Our US expert Tom Collins has a strong fancy at Gulfstream
9.07 Gulfstream Park
9.45 Golden Gate Fields
Finishing top of the trainer standings at the end of this Gulfstream meeting probably means little to 52-year-old Todd Pletcher, seven-time winner of the Eclipse award as well as recording five Classic victories, multiple Grade 1 successes and numerous Breeders' Cup prizes.
However, he is odds-on to do just that with asmall advantage over nearest pursuer Michael Maker with just five days to go, and he can extend his lead whenSoldado lines up in the penultimate $52,000 allowance optional claimer (9.07) at the track.
Soldado bucked the trend of Pletcher newcomers when winning well over this course and distance on his debut in a maiden special weight in February last year, overcoming a bump at the start to run out a ready winner from a subsequent Listed scorer trained by Chad Brown.
The form of that contest looks strong and the fact he didn't show expected improvement on his second and third outings, when finishing third and fourth respectively in allowance races here, was a bit of a disappointment.
However, he received a bump at the start again on his second outing and was forced five wide, so he had an excuse that day, while his fourth came over 1m½f.
Soldado clearly didn't stay that day, looking the most likely winner as they approached the stretch before tiring and finishing ten lengths behind the leader.
He returned to winning ways after a ten-month layoff when dropped back to 6f last time, posting a career-best speed figure and dominating from the front against the rail.
Likely to go off around 9-5, Soldado has been given the plot draw in stall one again and Luis Saez retains the ride. He looks to have the perfect make-up to dominate from the front again and take his record to three wins from five races.
Golden Gate Fields is one of my favourite punting tracks in the US but its seven-race card is far from easy to pick apart. When that's the case, the best punting strategy is to side with the best rider– Juan Hernandez.
He has the pick of multiple horses in most races and the fact he gets onMalibu Alex in the $12,000 claimer (9.45) indicates his mount will go close.
Jack Steiner's runner looked a horse with copious talent and potential early in his career but hasn't really progressed over the years and boasts a record of just four wins from 27 starts.
He also hasn't won in 13 months, but that has meant Malibu Alex has dropped down the grades and now finds himself in the easiest contest he has ever been in.
There's no better man at Golden Gate than Hernandez to get the best out of his mounts and therefore Malibu Alex is worthy of support.
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