Saturday Stakes Preview: In Gulfstream’s Inside Information Stakes, does the 7-furlong distance make Stonetastic a vulnerable fave?

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>>Go to the PPs for The Inside Information, Post Time 6:05 EDT Saturday

The Grade 2, $200,000 Inside Information Stakes goes as the featured 12th race on Gulfstream Park’s Saturday card. Though the race attracted a field of 10 fillies and mares, there will be a clear favorite in Stonetastic, who many racing fans rank as one of the most talented female sprinters in the country. However, in order to come away victorious, Stonetastic will have to do something she’s been unable to accomplish as of yet: win a race at seven furlongs. While the Pace Projector is not predicting a fast pace, it does show Stonetastic receiving early pressure from fellow speed Flutterby, who breaks just to her inside.

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Will Stonetastic be confronted with enough early pressure to make her vulnerable in that demanding final furlong?

Let’s go through the field:

#1, Engaginglee (15/1): This Dale Romans-trained mare returned from a seven-month layoff to register a victory against softer optional claiming company last time, and did so with the benefit of a hotly contested pace. It’s possible that she could get some pace to run into once again, but this is an awfully tough spot for her to make her stakes debut.

#2, You Bought Her (6/1): 

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The Tampa-based mare nearly pulled off a shocking upset in last year’s renewal of this race, making a sustained run from 15 lengths back to just miss getting past Classic Point in the final strides. A confirmed closer, she has proven herself to be a specialist at seven furlongs, finishing in the exacta in 7 of 10 starts at this distance, including a couple of near misses over this Gulfstream strip. Whereas a few others are entering this race off layoffs, this mare has been pointing for this race all winter and has steadily been improving in recent starts. She breezed to a facile victory in the Minaret at her home base last time after sitting closer to the pace than usual, which should set her up perfectly for this tougher spot. Obviously, her chances are somewhat reliant on Stonetastic underperforming. If that scenario does indeed come to pass, You Bought Her is the type of consistent runner that we can rely on to be waiting in the wings. At or above her morning line price of 6/1, she’d be worth a bet.

#3, Miss Melinda (15/1): She was no match for Stonetastic last time, but she did finish up with interest while easily besting the rest of her competition. The seven furlong distance definitely works to her advantage, but we still get the feeling that she’s a cut below the top contenders at this stage of the game.  

#4, Tiger Ride (20/1): We actually like the turnback in distance for her, but this is a tough spot for her to make her sprint debut off the layoff. We won’t be surprised if she comes with an effective late run to get a piece of the purse, but it feels more like a prep for two-turn races down the line.

#5, Best Behavior (5/1): Racing outside and in the clear, she was the chief beneficiary of Stonetastic encountering early trouble on the backstretch of the Sugar Swirl two races back. This versatile mare could not quite get the two turn distance when stretched out last time in the Royal Delta, and should appreciate the turnback here. She’s been especially successful at Gulfstream Park over the past few seasons, finishing in the money in 15 of 17 starts at her home base. She enters this race in the best form of her career and has been training as if she’s sitting on a big effort. As is the case with others, even her very best effort doesn’t approach the 119 speed figure that Stonetastic posted last time, but she still has to be considered one of the primary contenders.

#6, Bar of Gold (4/1): This New York-bred filly makes her four-year-old debut after a very successful three-year-old campaign that saw her finish second in three consecutive graded sprint stakes, including the prestigious Grade 1 Test. The Race Ratings of those races suggest that she’s one of the classiest runners in this field, and her two Saratoga speed figures stack up well against even some of Stonetastic’s best efforts. We expect good things out of her in 2016, but we wonder if she’s going to need a race off the layoff. Her trainer, John Kimmel, does not get a great trainer rating at Gulfstream (53 rating) or with horses coming off this type of layoff (59 rating). She also may be hard-pressed to keep up with Stonetastic and the other speeds early while still reserving enough energy to see out this seven-furlong distance.

#7, Flutterby (12/1): One would imagine that her connections would be looking to revert to the aggressive front-running tactics that worked so well for her last summer. As is the case with Stonetastic, seven furlongs has been a bit of a stretch for her in the past. While it’s hard to imagine that she could put away Stonetastic on the front end, she still could prove to be a thorn in that one’s side.

#8, Stonetastic (8/5): 

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She’s undoubtedly the star attraction in the Inside Information. Yet, in spite of her blowout wins, flashy speed figures, and participation in the last two Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprints, she’s still won only a single graded stakes race in her career, and never at 7 furlongs.

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Stonetastic is superb when things go her way, as they did last time when no one was able to go with her in the early stages and she drew off to a commanding victory. Yet she’s proven to be vulnerable when she’s not able to secure a clear advantage in the early stages of a race. She deserves to be the favorite, but we want to take a shot against her in this spot given the likelihood that she will have to overcome at least some adversity.

#9, Kiss to Remember (10/1): Though she hardly disgraced herself in the latter of half of 2016, the runner-up in last year’s Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga has not ascended to that level of performance since. Now she starts her five-year-old campaign while returning from a 113-day layoff. Marty Wolfson, who does a great job across the board, gets just a 65 rating with runners coming off layoffs (and an 81 with runners returning from layoffs of this length in a smaller sample). Kiss to Remember seems to be most at home at today’s seven-furlong distance, having finished in the exacta in four of five starts going this far. If she’s going off at double-digit odds, we could certainly throw her into exacta and trifecta wagers, but we prefer others with sharp recent form on the win end.

#10, Dogwood Trail (20/1): She’s a cut below this caliber of competition, but she still could have an impact on this race as one of a handful of runners with the early speed to press Stonetastic in the early stages. After all, that’s exactly what she did four races back in the roughly-run opening furlong of the Sugar Swirl.

THE PLAY

Stonetastic (#8) is a deserving favorite, but a vulnerable one. We doubt that she’s going to offer sufficient value considering all of the potential scenarios that could lead to her defeat. Best Behavior (#5), Bar of Gold (#6), and Kiss to Remember (#9) all have legitimate chances, but the runner that we expect to present the best wagering opportunity is the reliable mare YOU BOUGHT HER (#2). She’s coming into this race in great form and is versatile enough to work out the right trip from off the pace.

Win: 

2

Exacta Key Box:

2 with 5,6,8,9 

Trifecta: 

2,8 with 2,8 with 3,4,5,6,9

2 with 5,6,9 with 3,4,5,6,8,9

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