By Gene Kershner
While the 3-year-olds are front and center tomorrow afternoon on NBC Sports Network (6 - 7:30 p.m.) with the telecast of the Wood Memorial from Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby at the Great Race Place, there is still plenty of racing action on tap this weekend. Be sure to check out my preview of those two races in today's print edition.
This afternoon will feature a mandatory payout of the Rainbow Six at Gulfstream Park, a $0.10 Pick-6 wager. The carryover into today's race is $1,961,806 and will be sure to attract horseplayers across the country trying to take advantage of the mandatory payout. The sequence which starts at Race 8, includes two maiden special weights, two maiden claimers, one claiming race and an allowance race. All six races have full fields of 12 horses, so the Gulfstream racing secretary has left no stone unturned.
With the small bet wager of a dime, it gives the everyday player a shot at cashing in on a potential four or five figure win with the ability to put together much more combinations than the typical $2 Pick Six. After taking a peak at the six races last night, the most logical winners look to be Third Martini (3-1) in the 9th, and Fogonazo (3-1) in the 11th.
For mid-priced horses within the sequence, I like Monroe Court (6-1) in Race 10 and Coexist (6-1) in Race 12. The final leg is a bear, where the 12 horses are a combined 0 for 50, running $35,000 maiden claimer on the turf. Good luck if you're playing.
Tomorrow afternoon will feature an all-stakes guaranteed $500K Pick-4 wager at Aqueduct starting with the Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies and finishing with the Wood Memorial. Speaking of the fillies, the Gazelle and the Santa Anita Oaks are both big qualifying races for the Kentucky Oaks, with the top four finishers earning points on a 100-40-20-10 basis, similar to the colts.
Last weekend, Dreaming of Julia (Gulfstream Oaks) and Unlimited Budget (Fair Grounds Oaks), two Todd Pletcher-trained fillies qualified for the First Friday in May and the Run for the Lilies. Dreaming of Julia's performance was freakish, earning a monster 114 Beyer Speed Figure, beating challenger Live Lively by over 21 lengths.
Pletcher, who already has three fillies in the Oaks, will try to add a fourth as Princess of Sylmar (10 points) seeks her fifth straight victory in the Gazelle. She's been the top filly in New York so far this year and was instilled as the 9-5 second choice. Bill Mott ships in the talented, but lightly raced Close Hatches, the 8-5 favorite who comes off an impressive win at Gulfstream in an optional claimer in just her second start.
The Santa Anita Oaks will pit 2-year-old filly champion Beholder (64 points) with rival Fiftyshadesofhay (30 points) in a rematch of the Grade 1 Las Virgenes. Garrett Gomez will ride Beholder for trainer Richard Mandella and Rafael Bejarano will ride Fiftyshadesofhay for Bob Baffert, a race he's won twice, but not since 2003. Mandella has won the Oaks once, in 1992 with Golden Treat.
Be sure to check out the national telecast tomorrow afternoon before tip-off of the opening Final Four game and keep an eye on the two big Oaks qualifying races earlier in the day.