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Blog - GAMBLING

Ultimate Eagle prevails in the 2011 Oak Tree Derby. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

The 56th running of the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) brings together a field of 10 with nearly all of them proven in graded stakes races competition. Recent Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) winner Csaba is one of the main contenders, entering the race on a four-race winning streak including two wins at Gulfstream Park. Hal’s Hope runner-up Pool Play is another expected to run very well, losing just by a neck in his first start since running eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) but having won the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G2) before that. Ultimate Eagle is the horse each Donn contender will likely have to run down in the stretch with three, front-running graded stakes victories in his career, including the similar Strub Stakes (G2) at this time last year and at the distance of the Donn. Two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) winner Flat Out finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in his most recent race and deserves respect. Two more that warrant a long look at the outcome were last seen separated by a head when finishing second and third, respectively, in the Clark Handicap (G1) – Take Charge Indy and Bourbon Courage, the former winner of the 2012 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream and the latter having won the Super Derby (G2) last summer. Ducduc won the Fred Hooper Handicap (G3) one before last and could rebound to top form, while Citrus Kid has won two of his last three races and was once competitive at this level, such as when second in the Jamaica Handicap (G1) in fall 2010. Fast Falcon missed by inches when third in the Travers Stakes (G1) last summer and could be up to the task although he has only a maiden win to his credit. Last but not least, Graydar has won two of three career starts but is being tested for class here as this will be his first try in a stakes race.

Ultimate Eagle is one of only three horses in the Donn to have run in 2013, which could give him a physical edge in this competitive field. His last effort came on Jan. 5 when he led from the start and ended up a head shy of victory in the San Pasqual Stakes in California. Improving his Equibase Speed Figure for his third straight race, to 108, Ultimate Eagle once again is approaching the form shown when winning the Strub Stakes at this time last year and off a layoff similar to the one he’s coming back from in this race. Ultimate Eagle is a horse who usually will not allow another horse to be in front of him in the early stages of a race. With a high cruising speed that will discourage other “early” pace types from engaging him from the start, Ultimate Eagle might not be caught in this year’s Donn.

Pool Play was returning from a little more than two months off on Jan. 13 when coming up a neck shy of victory to Csaba in the Hal’s Hope Stakes. Tying a career-best 114 Equibase Speed Figure with that effort, the same figure earned when winning the Stephen Foster Handicap in spring 2011 (also at the distance of the Donn), Pool Play is likely to be rallying from far back in the early stages. If Ultimate Eagle cannot lead from start to finish, Pool Play is very likely to be the one to go by him late for the win, particularly since Pool Play should improve in his second start off that short freshening.

Csaba had a decent career going into the Tropical Park Derby last October, winning four of 13 races, but since that time he’s become a formidable foe. Winning four straight stakes races starting with that race, Csaba has earned 116 and 114  Equibase Speed Figures, respectively, in his last two victories, both at Gulfstream Park. Having also won twice in his career at the distance of the Donn and with jockey Luis Saez in the saddle for the fifth straight time, Csaba would be no surprise if keeping his win skein intact with another big effort.

CSABA WINNING HAL'S HOPE

Csaba Eclipse

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Bourbon Courage was last seen rallying to miss second by a neck in the Clark Handicap, won by the now-retired superstar Shackleford. Earning a career-best 118  Equibase Speed Figure with that effort, Bourbon Courage previously was proven at the distance and in top company when victorious in the Super Derby last September. As a newly turned 4-year-old, Bourbon Courage figures to start out strongly on a campaign that could lead to a start this coming fall in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Citrus Kid (110), Ducduc (113), Fast Falcon (113), Flat Out (123), Graydar (110) and Take Charge Indy (118).

My Selections:

Ultimate Eagle

Pool Play

Csaba

Bourbon Courage

$500,000 Donn Handicap G1)

Saturday, Gulfstream Park, Race 11, 5:32 p.m. ET,

4-year-olds and older, 1 1/8 miles

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

1

Bourbon Courage (KY)

J. Castellano

117

K. Gorder

2

Flat Out (FLA)

J. Rosario

121

W.I. Mott

3

Fast Falcon (KY)

J. Lezcano

114

N.P. Zito

4

Graydar (KY)

E.S. Prado

114

T.A. Pletcher

5

Ultimate Eagle (KY)

M.A. Pedroza

120

M. Pender

6

Ducduc (KY)

J.L. Alvarez

115

S. Parbhoo

7

Csaba (KY)

L. Saez

120

P.A. Gleaves

8

Take Charge Indy (KY)

J.R. Velazquez

117

P.B. Byrne

9

Pool Play (ON)

M. Mena

119

M.E. Casse

10

Citrus Kid (KY)

J. Rocco Jr.

117

J.P. Terranova II

 

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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