09/01/2016 2:00PM

Three Rules looks difficult to defeat in Affirmed Stakes

Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Three Rules will be heavily favored to win his fourth straight race in the Affirmed.

Three Rules seemed barely to turn a hair when he won the $200,000 Dr. Fager division of the Florida Sires Stakes series by seven lengths Aug. 6, running six furlongs in 1:09.49 and earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, the third-highest mark recorded in North America by a 2-year-old this season. What’s more, he did all that while probably less than 100 percent.

Three Rules “popped an abscess in one of his legs about a week before the race,” trainer Jose Pinchin said. “He missed five or six days of training.”

If the Dr. Fager was Three Rules’s A-minus race, just consider what he might do Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $300,000 Affirmed division of the Florida Sire Stakes.

“He’s an improving horse right now,” said Pinchin, who trains Three Rules for Bert Pilcher’s Shade Tree Thoroughbreds.

Three Rules will be overwhelmingly favored to win his fourth race without a loss when he breaks from the outside in a seven-horse field for the seven-furlong Affirmed. Cornelio Velasquez has the mount on a colt who has won his first three races by 13 1/2 lengths combined.

The Affirmed, race 12, is one of four Florida Sire Stakes worth a total of $900,000 on a 13-race card that starts at 12:35 p.m. Eastern. It shares top billing with the $300,000 Susan’s Girl for 2-year-old Florida-sired fillies and is the last of six stakes Saturday.

Three Rules, by Gone Astray, has won at five, 5 1/2, and six furlongs while pressing the pace, leading, and racing behind horses on the fence. He has won on a sloppy track and on fast going and is a sweet-moving colt who has looked like a man among boys while comfortably handling the likes of Saratoga Special winner Gunnevera.

“He’s a big, strong, good-looking colt. I don’t think seven furlongs is a problem at all, and he’ll get two turns,” Pinchin said. “He’s easy to get along with, a smart horse.”

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After Saturday, there’s one more race in the Florida Sire Series for 2-year-olds males, and that with a $500,000 purse. If Three Rules keeps winning, he’ll use that race as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Pinchin said, provided Pilcher doesn’t sell the colt.

“You never know if the right money comes,” said Pinchin. “Everyone has a price, right?”

Pinchin said Three Rules raced in front bandages last time because of his recent abscess, and handicappers looking to take down the heavy chalk won’t find holes. Jewel Heist, a debut winner at Belmont Park, has 12 lengths to make up on Three Rules based on the Dr. Fager result but had a tricky trip from the rail and races with blinkers added Saturday. Front Loaded, also trained by Pinchin, ran decently in the Dr. Fager but was beaten more than nine lengths.

◗ On the one hand, the 2-year-old filly Cajun Delta Dawn is unbeaten in the first three starts of her career. On the other, she’s one length away from being winless. Cajun Delta Dawn either has a nose for the wire or has been very lucky.

But even if good fortune has played a part in her winning streak, she’s not a horse whom bettors should rush to oppose in the Susan’s Girl. Cajun Delta Dawn has been a fair price in all three of her races and has yet to start favored.

“She’s been a bit of a surprise,” said David Fawkes, who trains the 2-year-old Kantharos filly for owner Curtis Mikkelsen. “I guess she’s not one of these horses that comes into your barn and you go, ‘Oh my God!’ She does a really good job and tries hard. She’s easy to deal with and does everything right.”

Cajun Delta Dawn has speed but already has displayed a willingness to either rate or race behind other horses; she came up the fence to win the $200,000 Desert Vixen by a neck Aug. 6 over Lu Lu Lara, who also is back for the Susan’s Girl.

Cajun Delta Dawn sped to the front and won her debut over 4 1/2 furlongs, but Fawkes said he believes the seven-furlong distance of Saturday’s race is a positive.

“It might help her if it does anything,” he said.

Lu Lu Lara held gamely in the Desert Vixen after dueling on a demanding pace, albeit over a track surface that appeared to help front-runners, but she might be in for another pressured trip while drawn inside of Sweet Tooth Haven.

And Sweet Tooth Haven might be serious. The filly, by Vineyard Haven, just debuted Aug. 20, but she won a Florida-bred maiden race with aplomb, cruising to the front and getting away from her pursuers while under a hand ride between the three-furlong and quarter poles. She was ridden out to victory in what might not have been an especially taxing effort and is well drawn Saturday in post 7.