Stakes Preview: Saturday’s Grade 3 Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream Park

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>Gulfstream / February 21 / Race 4 / 2:00 PM EST

The Rampart (Race #4) is the first of seven graded stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream.  A one-turn mile on the main track, it carries a purse of just $100k and holds only Grade 3 status, but don’t be fooled.  Contained within the Rampart field are some fillies and mares with the potential to make noise in the better races for this division as the year goes on.

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Our Pace Projector for the Rampart favors runners on or near the early lead.  It places the ML favorite, #2 Wedding Toast, in an advantageous position up on the early lead, accompanied by the longshot #7 Flutterby.  The tactically inclined #5 Sheer Drama will be in a stalking position on the outside, and she will be covering #3 House Rules, who will have a nice spot in behind the lead.  ML second-choice #4 Thank You Marylou comes next, and the third-favorite, #6 Got Lucky, will be farther back in the field, followed only by #1 Oasis at Midnight, who is going to need a seriously improbable chain of events to emerge from this race with her first stakes win.
Here’s the field:
#1 is Oasis at Midnight She posted a nice win over this track two starts back in a race that collapsed, but this is a tough assignment, and she will find this field much more difficult to close down, even if she gets contested fractions in front of her.  She finished last, beaten 22 lengths, in this race last year (Race Rating 101), and this year’s edition has come up stronger (Race Rating 104).
#2 is Wedding Toast.  Talented mare hasn’t been able to get much racing in, but she has made the most of her limited opportunities.  Nice to see her step right back into it off of the 276-day layoff last time, and while she will need to improve off of that speed figure of 96 in this spot, who would be surprised if she did?  Luckily for her, she has figures of 110 and 112 to get back to, and with Pace Projector giving her something of an early advantage in this race, we’ll expect her to be a handful come crunch time.
#3 is House Rules.  She ran well down here while coming away 2nd best to different fillies from the Pletcher machine in graded stakes as a 3yo before briefly going off form last summer.  She was back on point when burying allowance foes at Saratoga in August and Aqueduct in November, races that are surrounded by poor-looking graded stakes tries with excuses.  She was wide against a strong inside bias in Parx’s Grade 1 Cotillion, and the slow pace (note Pace Figures/fractions shaded blue)/speed-favoring-track (note Race Rating box shaded red) combo proved too much for her to overcome in the Comely.  She could hardly have looked better than she did when defeating allowance foes again over this track and trip last time, with a 101 speed figure, and she projects for the right kind of trip in this race.  We’ll take her to post the mild upset and finally nab that elusive first graded stakes win.
#4 is Thank You Marylou.  She has run in three straight sprints carrying Race Ratings of 112, so this race (preliminary rating of 104) makes for some nice class relief.  The real question facing her is distance.  She has been at her best as a closing sprinter, so every added furlong has the potential to take something away from her closing kick.  To this point, she has only ventured beyond 7 furlongs three times in her career.  She tried two of the top early season races for 3yo fillies, as she should have, in the Grade 1 Ashland (synthetic) and Kentucky Oaks, and then caught slop in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks.  All three of those races went around two turns, and this one-turn mile has the potential to play more like an elongated sprint.  That will help, and perhaps give her a better chance, but she will have some talented runners to close down in this race, and we still prefer her going shorter.
#5 is Sheer Drama.  Makes her second start of the year (just a 56 Trainer Rating for David Fawkes second since layoff) after rallying from far back into a fast pace in the Sunshine Millions Distaff to get 2nd.  She is tactical enough to get any kind of trip in a race, so for her, it will simply be a question of whether she can defeat a field full of graded-stakes-caliber runners.  We are having a hard time believing that she can defeat all of them, but we are not opposed to having her in our play at a square price.
#6 is Got Lucky.  Two career starts at Gulfstream for Pletcher, and two clear-cut victories, both of them over a one-turn mile.  She can and should be afforded the opportunity to improve as an older horse, and it’s not as if she had much of a summer/fall campaign as a 3yo.  We think this is a tough spot for her, and are siding with others, but we are wary of a breakthrough performance from this runner.
#7 is Flutterby.  She earned a new career top TFUS Speed Figure when 3rd in that fast-paced Sunshine Millions Distaff last time, but it is likely going to take a similar effort for her to be competitive in this spot, and we are betting against back-to-back tops for her.  Still, it should be noted that that last figure gives her a chance to factor, and she will be a price.
The Play:  We like #3 House Rules in this spot and are betting her to win the Rampart.  We will side against two of the shorter prices in #4 Thank You Marylou and #6 Got Lucky, and we will make our exactas with #2 Wedding Toast and #5 Sheer Drama. 

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