I Am Now won the seventh race on Feb. 23 at Gulfstream, and his was a race we can learn from as gamblers and handicappers. (Photo by Leslie Martin/Gulfstream Park)
Asking a horse to jump from a claimer to an allowance race can be a highly difficult challenge for one main reason: class.
As fast as a horse might seem, taking on better competition can be a humbling experience.
Yet if there’s one place where class is a nebulous factor it would be a maiden race on a turf.
Making the jump on turf from a maiden claimer to a maiden special weight race considerably easier involves the lack of proven ability on turf by some – or most - of the horses in the field.
Take the seventh race at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, Feb. 23. It was a maiden special weight race that attracted a field of 11. Three horses in the field were making their first start. Five more had not finished in the money in a turf race.
Against that backdrop of questionable turf form, there was one horse whose stock rose as the others around her dipped.
I Am Now made her career debut for trainer Todd Pletcher on Dec. 29 in a maiden special weight race that was washed off the turf and contested on the main track. She finished fourth, 23 lengths behind the winner.
Her second race was on turf, but this time Pletcher dropped her into a $75,000 maiden claimer. She finished a much-improved second.
Now Pletcher returned her to maiden special weight company on the turf, putting her in a race against tougher company. Or was it?
With only two rivals who had finished better than fourth in a turf race – and both of them coming off a sub-par race – class was hardly a great divide between the one-time claimer and her supposedly faster and better rivals. In this instance, though, class mattered less than the ability to handle turf.
For those who saw promise in I Am Now’s last race and did not give into a temptation to view her as an outclassed runner, the payoff was $8.60 for $2 when she posted a decisive 4 1/2-length victory.
THE LESSON: As important as class can be, in grass races a proven ability on turf can outweigh it.