The pace set up will work in his favor as he will be rolling late. I won’t be surprised if the son of Giant’s Causeway checks in third or fourth.
#5 Eldaafer – The ice cold Edgar Prado picks up the mount on this gelded son of AP Indy who was last seen winning the Breeders Cup Marathon three months ago. He hasn’t seen a field this tough in his career despite winning a race that is Breeders Cup in name, but not in competition. Distance won’t be a problem, but when all is said and done this guy is probably the 6th or 7th best horse in the race. Long shot at best in my humble opinion.
#6 Fly Down – He just keeps on coming doesn’t he? The Nick Zito trainee finished third in the Breeders Cup Classic last out after just getting past fourth place finisher Lookin At Lucky. Before that race he was beaten 6 lengths in the Jockey Club Gold Cup by Haynesfield. He put in excellent efforts to be second by a nose in the Travers and second in the Belmont Stakes last year. He knows how to win races as he proved by taking the Dwyer by an emphatic six lengths. Julien Leparoux will get the mount for the second time. He guided him to his third place finish in the Classic last out. Fly Down must concede at least 3 pounds to every horse in the race. He is working well, but it is advisable to take a shot against him in his first outing of the year.
#7 Square Eddie – WOW, what a run he put together in his first race since 2009 last out when he took an allowance event by 3 1/4 lengths. Study duty can wait a little longer. Trainer Doug O’Neill is excited about his chances as is jockey Corey Nakatani. I’ll take a wait and see approach. The surface he won on at Santa Anita is very hard to gauge right now. Also if he is so good why isn’t Joel Rosario here after winning on him last out? I could see Square Eddie running up the track or winning. Nothing he does will surprise me. Having said that I will pass and go with a more reliable horse.
#8 Rule - Todd Pletcher’s son of Roman Ruler rated nicely in his first try since the Florida Derby last out when jockey JJ Castellano guided him to a second place finish in the Hal’s Hope. He has excellent pedigree as his dam is half to Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. It will be interesting to see how close to the pace he is in this spot. He is working like a monster and it appears he hasn’t lost any of the talent he showed at the ages of two and three. I’d like to see him sit right behind the speed and pounce in his second try at 9 furlongs.
#9 Ron The Greek – Lezcano will get the call here on a horse who put together a nice runner up effort in optional claiming company last out. In that race he rallied from 14 lengths back to finish just 1 3/4 lengths behind stakes winning Our Dark Knight. If things get really hectic on the front end, which they could, Ron The Greek will be the prime beneficiary. The colt is classy enough to win this, but he will need help from the pace setters.
I’m going to make Rule my top selection to win the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. He showed a new dimension when he rallied from 5th last out and I think that will really work to his benefit here. I expect the jockey to lay right off the pace, go by Morning Line, and hold off the late charges from the closers. Other than Rule, I’m interested to see how I Want Revenge performs. I might take a flyer on him at a price, but he will probably need a race or two to get in gear. He might be able to find a spot in the exacta, trifecta, or superfecta. I’m really hoping he returns to top form.
Who do you like in the 39th renewal of the Donn Handicap from Gulfstream Park? Leave a comment and let your voice be heard!