Stakes Preview: Daredevil returns in Saturday’s Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream Park

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>Gulfstream / February 28 / Race 10 / 5:00 PM ESTScreen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.01.52 PM

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Of the three graded stakes slated for Saturday at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 2 Swale is the only one carded for the main track. It has drawn a field of seven talented colts set to travel 7 furlongs, and it is highlighted by the 3yo debut of Todd Pletcher’s #1 Daredevil.

As expected, there is plenty of speed signed on to the Swale, and Pace Projector indicates that all of #3 Ready for Rye, #6 Grand Bili and #7 X Y Jet have the speed to be part of the early pace. Daredevil, who has drawn a tough post, is projected to be in a stalking position down inside, though he is clearly fast enough to come running out of there in an attempt to avoid finding himself locked in behind horses. #5 Souper Colossal also possesses plenty of early speed, but he projects for a pace-tracking trip as well.

This race centers around Daredevil in several different ways, so let’s discuss him and go from there. There are a couple of different ways to look at this horse, though it is difficult to deny that he holds some pretty serious talent. The sticking point to deciphering his form lies in the fact that his two highly impressive wins last year came over wet tracks. If you’re of the opinion that he is a horse who moved up because of the slop, then you likely think he is (at least a little) overrated. We are not buying that view of Daredevil, though we understand anyone who is taking that position, at least for now, considering the wagering action he will be taking as he starts back this year.

After crushing maidens in his belated debut over a muddy Belmont main track on September 13th, Daredevil wheeled back relatively quickly, at least by Todd Pletcher’s standards, to stretch out in the Grade 1 Champagne just three weeks later. He once again caught a wet track, and he was even more impressive than he was on debut, running away from the talented Upstart while never being asked for his best effort. He earned TFUS Speed Figures of 91 and 95 in those races, figures that make him the horse to beat in this race even if he has done no developing during his time off.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile turned out to be something of a disaster for Daredevil, but it is also something of a reach to assume the fast track had anything to do with his performance there. Marooned out in post 10, he was left with no choice but to come running out of there for position, and once the fast pace developed in that race, Daredevil’s chances were all but doomed. His jockey, Javier Castellano, is among the best riders in the game today, but that Juvenile was far from his finest moment. After getting Daredevil strung 5-to-6 wide all the way around the first turn in that race, Castellano continued pressing on out there to be part of that contentious pace. Daredevil, as talented as he may be, was not up to that kind of taxing effort, and his Breeders’ Cup was over by the time that field hit the far turn.

Having drawn the rail for his 2015 debut, going 7 furlongs, in a field loaded with speed, Daredevil has found a spot in which to immediately test himself as a 3yo. We’ll see how Castellano decides to play it, though he is sure to have to let Daredevil run away from the gate in order to establish position in the race. That doesn’t mean he has to gun straight to the lead (though he is fast enough to do so). But knowing the position Pletcher likes his horses to be in up the backstretch of their races (preferably stalking on the outside), there will be no taking back.

Can race dynamics get him beat on Saturday? Sure. But we don’t think they will. We think Daredevil is a serious talent, one who may wind up excelling around one turn between 6 and 8 furlongs, and we think he can win the Swale by either sending or stalking.

Of the others, the horse we are most interested in using is #2 Senor Grits. Senor Grits is more of a closing-sprinter type, and, while not possessing the flash of some of his rivals in this race, he has managed to fire every time while improving right along (TFUS Speed Figures for first four starts: 77-86-89-93). If nothing else, a fast pace seems sure to develop in this race, and Senor Grits may be best-positioned to take advantage of that kind of scenario.

The Play: Daredevil is our multi-race key, and we’ll use Senor Grits underneath in exactas.

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