Off and Winning by Johnny D
By Johnny D.
With seven days of racing in the books at Gulfstream Park, several jockeys, trainers and owners are ‘off and winning.’ Handicappers need to know who’s hot and who’s not and, by extrapolation, who might score again today and in the coming weeks.
Of course, a good start doesn’t guarantee a strong finish; but it sure helps, especially in horseracing where winning seems to beget more of the same.
We realize that the Gulfstream meet is almost two seasons in one. December cards don’t match January, February or March offerings and those who win early aren’t guaranteed to win as often late and vice-versa. For example, trainer Todd Pletcher, who is odds-on to win his 10th consecutive title here, has started just five horses at the current stand and has a pair of wins. We’ll be seeing many more of his runners in the gate and winner’s circle in the coming months, you can bet on it (and you will).
Heading into the second full week of racing, jockey Joel Rosario has 11 wins to lead all jockeys. That’s no surprise. Rosario’s a known commodity on a national scale. He got on a bit of a roll in New York before heading south with the birds for the winter. Last season’s runaway riding champ Javier Castellano is tied for second with Luis Saez—seven wins each. Again, no CNN Headline News scoop here. Castellano won 112 races here last season and that’s an all-time record. Saez topped the recently concluded Calder stand, winning 118 races to 56 for runner-up Manoel Cruz. Joe Rocco, who won back-to-back turf races in Saturday’s finale and Sunday’s opener, is next with six scores early in the Gulfstream season.
Horseplayers can assume that Rosario and Castellano will win a good number of races here this season. They’re riding for the right barns and that’s key to any jock’s success. Expect that as the season progresses, Hall-of-Famer John Velazquez and Paco Lopez (3 wins each) also will have their pictures taken with regularity.
Wesley Ward leads all trainers with six early wins. He’s been aggressive with 2-year-olds dropping in class, so look for more of that type of maneuver. The M&M boys, Mike Maker, who won four Claiming Crown races opening day, is tied with Mike Matz at four wins. Shug McGaughey, Mark Casse and Peter Walder all have three wins apiece.
Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who finished second at Gulfstream last season with 17 wins, lead owners with seven tallies. Four of those, trained by Mike Maker, won Claiming Crown stakes opening day. Frank Calabrese, who dominated proceedings here last year with 32 wins to lead all owners, is off to a solid start with three wins and is tied with Melnyk Racing.
It’s important to remember that the top five or so jockeys, trainers and owners account for a statistically significant portion of wins at any meeting. That’s why it’s important for horseplayers to keep a watchful eye on who’s off and winning and liable to continue that trend.