Keeneland’s spring meet might be dominating the headlines, but racing fans are advised to check out the action at Gulfstream Park this week.
A bevy of maiden special weights are slated to take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and a number of promising horses are slated to debut, including a stoutly bred colt from the barn of Todd Pletcher.
Let’s highlight four of the most intriguing first-time starters:
Gulfstream Park Race 2: Maiden special weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 1:37 p.m. EDT)
No 6 jelly bean
Pedigree: Brethren–Star Recruit, by Aldebaran
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Carlos David
Betting races filled with untested early-season juveniles can be tricky, but the chestnut filly Jellybean looks like a safe play in this 4 1/2-furlong dash for 2-year-old fillies. The daughter of Brethren has two full siblings: Gatsby, who won his April debut de ella as a juvenile at Gulfstream before later succeeding at the stakes level; and Octane, who broke his maiden de ella at Gulfstream in July before going on to win multiple stakes at age 2.
Gatsby and Octane have achieved their signature victories under the care of Carlos David, who likewise trains Jellybean. David wins at a solid 15 percent rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, and Jellybean has turned in 10 timed workouts in preparation for her career bow, suggesting she’ll be ready to roll right out of the gate.
Gulfstream Park Race 2: Maiden special weight (4 1/2 furlongs, 1:37 p.m.)
Pedigree: Uncaptured–Deposit Only, by Put It Back
Purchase price: $40,000
Trainer: Peter Walder
Sold for $40,000 as a yearling, Zelenskyy Strong can earn back a sizable portion of his purchase price in this maiden dash for 2-year-olds.
A son of Uncaptured (who win five stakes at age 2), Zelenskyy Strong was produced by Deposit Only, a debut-winning juvenile who matured to win Gulfstream’s Cherokee Frolic Starter Stakes at age 3. As a broodmare, Deposit Only has struck success as the dam of Jackson, who won his debut at Gulfstream during July of his juvenile season before going on to win five stakes at the ages of 2, 3 and 4, including the World of Trouble Sprint (G3).
Zelenskyy Strong has shown speed in the mornings, most notably breezing a quick three furlongs from the Gulfstream Park starting gate in :35 3/5. Taking all of these factors together, it’s easy to see why Zelenskyy Strong is the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Gulfstream Park Race 5: Maiden special weight (six furlongs, 3:15 p.m.)
#4 No Code
Pedigree: Honor Code–No Curfew, by Curlin
Purchase price: $75,000
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
It’s safe to say No Code is bred to run long. His sire of him is Honor Code, voted champion older dirt male of 2015 after winning the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and Whitney (G1). Honor Code is passing on stamina at stud, with 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Max Player, 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) winner Maracuja, and 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Honor AP among his best runners to date.
Meanwhile, No Code’s dam is a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and Preakness winner Curlin, best known for siring 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice and 1 3/16-mile Preakness hero Exaggerator. Sprinting six furlongs is unlikely to be No Code’s best ball game, but if this Todd Pletcher trainee can produce a competitive showing in his Saturday debut, watch out. He’s eligible to develop in a positive direction when stretching out in distance down the road.
Pedigree: Union Rags–After Thought, by Fusaichi Pegasus
Purchase price: $50,000
Trainer: Jena Antonucci
Classic winners dot the immediate lineage of Union of Thoughts. The bay colt is a son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags out of a mare by Kentucky Derby hero Fusaichi Pegasus, so there’s a good chance Union of Thoughts will enjoy running one mile or farther. He may also appreciate turf, considering that After Thought already has foaled Annulment and Youngest Daughter, both grass stakes winners racing one mile or farther.
But for now, Union of Thoughts is slated to debut over six furlongs on dirt. The distance might be a bit short, but Union of Thoughts has put together a lengthy work tab in preparation for this race, even clocking a swift five furlongs in 1:00.4 seconds at Gulfstream earlier this month. In the long run, Union of Thoughts could be one worth following.