Kingsbarns Leads All the Way to Win Louisiana Derby
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.
Hey, in case you haven’t heard, Gulfstream Park is hosting a big race day this Saturday headlined by a pair of Grade 1 million-dollar races – the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes Presented by Qatar Racing and the featured $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Baccarat. Both races drew full 12-horse fields and are excellent betting races where you can make a legit case for just about any of the runners in each race to win.
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The Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus Turf go as the final two races of the day on a 13-race card at Gulfstream Park. These races are great plays for win, exacta, and trifecta bettors, and also offer sharp handicappers a chance to make a big score in the late daily doubles. Read onward for my selections in what I am predicting to be an epic, all-time best day in the career of Gulfstream’s leading trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. He has a chance to win both races and sweep the entire exacta in the Pegasus World Cup. Good luck this Saturday watching and wagering on racing from Gulfstream Park!
Gulfstream Park, Race 12, $1 million Pegasus Turf Invitational, post 4:40 p.m. ET
The Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational drew a loaded field that is a horseplayer’s delight. Instead of one or two standout contenders, this fascinating handicapping puzzle hosts a full field where you can make a case that most of the 12 entrants could win. That means you just need to come up with the right exacta or trifecta combination and you are guaranteed to get paid accordingly. My win money is on #11 Master Piece, a horse that was not up to the task in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 ½ miles last time out but is much more suited to today’s 1 1/8-mile distance, at which he boasts a 3-for-3 career record including Grade 2 win in Del Mar’s Eddie Read Stakes last summer. Since the Breeders’ Cup he has been transferred to the barn Saffie Joseph and stabled at Gulfstream Park. He’s been off nearly three months since last raced but has always run his best races when fresh. There are also three prime candidates for exactas and trifectas in the field starting with #3 Atone, who was never better than he was in his last start when he cruised wire-to-wire to win at this distance at Aqueduct. There’s not much speed entered in this big field, and there’s a chance for another similar front-running effort to win this race or at least land him in the exotics with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. An interesting wild card in the field is the French invader #4 Hurricane Dream with Frankie Dettori aboard. He's been finishing in the money pretty consistently the last year between one mile and 1 ¼ miles, and this 1 1/8-mile distance might hit him right between the eyes. Finally, the mare #6 Lady Speightspeare ran her eyeballs out to finish third last time in the Maker's Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and she had won three graded stakes in a row prior to that. She could have entered the Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf but instead was confidently entered in this spot and shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Play: Bet #11 Master Piece (10-1) to win and play him in exacta and trifecta boxes along with #3 Atone (12-1), #4 Hurricane Dream (15-1), and #6 Lady Speightspeare (6-1). Start the late daily double using all four of those runners in Race 12 along with #1 Proxy, #4 White Abarrio, and #7 Skippylongstocking in Race 13.
Gulfstream Park, Race 13, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes, post time 5:40 p.m. ET
The race everyone is looking forward to is the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. It will mark the career send-off for #10 Cyberknife, who will retire after the race. Cyberknife has been an easy horse to root for in his career and he has a solid chance to win the Pegasus, but the race is just too wide open to bet on a 5-2 favorite that looks vulnerable. The Cyberknife party seems like it is about to get crashed, and the guy who will be responsible is trainer Saffie Joseph. If you watched the running of the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 31, you are probably with me in picking #7 Skippylongstocking to post the mild upset. He looked like a monster when easily defeating that field on this main track, and the strong speed figure he earned confirms what we saw with the naked eye. Skippylongstocking fell short against the top level of competition all throughout his 3-year-old campaign, but he has the look and feel of a horse that is blossoming now as he embarks on his 4-year-old campaign. Speaking of Joseph, I feel like his other World Cup contender, #4 White Abarrio, is being unjustifiably overlooked at 10-1 odds on the morning line. Much has been made of his Gulfstream Park horse for the course status with a 4-for-4 record at the track, including a win in the 2022 Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, but not enough is being said about his sneaky-good effort last time out when third beaten just a half a length in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets. To me, that race signaled positive turnaround in form coming just in time for him to make his return to his favorite racetrack. The other horse to focus on in the Pegasus is #1 Proxy, who exits his career breakthrough race last time out when he won the Grade 1 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare at Churchill Downs. He won the Clark fresh with time between races and enters this spot ready to roll on the heels of another similar freshening between races.
The Play: Bet #7 Skippylongstocking (5-1) to win and bet him in exacta boxes along with #1 Proxy (9-2) and #4 White Abarrio (10-1). Play a four-horse trifecta box and add in #10 Cyberknife (5-2).