The Lead:
Saturday’s program at Gulfstream Park West serves as a tune-up for the Jan. 18 Sunshine Millions Day card at Gulfstream Park, which will feature Florida-breds running for $600,000 in stakes purses. The Sunshine Millions Preview Day boasts 8 stakes races worth $75,000 each and includes many familiar names to the South Florida racing scene.

Field Depth:
Five runners will contest the Classic Preview, including the 3-time defending champion MR. JORDAN and 2017 runner-up RICHARD THE GREAT. Meanwhile, HY RIVERSIDE was the 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic winner in the main event, and sophomore ART G IS BACK is a 2-time stakes winner on the circuit. RED CRESCENT seeks his first career stakes victory.

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – JANUARY 21: #3 Hy Riverside (FL) with jockey Jose Ortiz on board duels with #2 Nauset Beach (FL) to win the Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 21, 2017 in Hallandale Beach, Florida. (Photo by Liz Lamont/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

RED CRESCENT and RICHARD THE GREAT both wired 7-furlong sprints in their most recent starts and are drawn inside the compact field. They should ensure a fair pace. The other 3 runners all have some semblance of tactical speed and midpack ability that indicates they will be in the hunt with a chance to fire. There are no pace disadvantages apparent.

Our Eyes:
MR. JORDAN is one of the great horse-for-course players you’ll see in America. He’s 5-for-5 on the Gulfstream Park West main track lifetime, winning 5 stakes races. He scored the Juvenile Sprint and Smooth Air as a 2-year-old in 2014; then returned here in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to win consecutive editions of the Sunshine Millions Classic Preview. But the veteran has lost his last 7 races since winning this event a year ago, including 5 finishes out of the money. Consider that he only finished out of the money twice in his first 17 races, and it’s plausible to connect the dots that this 7-year-old may have lost some of his speed. When he’s been off, he’s been way off. Those 5 off-the-board finishes have come at an average of more than 18 lengths per attempt. But with nearly $900,000 earned and a local record as good as you can get, there’s temptation to overlook the recent missteps.

November 29, 2014: Race 5. 2 year old, Mr. Jordan with jockey Gabriel Saez on board wins the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream Park West, in Miami Gardens, Florida.. Liz Lamont/ESW/CSM

If the baton in this race finally is ready to pass, who might step up to accept?

RICHARD THE GREAT also seemed to be spinning his wheels since finishing second in this race 2 years ago to MR. JORDAN. He returned from a 13-month layoff to win a class-drop into the claiming ranks on September 12, snapping an 8-race losing skid. He’s gone through a few trainer changes from Stan Gold to Rudy Rodriguez to Juan Alvarado. His current barn has struggled mightily at the current Gulfstream Park West meet, losing its first 14 bids heading into this week’s racing. No doubt you have to move this one up if there’s a wet track.

HY RIVERSIDE could draw near $500,000 in earnings with a victory. The 7-year-old is part of the same 2012 crop that includes rivals MR. JORDAN and RICHARD THE GREAT. Over a 1-turn mile at Gulfstream Park, HY RIVERSIDE led a 1-2 run over MR. JORDAN in June. But since he’s been lambasted by 28 combined lengths in separate match-ups with 2 other rivals in this race. He’s 1-for-4 this year since his owners swapped barns from Antonio Sano to Jorge Delgado. And Jeffrey Sanchez will be his 5th different jockey in 5 races this year when he hops aboard Saturday. It seems they’re reaching to find the right combination.

ART G IS BACK, despite what his name suggests, is actually the fresh face to this cast. He’s the only member of this field who was not part of the 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic Preview a few seasons back. He was merely a yearling then. Despite his connections trying to make a turf horse out of him — where he’s performed solidly, but is 0-for-6 — he’s turned out to be a strong local sophomore on the dirt. He’s won 4 of 6 on the main track at Gulfstream Park and will be making his first attempt at GPW. According to Betmix, sire Exchange Rate’s offspring hit a rock-solid 18% wins and 33% in the exacta at Gulfstream Park West on dirt. Just based on pedigree, there’s no reason to think he regresses on the change in venue.

Most Certain Exotics Contender: ART G IS BACK has finished in the exacta in his last 5 starts on dirt and handles an off-track if that’s presented.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender: Not applicable given the field size.

Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $100 win ART G IS BACK.


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