There are two huge races to look forward to at Gulfstream Park this weekend, as the Sunshine Turf Stakes and Sunshine Filly and Mare Stakes are staged. With the leading horse racing sportsbooks offering prices on both. Meanwhile, the biggest race anywhere in the world this weekend comes from Ascot, as a monster showdown in the National Hunt season sees Shishkin and Energumene clash in the Clarence House Chase.
Sunshine Turf Stakes
We will start at Gulfstream Park with the first of the two stakes contests that are taking place. The Sunshine Turf Stakes is run over a turf surface and sees the field race over one and one-eighth miles. Seven horses have declared for the fourth race on the card at Gulfstream, and it appears very difficult to take on the horse at the top of the betting.
Todd Pletcher trains Shamrocket, who has been in excellent form over the past couple of months. He return to action in the middle of January with a fine win in the Sunshine Classic Stakes, beating a few of his rivals involved in this race at the weekend. His highest speed figure in 2021 came when fourth in the G1 Man o’ War, which is incredibly strong form coming into this.
Those looking to take on the favorite this weekend may be most interested in Lure Him In. The five-year-old for Robert Hess has clocked speed figures of greater than 100 in each of his last three, and also clocked a 101 when fifth in the G3 San Juan Capistrano Stakes. This is a first start at Gulfstream, but he has the speed required to excel.
Pick: 1- Shamrocket 2- Lure Him In
Sunshine Filly and Mare Turf Stakes
The fillies and mares will be in action in the tenth race on the card, which is the Sunshine Filly and Mare Turf Stakes. This is run over a mile, and is once again taking place on the turf surface. Like the Sunshine Turf Stakes, the favorite in the betting is extremely challenging to take on.
Saffie Joseph has an exceptional record for the meet at Gulfstream, and Sugar Fix looks the handiest of the field this weekend. The five-year-old claimed stakes success for the first time in her career last time out, as she posted a 108 when winning the Claiming Crown Tiara Starter Stakes. She has been building towards that win for a number of months, having finished second in a starter allowance with a 96 rating, and winning the same race type as well as an allowance optional claiming; both at Gulfstream.
Kelsey’s Cross looks the best of the rest in a very bang average field if we are being totally honest. The six-year-old was seventh in this race last year, but did post a win at Gulfstream in April 2021 with a speed figure of 104. A sixth in the G3 Suwannee River is half decent coming into this, and she would be the selection for second.
Pick: 1- Sugar Fix 2- Kelsey’s Cross
Clarence House Chase- Grade 1
Anyone that reads this column regularly will be aware of my love for National Hunt racing, and there is little surprise this weekend that I want to preview the Clarence House Chase. The Grade 1 is the biggest race of the season so far, and is a showdown that would be fitting for the Cheltenham Festival.
It pits together two superstar chasers, who both boast unbeaten records since going over fences. Shishkin goes for the Brits and trainer Nicky Henderson, while Energumene comes over from Ireland for Willie Mullins. The Irish raider was simply sensation at Cork on his last start, as he ran away from Daly Tiger easily to win by eight and a half lengths.
However, the preference has to be for Shishkin. The eight-year-old is regarded as the best horse in training in Britain and made it six wins from six over fences at Kempton in December when beating the in-form Greaneteen by ten lengths. The two will battle once against at Cheltenham in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but we expect Shishkin to take the advantage. First Flow also shouldn’t be overlooked having won this 12 months ago, and is two from four at Ascot.