Weekend Stakes Action: Royal Delta Is Back

Royal Delta - Harry How

2012 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta makes her seasonal debut in Sunday's Grade 3 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The stakes calendar is somewhat light on the road to the Kentucky Derby with just the El Camino Real Derby (Saturday) and the Southwest Stakes (Monday) on the docket, but there are plenty of other good races across the country on this Presidents Day weekend. I'll have a preview of the Southwest on Sunday but, for now, let's take a look at a few of the races slated for Saturday, as well as a snapshot of the full schedule.

G3-El Camino Real Derby - Saturday, 7:22pm ET

5-Zeewat (5/2) is looking for his third straight win after scoring victories in the Gold Rush and the California Derby at Golden Gate in his last two starts. Russell Baze in the irons + Jerry Hollendorfer + an in form colt = a tough looking runner.

Despite his recent form, Zeewat is not the morning line favorite for the El Camino Real, an honor that falls on the Bob Baffert shipper, 4-Mandando (9/5). When we last saw Mandando he was finishing third behind Goldencents in the G3-Sham at Santa Anita. He set the pace that day but failed to find an extra kick over the last quarter mile. He's run well on synthetics in the past so we should have any worry about the footing in this race.

Mandando probably won't get an easy lead in this spot as 1-Wildcat Moon and 2-Rush In have enough speed to pose at least a token challenge in the early stages. Additionally, Mandando's only victory came in a race where he was allowed to walk through six furlongs in 1:13 and 3, a fact that makes him at least a little vulnerable in this spot.

If Mandando gets spent in the early stages I think Russell and Zeewat will be cleaning up the mess in the last quarter mile.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Wildcat Moon K. Frey J. Bonde 6/1
2 Rush In J. Hernandez W. Morey 12/1
3 Counting Days D. Carr C. Gaines 30/1
4 Manando A. Gryder B. Baffert 9/5
5 Zeewat R. Baze J. Hollendorfer 5/2
6 Nina's Dragon J. Couton L. Mason 12/1
7 North Pacific F. Alvarado L. Kasmerski 30/1
8 Carving V. Espinoza B. Baffert 3/1
9 Dice Flavor J. Valdivia P. Gallegher 20/1

G3-Very One - Saturday, 4:05 pm ET

A well-balanced field of older fillies and mares will line up for the Very One at Gulfstream on Saturday. 1-Starformer (2/1) grabs morning line favorite status off of her victory in the G3-Long Island Handicap at the Big A in her last start. However, I think this mare might find this race a bit tough for her given the presence of 5-Closer Range (3/1) to her outside; Starformer likes to control the pace and she might not get that chance in this race.

With the rail set at 24 feet for the Very One I'm looking for something that can close from off the pace, something that fits 8-Kadaya (IRE) (4/1) to a "T". Her first two starts in North America following a brief career in France were both big time closing efforts at this distance on this turf course. She's also run and won over soft ground in France (at this distance and against a field of 20!), which tells me she can pretty much handle any type of going thrown her way. Given the rain at Gulfstream on Friday, that's a feather in her cap.

G2-Mac Diarmidia - Saturday, 5:05pm ET

Race 10 on Gulfstream's Saturday card is the male version of the Very One - the G2-Mac Diarmidia - and just like the Very One I'm looking for a horse to come from off the pace in this race. I'm shying away from 6-Nikki's Sandcastle (8/1) as I feel like this race is just a bit too far for her best effort. On the other hand, 9-Amira's Prince (IRE) (4/1) will not only love the trip but she should be plenty of pace to run into in the final furlongs. And just like Kadaya in the Very One, he's been picture perfect on the Gulfstream turf course since coming over from Europe.

G3-Tampa Bay Stakes - Saturday, 4:25 pm ET

Do you ever look at a race over and over, walk away for a while, come back and look at it some more and still not have an earthly clue what to think about it? That's how I feel about the Saturday's Tampa Bay Stakes on the lawn -- I haven't a clue. I like 4-Swift Warrior (6/1) a tad after his nice wire-to-wire victory in the G3-Connelly Turf at Sam Houston last time out, but I'm certainly don't feel like running to the windows to bet him. 5-Tiz Sardonic Joe (5/1) has been quite consistent over his last three races but is probably facing a much better field this time out. 8-Doubles Partner (5/2) has tons of back class but comes in after failing as the odds on favorite in the Sunshine Millions Turf in his last start. And on and on and on.

I've got no clue in this one.

G3-Sabin Stakes - Sunday, 5:05 pm ET

Royal Delta will face a field of just four rivals in Sunday's G3-Sabin Stakes with Grace Hall the most notable of her challengers. As is the case with seemingly every Breeders' Cup winner, the question for Royal Delta is "how fine tuned will she be in her first race back after a big effort and an almost four month layoff?

Below is a summary of several of the major stakes races scheduled for this weekend:

Date Track Race Gr. Age Sex Dist. Surf.
16-Feb GP Mac Diarmida 2 4up
11.0 Turf
16-Feb SA Santa Maria Stakes 2 4up f&m 8.5 Dirt
16-Feb GP Very One 3 4up f&m 11.0 Turf
16-Feb TAM Tampa Bay Stakes 3 4up
8.5 Turf
16-Feb LRL Fritchie Handicap 3 3up f&m 7.0 Dirt
16-Feb GG El Camino Real Derby 3 3yo
9.0 Synth.
16-Feb FG Sarah Lane's Oates Stakes LA 3yo f 8.0 Turf
16-Feb OP Bayakoa Stakes
4up f&m 8.5 Dirt
16-Feb AQU Stymie
3up
9.0 Dirt
17-Feb SA San Vicente Stakes 2 3yo
7.0 Dirt
17-Feb GP Sabin 3 4up f&m 8.5 Dirt
17-Feb OP Spring Fever Stakes
4up f&m 5.5 Dirt
18-Feb SA Buena Vista Stakes 2 4up f&m 8.0 Turf
18-Feb OP Southwest Stakes 3 3yo
8.5 Dirt
18-Feb AQU Hollie Hughes NY 3up
6.0 Dirt
18-Feb LRL General George 3 3up
7.0 Dirt
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