Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.
Noel's selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at DRF.com, Twinspires.com and USRacing.com, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA's Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.
The Championship Meet portion of the Gulfstream Park meet has begun, and we are already in full swing in the best season of racing and wagering that Florida has to offer. The high quality of the Gulfstream schedule is on full display this Saturday as Gulfstream hosts an 11-race New Year’s Eve card that includes six stakes races. All of the races on the card offer big fields and lots of good betting opportunities. I have picked out two of the stakes on the card on which to focus this weekend’s plays. Best of luck, and happy new year!
weekend Television schedule
Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $125,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes, post 3:41 p.m. ET
The Mr. Prospector is a Grade 3 sprint going seven furlongs that has drawn a full 12-horse field. The race is loaded, and you can make a case for most of the entrants, so any kind of exacta you can hit is going to pay off nicely. Many of the contenders are starting off new campaigns, or may find the distance to be a tad too long or too short for their optimal performance. The horse in the race in mid-season form that seems ideal at seven furlongs is #9 Dean Delivers, who should offer good value on the tote board despite two wins and two seconds in his recent races including a runner-up finish in a restricted stakes two races ago. Dean Delivers was second earlier this year in the Grade 3 Swale Stakes at this track and distance. He’s been in the exacta in eight of nine career starts at Gulfstream but will nevertheless offer value today. Looking around the rest of the field for bargains, #7 Prevalence has only one recent race to his credit, and it was mediocre at best, but the best efforts for Prevalence, including a win last spring in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland, point him out as a horse with a legit chance to win or hit the exacta. Finally, the obvious horse that’s difficult to leave off your tickets is #3 Sibelius, who owns a bunch of strong speed figures and was beaten only two lengths when fourth in the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland two starts back. Seven furlongs might be a stretch, but he should at least land in the exotics.
The Play: Bet #9 Dean Delivers (15-1) to win. This wide-open race also is worthy of a three-horse exacta box along with #3 Sibelius (3-1) and #7 Prevalence (9-2).
Gulfstream Park, Race 10, $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, post time 4:40 p.m. ET
The Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday is a 1 1/16-mile dirt race that drew a field of eight, including some familiar veterans of the 2022 Triple Crown trail. It is one of those horses, #4 Simplification, that seems to have landed in an optimal spot to regain his best form, which would make him tough to beat. Simplification was at his best right here at Gulfstream Park starting at this same time a year ago when he won the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes and later went on to win the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes. In my opinion he hasn’t been given a chance to recapture his best form in any of his three recent races, which included tough spots like the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby and the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He makes much more sense in this more modest Grade 3 spot back at the track where he has enjoyed his best success. Simplification lost to #7 Skippylongstocking in the West Virginia Derby when that horse was in mid-season form and Simplification was coming back from a layoff. The tables are turned today. The outside posts in these Gulfstream two-turn dirt routes are generally disadvantages, so instead of using Skippylongstocking in the exactas, instead try #1 O’Connor, who invaded from South America last time out and creamed a good allowance optional claiming field here at Gulfstream, beating a bunch that included next-out winner Octane and veteran Sole Volante. The last horse to beat O’Connor was a horse named Super Corinto, who has since been imported to the United States and recently won a Gulfstream allowance optional claiming race on Dec. 8 with a big speed figure as the odds-on favorite.
The Play: Bet an exacta box with #1 O’Connor (8-5) and #4 Simplification (5-1). If you also want to make a win bet, go with Simplification if he is near his 5-1 morning line.