The Hal’s Hope (GIII)
1 Mile on Dirt for Four-Year-Olds and Upward
Gulfstream Park-Race 12
Post Time: 2:35 PST
Analysis by Michael Patricks
The final weekend of February racing has quickly arrived on the calendar. This weekend is fairly light from a national stakes racing perspective with merely a pair of Grade 3’s to be trotted out: The Daytona from Santa Anita on the hillside turf course and the Hal’s Hope which will be the focus of the weekly analysis.
Next weekend Gulfstream Park will offer a hulking Saturday Stakes schedule with the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes serving as their headliner. Sunday March 4th will be the Mine That Bird Derby from Sunland Park for three-year-olds, a $100,000 contest named in honor of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner who interestingly enough never won a race at Sunland Park, even though he served as a true inspiration to the New Mexico horsemen and all the “little guys” in racing, providing them with a great source for chest beating.
Mugaritz ran an awesome mile at a healthy price in last week’s El Camino Real Derby. The only problem with that was the race was a mile and an eighth and he was done dealing by the 1/16th pole. Kudos and a strong salute go out to Paved. She won easily and should have a very bright upside especially since her connections don’t seem to be compelled to drink the Oaks/Derby Kool-Aid. I do believe I’ve got the right horse in the Hal’s Hope this weekend, however, and thus “once more unto the breach I’ll go, dear friends.” (King Henry V)
1-Irish War Cry 5/2 ML– Wood Memorial winner was sent off at only 9/2 in the Kentucky Derby but disappointed severely while finishing tenth in a twenty horse field. The Belmont Stakes effort was good but he was the speed in a cast of paceless plodders and yet he still got worn down in the lane. The Haskell was a disappointment though he was in tough, drawn inside and surrounded by speed types. He was a non-factor in the Pennsylvania Derby in his last start and so it makes sense that Motion opted to freshen him up. If he can walk to the lead he should be awfully tough, but there is sharp speed to his outside. My gut says he may need this race and his connections may have bigger things in mind for him down the road. He can win, but you won’t see me putting on the war paint and banging on his drum at 5/2; I’ll try and beat him.
2-Economic Model 3-1 ML– Let me be frank: I’m simply not a fan of his. I’ve been down this road with him time and again waiting for that signature Chad Brown-orchestrated, breakthrough effort and he just seems to disappoint each and every time. Looking at his off-odds in all his races, you realize horse players too have been waiting dispiritedly for that effort to arrive, alas to no avail. He’s 0-for-6 in graded stakes events and I’m supposed to embrace him at 3/1 on Saturday? Excuse me, but no thank you. It’s possible he’ll turn the corner here and open up some eyes, but if you take one look at his 2017 resume you hastily gather that you shouldn’t be embracing him at the odds; it’s time to dock this showboat.
3-Conquest Big E 8/1 ML– Son of Tapit comes from largely unheralded connections and that fact is reflected on the morning line. He’s at least knocking on the door over the surface at the Grade III level and comes off a real nice run here in January after hopping at the start. Luis Saez sees fit to ride and there’s a nice blow out on top of the race. Economic Model is the name brand price while Conquest Big E is the knock off brand with much better value. Conquest Big E also fits the “big horse—little barn” angle, when you know the best horse from a smaller outfit is going to be given all the attention and focus in order to achieve success; he’s in my mix.
4-Tower of Texas 15/1 ML– Interesting placement from Attfield with this guy. He’s a grade-two winner on grass and has competed exclusively on turf and synthetic. Not many seven-year-olds with nearly $900,000 in earnings are opting to make a debut on dirt, nevertheless that’s the case here. He picks up one of the colony’s best in Gaffalione to ride–and even though he’s by 2007 Kentucky Derby-winning sire Street Sense–it’s a bit much to staple him as a win candidate on Saturday. Wouldn’t stun me if he hits the ticket, but prefer others for elevated platforms on the medalist’s podium. And by the way, here’s to the U.S.A. women’s hockey team for their terrific victory over Canada, capturing Gold in the Winter Olympics.
5-Quijote 20/1 ML– Not sure how he gets this done. When the Florida-bred has left the comfort of state-bred foes he’s found the going to be quite tough for him. He finally gets away from the runaway train of X Y Jet but this isn’t exactly an easier spot for him. He’s also taken extreme punishment at the graded-stakes level in all three starts, including failing to complete the course at Saratoga in July of 2016. This barn can win races but this is a very difficult mission that I do not choose to accept or endorse with my hard earned; passing.
6-Malagacy 4/1 ML– He makes the all-important second start off a layoff on Saturday. His comeback effort at 3/5 was admittedly disappointing, but it sure looks like a tightener, plus he drew the fence and that’s never easy. Castellano and Pletcher are so tough at Gulfstream and the price is right with him. Expect the very best from this son of Shackleford to be on display in the Hal’s Hope from his ideal draw; it all seems to line up for him in this one and so he’s the selection despite the ordinary Beyers on paper.
7-Giuseppe the Great 20/1 ML– Blinkers go back on for plodder who has made a living grinding out minor awards. Perhaps the Blinkers could sharpen him up out of the gate a bit, but he ran with them on early in his career with only mixed results. In short, I’m not sure that equipment change is the solution for him. He runs the risk of being stacked out fairly wide in this one-turn event and Zito is 0-for-15 putting the Blinkers on with his stock. Think he’ll have too much to do as usual when turning for home, so I’m tossing him out.
8-Send It In 7/2 ML– He looks rock solid on paper but a closer look reveals some questions: Can he fire fresh off his lifetime Beyer of 119 as a newly-minted six-year-old? His last race was back in April of last year and that was a monster effort. Who is he at this point on Saturday? Secondly, can he take his race track with him from New York to Florida? He’s done all of his running as a NYRA-bred in New York. Son of Big Brown has never really run a bad race so one should expect a respectable effort in the Hal’s Hope from him; gelding is a must use, even if this isn’t the primary goal in his 2018 campaign.