03/12/2013 11:45AM

Gulfstream Park: Southpaw Slammer should benefit from hot pace in Thursday feature


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Five-furlong turf races have been a staple throughout the winter at Gulfstream Park, with speed horses ruling the roost more often than not in these blink-and-they’re-over grass dashes.

Not surprisingly, there is plenty of speed signed on for Thursday’s $54,500 allowance feature, carded at five-eighths of a mile on grass for lower-level optional claimers. The field includes the front-running types Starship Wildcat, Drunken Love and The Chill Zone.

A torrid pace scenario could set things up for Southpaw Slammer to return to the winner’s circle, especially if he can work out a clean trip under new rider Joel Rosario.

Southpaw Slammer finished third under similar conditions Feb. 1. The outing was the first for the lightly raced son of Grand Slam since Aug. 18 and the first since being transferred to trainer Chad Brown’s barn by owner Paul Pompa Jr. earlier this winter.

Southpaw Slammer ran well in his 2013 debut despite getting shuffled back from second to fifth shortly after the start. He saved ground around the turn before rallying mildly to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the front-running Starship Wildcat. Southpaw Slammer has since had plenty of time to acclimate to Brown’s training program, working four times at Palm Meadows, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:01 over the main track Feb. 24.

Starship Wildcat certainly figures to be part of the early mix once again, especially breaking from an outside post. A fleet son of Wildcat Heir, Starship Wildcat was disqualified from his apparent victory Feb. 1 and placed fourth for drifting and impeding The Chill Zone near midstretch. He has started once since the disqualification, finishing second behind Wicked Tune after again contesting the pace under similar conditions three weeks later.

The veteran turf-sprint specialist Drunken Love is still going strong at age 8. The old pro will van down from his winter base at Tampa Bay Downs, where he posted a wire-to-wire three-length victory under similar, albeit somewhat cheaper, optional-claiming conditions Feb. 3.

Drunken Love earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure for the win, his second in his last three starts and his seventh in 10 outings since being claimed by trainer Jamie Ness for Midwest Thoroughbreds at Presque Isle Downs in August 2011.

Saint Pete could offer the best value among the many logical contenders in the main event and will be tough to beat if able to repeat his second-place effort from earlier in the session behind the red-hot Determinato, who has won his last three starts. Saint Pete also should benefit from his most recent appearance, where he set a fast pace for six furlongs before fading late while trying to stay 1 1/16 miles against another strong field Feb. 2.