03/15/2011 1:04PM

Gulfstream Park: Plenty of contenders in optional claimer


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – There are nine horses in Thursday’s $55,600 optional claiming feature at Gulfstream Park, and handicappers can make a case for almost each and every one winning the 6 1/2-furlong dash, including the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers from a similar race run here earlier this winter.

De Price will likely go postward the slight favorite coming off a pair of second-place efforts earlier in the meet, including a seven-furlong optional claimer on Jan. 29 when he rallied to finish just a length behind Mia’s Angel despite steadying briefly awaiting clearance along the inside entering the stretch. De Price earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort, easily the best last-race number posted by any member of this field.

De Price has been working well for trainer Dale Romans since his last start.

Royal Straight set the pace before fading to finish third, less than three lengths behind De Price, when the pair met Jan 29. Royal Straight earned his career-best Beyer, an 87, in that race. He has been training extremely well for his return, having turned in a pair of bullet five-furlong drills within a seven-day span earlier this month at Palm Meadows.

Mighty Score was parked wide and finished fourth, behind both De Price and Royal Straight, when the trio crossed paths for the first time nearly seven weeks earlier. Mighty Score shortened up to six furlongs three weeks later to finish third while no match for the favored pair of Candyman E and Savemyspotimbetting.

Cravin Caden was beaten four lengths by De Price when the pair squared off as maidens last summer in New York before closing out the year with three sharp efforts, including a pair of third-place allowance tries going a mile at Belmont. Idle since Oct. 17, Cravin Caden launches his season off an encouraging, black-letter five-furlong drill in 1:00.20 a week ago at Palm Meadows.

Related is the biggest question mark in the field, making his U.S. and main-track debuts after racing exclusively on turf in his native Australia prior to being brought to North America. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Related competed in Group 1 and Group 2 races with moderate success earlier in his career.

Catalan was stakes placed at 3 and appears to be cycling back to his best form with a pair of races under his belt earlier this winter.

Havanadaydream launched his career with a trio of good efforts here a year ago but has been idle since last March 19 and might need a race off the bench.

The Hunk should benefit from his 2011 debut and a switch back to the main track after opening the season on grass.