02/07/2013 2:48PM

Weekend Warrior for Feb. 9, 2013: Picks for San Marcos, Donn, and Gulfstream Sprint Championship


Gulfstream Park will be the center of attention Saturday with a pair of Grade  1 races and two Grade 3 races on its card. The Grade 1’s are the $500,000 Donn Handicap and the $300,000 Kitten’s Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, which features an appealing match up between Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom. The supporting Grade 3 events, both worth $150,000, are the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, and the Suwannee River Stakes. The only other graded stakes Saturday is the Grade 2, $150,000 San Marcos at Santa Anita.

San Marcos Stakes [GET PPs]

I had a bit of good fortune in this space last week with a Ron McAnally-trained Argentine-bred in a grass stakes at Santa Anita, specifically Suggestive Boy in the Arcadia. Interaction in this event just happens to be a Ron McAnally-trained Argentine-bred in a turf stakes at Santa Anita, but that isn’t the only reason why I like him.

Interaction was a three-time Group 1 winner in his native country, including a decisive victory over 21 opponents in the prestigious Carlos Pellegrini in 2009. His U.S. career got off to a disappointing start in 2011, but he regained his footing last year after being moved to Southern California and McAnally’s barn. Interaction won his first start out West, and followed with a game, if soundly beaten second to the top-class Acclamation in the Eddie Read. Interaction’s next three performances weren’t of quite the same quality, although his dull effort in the Citation Handicap two starts back is probably best written off as a mere prep as it was at a distance significantly shorter than what he prefers. However, Interaction rebounded last time out with an effort that might have been his best in the U.S. so far.

Interaction finished second most recently in the Hollywood Turf Cup despite encountering a slow pace that compromised his closing style. He was beaten less than a length by Grandeur, who has the potential to be an important grass horse in this country. The form of the Hollywood Turf Cup was flattered when third-place finisher Optimizer came back to win the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap in his next start with a 100 Beyer Figure. Interaction is cutting back from 12 to 10 furlongs Saturday, which is significant, but he has run well at middle distances before. And while the San Marcos pace certainly won’t be hot, it should be honest enough to allow Interaction to make an effective late run.

I also think Richard’s Kid is intriguing. At first glance, it might appear that Richard’s Kid might have finally lost his edge at age 8, and maybe he has. But he has also been compromised by either slow paces or speed-biased tracks in his recent starts. And the fact is, if he is able to run back to his third in the Pacific Classic four starts back, he will drown this field.

Richard’s Kid is a big question mark on turf. He finished seventh at 21-1 in the 2009 Eddie Read in his only career attempt on grass, but that was before he became the Richard’s Kid we have come to know. And his excellent synthetic track record suggests that he shouldn’t be completely out of his element on turf. But Richard’s Kid might also just be prepping Saturday for next month’s Big Cap.

Donn Handicap [GET PPs + WATCH LIVE]

Flat Out will take a ton of beating here. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup two starts back over a Belmont main track that admittedly is his favorite, beating subsequent Cigar Mile winner Stay Thirsty, and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned. But Flat Out was also a fine third in the Whitney at Saratoga three starts back, and third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last time out, which was a creditable effort considering he was going against a speed-biased track. And it is also worth noting that Bill Mott, the trainer of Flat Out, had Ron the Greek ready to fire on all cylinders in his first start of the year at Gulfstream, sending him out to win the Sunshine Millions Classic by more than 11 lengths in what might have been his best race yet. But Flat Out is a deep closer, and I try not to take downtown closers at Gulfstream, even if the pace figures to be strong, as it does in this race.

I’m going with Bourbon Courage. He also comes from off the pace, but he doesn’t have to be that far back, and with a major rider switch to Javier Castellano, he should get first jump on Flat Out. In any case, Bourbon Courage finished his 3-year-old campaign with style last year, running away with the Super Derby, finishing a close second in the Indiana Derby after a bad trip, and finishing third most recently in the Clark Handicap that was arguably his best effort so far. Bourbon Courage could have been second in the Clark if he didn’t have to be steadied in the late stages behind Shackleford, who was drifting in and out as he was reaching for the wire. I think that late steady cost Bourbon Courage the place photo to Take Charge Indy.

Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship [GET PPs + WATCH LIVE]

Bahamian Squall is another who will be tough to beat Saturday at Gulfstream. Bahamian Squall got a dream rail trip when he won the Sunshine State at the distance over the track two starts back, but he showed he’s not trip-dependent when he finished a gaining second in the Sunshine Millions Sprint most recently.

That said, I’m taking a shot with Fort Loudon. Fort Loudon was no match for Bahamian Squall in the Sunshine State two back, but he did have a tougher, three wide trip. I like him cutting back to a sprint after finishing a distant third to Ron the Greek going long in the Sunshine Millions Classic last time out. And Fort Loudon has some back sprint performances that make him competitive, namely his win over male sprint champion Trinniberg in the Carry Back and his close second in the King’s Bishop.