Stakes Preview: Saturday’s Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park

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>Gulfstream / February 28 / Race 11 / 5:30 PM EST

The Grade 3 Palm Beach, for 3yos over 1 1/16 miles on grass, closes out the graded stakes action at Gulfstream on Saturday. It has drawn a field of 11, including a pair of recent stakes winners over this course in the form of ML favorites #6 Night Prowler (5/2) and #5 Dubai Sky (3/1). Pace Projector for the Palm Beach favors neither front-runners nor closers, and places all of #1 High Noon Rider, looking to rebound back on grass after being eased in the Grade 2 Holy Bull on dirt, #4 Bears Personality and Dubai Sky up on the early lead. #7 Felifran, #10 Croninthebarbarian and #11 Decision Day will be lined up behind that leading trio, and Night Prowler will be just off that group on the outside.

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#5 Dubai Sky is a full brother to a very fast horse: Twirling Candy. 

>Learn how to use TimeformUS Breeding Ratings

Here’s the field, in post position order:

#1 is High Noon Rider. This Distorted Humor colt seemed to pick up his game once switched to dirt toward the end of last year. He broke his maiden in a race originally scheduled for turf after engaging in a race-long duel up front, earning a TFUS Speed Figure of 89. He exited that race to try stakes company at Remington Park, and he ran very well once again, this time taking a big run from off the pace before settling for 3rd. He’s back to grass after failing to get involved in the Grade 2 Holy Bull, and his last turf race, when finishing 3rd behind Night Prowler, was an excellent effort. Away at the back of the field and outrun early, High Noon Rider was sent into an early wide run all the way through the turn to reach contention before ultimately flattening out at the end. This guy can run, and he can run on grass, and he will be a price.

#2 Eh Cumpari. He upset maidens on the dirt first time out with a last-to-first run, and he went right into stakes company following that effort. He was OK in his turf debut when finishing behind a couple of today’s rivals, but that was a race in which Dubai Sky did all of the work up on the pace, and the others were all closing as a pack at the end. He’s drawn a better post this time, but he is going to need to find more.

#3 is Nutty Futty. 1-for-6 lifetime, with a top TFUS Speed Figure of 74, this colt has found a tough spot in which to make his 3yo debut. He failed to factor in a pair of graded stakes tries last year but is obviously eligible to improve as a new 3yo.

#4 is Bears Personality. He has never run on grass, but he gets a solid Breeding Rating of 84 for turf routes and is a two-time winner on synthetic, in the event you’re someone who believes that form over that surface will translate. He failed to factor in his dirt debut last time, but that race is best not held against him, as he was unable to get his customary position up near the pace after a stumbling start, and he tired after a wide trip. Surface is a big question for him, but he showed a nice pattern of improvement as a 2yo and could easily outrun his odds in this race.

#5 is Dubai Sky. Well-bred and well-connected colt has put his talent on display from day one, and he enters the Palm Beach looking for his 4th straight win. Going solely by speed figures, he appears a vulnerable short price, having posted figures of 64-68-78-78 for his 4 starts. On the other hand, he did all of the racing after asserting himself up with the pace when prevailing in the Kittens Joy Stakes last time. We like him in this race, and prefer him to the ML favorite.

#6 is Night Prowler. ML favorite for Chad Brown owns top last-out TFUS Speed Figure in the field (91) for his Grade 3 win over this course. We have no real knocks on him except to point out that he was given a perfect trip to win that Dania Beach last time, and we aren’t so sure he holds much of an edge on this field, especially Dubai Sky.

#7 is Felifran. Still lightly raced enough to project improvement for, he will certainly need to show improvement on Saturday. He was part of the closing pack behind Dubai Sky last time and, while outrunning his odds, was never a real threat in that race. Figures a big price once again, so if you have found a reason to like him, you should be betting.

#8 is Call Me Crazy. He has earned back-to-back TFUS Speed Figure tops of 79 and 83 for his last two starts, and finally broke through to get his maiden victory last time. He’s well-bred and improving, and is another who figures to be a price in this race.

#9 is Divisidero. Only one start to this point, but it was a good one. Held up to rate back off the early pace, he put in a strong run all through the second turn while wide, and he powered through the stretch to close down a rival who had opened a clear lead on the field. It’s a tough spot for him to make his second career start, but that debut hinted at talent, and it would be no surprise should this guy go on to prove to be at least this good.

#10 is Croninthebarbarian. He’s a talented turf horse, though one who may be just a bit distance challenged. He was highly impressive in winning each of his first two starts on grass, both over sprint distances, but, while he has continued to race on very well since stretched out for his last 4 starts, he has found a way to come up short at the end of late. He came with a solid wide run last time to fall just short of Dubai Sky, but, again, that race lent itself to a closing style.

#11 is Decision Day. Turf debut today (79 Breeding Rating for turf routes) for an excellent trainer after failed attempt to dirt in tough Holy Bull. He’s already a stakes winner over synthetic, and he managed to win races as a 2yo in Canada from both on and off the pace. Another horse for whom surface is a question, but we can project some improvement for this runner, whose trainer gets an 89 rating with runners switching from dirt to turf.

The Play: We prefer #5 Dubai Sky to #6 Night Prowler, and we will make him our play, assuming the latter is the favorite. Our uses in exactas and trifectas with Dubai Sky will be #1 High Noon Rider, #9 Divisidero, #10 Croninthebarbarian, and a little of #11 Decision Day.

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