$200,000 W. L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream Park
Race 10 (Saturday, January 25, 2020: 4:12 p.m./ET: 1:12 p.m./PT)
One mile and a half on turf (4-year-olds and upward)
Amazingly, one-fourth of the 2020 W. L. McKnight (G3) field for older turf routers will be saddled by trainer Mike Maker, who is off to a solid start at the Winter Championship meet at Gulfstream Park. He has hired the right jockeys to win, too, as each horse will be ridden by either Javier Castellano, Paco Lopez, or the Ortiz brothers. This poses the question: will one of the powerhouse jockey/Mike Maker duos win the McKnight (G3), or do one of the eight other jockey/trainer combinations have what it takes to bring home the winner’s share of this $200,000 purse? Without further ado, we will do our best to answer that question.
#1 RED KNIGHT freshens up two months after a runner-up finish in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct. Before that effort, he was victorious in the ungraded Point of Entry Stakes at Belmont Park. He sports a pair of bullet works for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, who employs future Hall of Famer Joel Rosario to ride.
#2 PRINCE OF ARABIA was not a factor in a second-level allowance race earlier in the month and has failed to be competitive in six straight races. Expect him to go off at a massive price.
#3 APRECIADO is the first of four Mike Maker entrants. The son of Skipshot was last seen finishing second in the Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes racing 8.5-furlongs, and he faces a significantly tougher group in this assignment. His lone career run in a 12-furlong contest resulted in a second-place finish.
#4 CAROM raced on dirt in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes on December 28 and finished third behind #12 AMERICAN TATTOO (ARG) and #9 SHAZIER. He beat #9 SHAZIER two races ago, a first-level allowance on turf, but the aforementioned foe is a projected longshot, and this colt will likely go off at double-digit odds as well. Javier Castellano rides, which is a positive, but it does not appear he is fast enough to be competitive against the best signed on (unless, of course, he takes a major leap forward.) Other Maker entries possesses more appeal.
#5 SALUTE THE COLONEL had to settle for second in a starter-allowance race over this turf course last month. This gelding by Colonel John is 2-for-3 when traveling 12-panels, but he has never competed in a graded stakes before—never mind a Grade 1—and he must contend with some tough stakes rivals in this spot. He may be best used underneath in exotics, if anywhere.
#6 DUBBY DUBBIE was last seen racing at Golden Gate Fields in a second-level allowance on Tapeta. That day, he fended off a midstretch challenge from the runner-up finisher and was an ultra-game winner. That said, he lost twice at Gulfstream Park last year, and he hasn’t gotten better (or worse) since then. Major improvement is needed for him to pick up a top-three placing.
#7 CROSS BORDER is the third Mike Maker participant. After an 11-furlongs allowance victory two races ago, he returned and finished a couple of lengths behind Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) contenders Instilled Regard, Admission Office, and Channel Cat in the Fort Lauderdale (G2). The field he finds here is lighter, no doubt, and it’s worth noting his only try at this distance came three starts ago when he finished 2-1/2 lengths behind stakes giants Arklow, Channel Maker, and Sadler’s Joy in the Belmont Turf Classic Invitational (G1). Looks like a legit player.
#8 PUMPKIN RUMBLE was a dominant victor of the Valedictory (G3) at Woodbine racing 14-furlongs. That said, his last-out runaway win came over Woodbine’s synthetic surface. His most recent turf appearance came two starts ago, in which he suffered a three-plus length loss in the Canadian International (G1). Top Gulfstream jockey Tyler Gaffalione picks up the mount for well-respected Canadian conditioner Kevin Attard. Off this 9-year-old’s last start, he figures as a possible upsetter, but he will need to replicate that synth race on turf.
#9 SHAZIER has finished behind #12 AMERICAN TATTOO (ARG) and #4 CAROM, respectively, in his past two starts. Speed figures indicate he is nowhere near as quick enough to beat the top contenders entered. Would be a major surprise.
#10 TEMPLE makes his first stakes start against older horses. The last Mike Maker entrant likes the Gulfstream Park grass, sporting a 3-for-5 record over the course, and comes off a better than looked third-place finish in the Tropical Park Derby after a wide trip, with not much pace to chase. He should enjoy this added distance, and he retains Eclipse Award–winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
#11 SPOOKY CHANNEL failed to be competitive in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) last month and stretches out in distance for this start. His last two wins have come at Turf Paradise in a pair of $30K stakes races; doesn’t appear classy enough to win a race of this caliber.
#12 AMERICAN TATTOO (ARG) makes his turf debut. Last time out, he finished a length in front of #9 SHAZIER and #4 CAROM in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes on dirt. The Argentinian bred has pedigree suggesting he should be fine on turf, and the 12-furlong distance won’t be an issue either, given he ran third in the 14-furlong Marathon (G2) on dirt at Santa Anita last fall. Jose Ortiz has been aboard in four of his past five races but opts to ride #7 CROSS BORDER instead—but ample replacement John Velazquez picks up the mount for Todd Pletcher.
1. #1 RED KNIGHT-Ran second to Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy last time
2. #7 CROSS BORDER-Class relief should help him
3. #10 TEMPLE-Better than looked effort last time but must face older stakes foes now
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY-#8 PUMPKIN RUMBLE-Ran fifth in a Grade 1 in October
I’ll box all of my selections in trifectas and also put my top-two picks and longshot value play in an exacta box. I have $2 dollars left when finishing up my exotic wagering, so I’ll put the remaining money on my top pick to win.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$1 Trifecta Box: #1 RED KNIGHT and #7 CROSS BORDER and #8 PUMPKIN RUMBLE and #10 TEMPLE ($24)
$4 Exacta Box: #1 RED KNIGHT and #7 CROSS BORDER and #8 PUMPKIN RUMBLE ($24)
$2 Win: #1 RED KNIGHT
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