12/01/2016 1:56PM

Navarro has speedsters to beat in Express, Rapid Transit

Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Defer Heaven has won 5 of 6 at Gulfstream, including the Trust Buster Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The six-furlong Express and seven-furlong Rapid Transit, two of the nine Claiming Crown events on opening day at Gulfstream Park, have several things in common: big fields loaded with speed and trainer Jorge Navarro with arguably the horse to beat.

The $110,000 Express (race 6) brings together a field of 14 $8,000 starter-allowance rivals, including the Navarro-trained Defer Heaven, who returns to his favorite track off a sixth-place finish against allowance company in September at Parx. Defer Heaven has won five of his six starts at Gulfstream Park, including four in a row by a combined 22 lengths last winter.

“The race at Parx, coming from a fast track at Monmouth Park, the track was real deep, and he didn’t get over it,” Navarro said. “He had a good summer, so we backed off and gave him a break. He’s a pretty cool horse to be around. He loves Gulfstream Park, and he likes the fast tracks.”

Defer Heaven does his best running on the lead and figures to have plenty of company at the front of the pack in the Express. Much of that speed will come from the inside, with Blings Express, J B Quick, and Alfredo Romana all figuring to leave early from posts 1, 2, and 3.

:: CLAIMING CROWN: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

A contentious pace could play in the favor of the locally based Mitos Y Leyendas, another horse for the course who has posted eight of his nine wins at Gulfstream. Also likely to be rallying in the stretch is New York invader Proper Freud, who is perfect in two starts since being haltered by trainer David Jacobson for $40,000 this summer at Saratoga.

Other key contenders in the wide-open Express include Great Lou and Express Jet.

Rapid Transit: One-two punch

Navarro will have a solid one-two punch in the Rapid Transit (race 4), with the speedy Shaft of Light complemented by the late-running Prudhoe Bay.

Shaft of Light has posted all four of his victories this season in wire-to-wire fashion and has registered the only triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in the field, earning a 100 when second in Monmouth Park’s Mr. Prospector Stakes on June 26.

Shaft of Light comes off a fifth-place finish in an allowance race at Parx on Sept. 10.

“I think he’s a stakes horse,” Navarro said. “The last race, he took back, and he doesn’t want to sit back there. He wants to be on the lead. He’s working really, really well. Last week, he worked in 58 and change and galloped out in 1:11. He’s ready.”

Prudhoe Bay has been freshened since rallying to a very easy 3 3/4-length victory against $12,500 claimers at Monmouth on Sept. 2. Like Shaft of Light, he has posted a series of bullet works at Gulfstream Park West in preparation for his return, although he will have to overcome the outside post in a field of 11.

The pace figures to be very fast and hotly contested, with Shaft of Light likely to be joined early for the lead by Day of Fury, Flashy Jewel, and perhaps Tenango.

Day of Fury has banked more than $122,000 from 10 starts on the year, the most of anyone in the field. He’s also proven to be an extremely popular item at the claim box, having been haltered five times since early spring for prices ranging from $12,500 to $25,000.

Flashy Jewel exits the best race of his career, a wire-to-wire, 5 3/4-length triumph going a mile at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. He was claimed for $25,000.

Fire Mission, Sharp Art, and It Behooves Me all likely would benefit from a hot pace. Fire Mission had an eventful trip when finishing third behind It Behooves Me as the favorite in the Rapid Transit Preview at Laurel on Nov. 6, while Sharp Art comes in from Churchill Downs off an impressive $50,000 claiming win at a mile for trainer Matt Kordenbrock.