At the Gate – Friday

As expected there was no racing at Aqueduct on Thursday and the NYRA went ahead and just canceled racing through Sunday, meaning there is no need to keep one of my televisions on The Weather Channel.

We will hit Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita looking for action the next three days, and there is plenty including a pair of three-year-old stakes that may produce a few early contenders for the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

At Gulfstream Park a field of eight line up in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man including a promising undefeated colt from the Dale Romans barn.

Romans will send out Dak Attack, who makes his first start since winning a first level optional claimer in impressive style last August. The colt is the 9-5 morning line favorite.

Trainer Chad Brown sends out a talented runner in Mask (2-1), who broke his maiden in his debut at Belmont Park in October.

Another to look for is Bal Harbour (9-2), who won the Sapling and Smooth Air in his last two outings.

The $100,000 Sham (G3) on Saturday at Santa Anita is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race. A field of seven will go one mile on the main track.

It looks as if Bob Baffert may have a stranglehold on the race. He sends out the 3-5 morning line favorite McKinzie, who finished second in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and placed first by the stewards after a disqualification of Solomini for interference.

As a back up Baffert will also saddle Mourinho (4-1) who ran second in the Speakeasy and Bob Hope (G3) in his last two starts.

If Baffert gets upset, it may be by the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Shivermetimbers (7-2) who was third behind McKinzie in the maiden ranks two back and came back with a game maiden score by a neck at Del Mar in his last start on Nov. 23.

I will have selections for both races in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.

My Best Plays Report for Friday includes my eight strongest plays from Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Gulfstream Park:

GP Race 7 Md $50,000 (3:35 ET)
#1 Blake's Lucky Star 9-2
#4 For the Gipper 4-1
#7 Florida Cotton 5-1
#8 Lookin Savvy 8-1

Analysis: Blake's Lucky Star makes his first start since June and drops in for a tag here for the Romans barn that is 29% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff. The colt was third in his debut behind repeat winner Ntestinafortitude, who beat Alw-1 foes at Churchill Downs in June and has not been heard from since. The colt was not off cleanly in his last start and was not a threat. The works are nothing special, but the barn wins off the bench and this is not a tough spot.

For the Gipper has run second in three of his last four starts, last out for a $30,000 tag at GP West. The gelding has burned some cash in his last three starts but has earned numbers that fit well in this spot. He owns solid early and mid pace numbers and the barn has been on a nice roll at the meeting, hitting at a 27% clip. He is out of a Closing Argument mare that has dropped one other foal to race but no winners to date.

WIN: #1 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 1,4 / 1,4,7,8
TRI: 1,4 / 1,4,7,8 / 1,3,4,7,8

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Santa Anita:

SA Race 8 Md $30,000 (4:30 PT)
#9 Sauce On Side 5-2
#10 Spiritualist 5-1
#6 Mischievous Lass 8-5
#4 Tapthia Bonita 12-1

Analysis: Sauce On Side came of a 2 1/2 month break last out at Del Mar dropping in for a tag for the first time and checked in fourth as the beaten favorite going 6 1/2 furlongs. The winner Krissys manicure came back beat $40,000 starter optional claimers here in her next outing on Dec. 29. Miller thought enough of this filly for her to debut in the Landuluce back in July where she was fifth in a six horse field. She drops into an easier spot here. She is out of the stakes winner Carphonic ($110,666) her first foal to race.

Spiritualist was sixth in her debut for a $75,000 tag and last out for $40,000 checked in sixth at 5-2 going a mile. She returns with blinkers added and has enough pedigree, by Union Rags out of a Tiznow mare that has dropped two other runners with one winner. she faces easier here for the Glatt barn that has been sending out live runners at the meeting (13-3-4-1).

WIN: #9 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 9,10 / 4,6,9,10
TRI: 9,10 / 4,6,9,10 / 4,6,9,10,11

Good luck today!