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Weekend Stakes Action (10/9-10/10)

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Last weekend was such a big weekend of races - Jockey Club Gold Cup, Flower Bowl, Zenyatta, Goodwood, etc. - that you'd think that this weekend would pale by comparison.  On the contrary, there is tons of great stakes action taking place on the East Coast, West Coast and in places in-between.

Nine Grade 1 races will take place this weekend, starting with Friday's Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland that was won by Wickedly Perfect.    Keeneland will showcase four more Grade 1s over the next two days to give them a total of eight graded stakes races in a three day span.

In the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, Gio Ponti will shorten up in distance and try a mile for the first time since November of 2009 when he won the Grade 1 Kilroe at Santa Anita.  Since that time Gio Ponti has been a top class horse at a mile and a quarter but since there isn't a race on the turf at that distance at the Breeders' Cup the connections are looking to see whether the Mile would be a good spot for him.  He's shown the ability to win at this distance in the past but I don't know that I would take 6/5 on this horse in this spot

Not to be outdone, Belmont Park will offer one of the most important prep races in the juvenile division in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, a race that will feature arguably the most impressive maiden winner during the entire 2010 Saratoga meet - Uncle Mo.  The two-year-old son of Indian Charlie debuted in a Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs on August 28th and proceeded to simply demolish the field of ten by 14 ¼ lengths.  While it remains to be seen what exactly Uncle Mo was running against that day (only three of the nine have come back to race and none have won a race), there's no denying that he was brilliant in that first start.  Should he put up a big effort in the Champagne it's conceivable that Uncle Mo and not Boys At Tosconova will be the betting favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Right before the Champagne the fillies get their turn in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes, a race that doesn't have the monster that the Champagne has but instead has a field of balanced and well-regarded fillies looking to take that next step to Churchill Downs.  Todd Pletcher once again looks to have one of the top contenders in 1-R Heat Lightning (3/1), the winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway last time out. 

A filly to watch out for in the Frizette is the 4-Maple Forest (12/1), a shipper from Monmouth that has blazing speed from the gate.  Maple Forest ran in the Sorority last time out and finished a close second after running the opening quarter in a blazing 21.80 seconds.  She made her debut at Saratoga over a sloppy and sealed course where she ripped off an opening quarter of 21.73 on her way to an easy victory.  There isn't a ton of speed in this race and there is the very real possibility that Maple Forest is going to find herself all alone on the lead early on.  I'm not sure how far she wants to run but 12/1 morning line combined with the possibility that she might inherit an easy lead in a one turn mile makes her an interesting value play.

1st UPDATE: Okay, so pretty much ignore everything I wrote below about Sidney's Candy as he has been scratched from the Oak Tree Mile due to "a pending sale", as reported by the Daily Racing Form.  I'm not sure why the new owners wouldn't want him to race unless he is going to be ceremoniously retired. (I don't like to be a pessimist but I've followed this sport long enough to know that when a good horse is sold to someone else they are likely to be shuffled off to the shed as fast as possible.)

2nd UPDATE: The original DRF.com article now indicates that Sidney's Candy is still being pointed towards the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Out at the Oak Tree meet at Hollywood Park, Sidney's Candy is pegged as the 6/5 morning line favorite in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile in his first attempt at racing against older horses.  The Santa Anita Derby winner exploded in the La Jolla Handicap when he made his first career start on turf and he's shown a devastating turn of early foot that has left many of his rivals gasping for air from chasing him by the time the field hits the top of the stretch.  This race, however, will be a bit more of a challenge that his last since the two horses to his outside (6-Tropic Storm and 7-Liberian Freighter) and the horse to his inside (4-Colgan's Chip) all have the ability to get out and run hard on the front end.  It's doubtful that anything will come easy in the early stages of this race.

If Sidney's Candy is able to win the Oak Tree Mile while under constant pressure from his rivals to either side of him, he'll have stamped himself a legitimate player for the Breeders' Cup Mile, even if the Mile turns out to be a race for second.

The complete schedule of graded stakes races, and key listed stakes, can be found below the jump.

Date

Race

Gr.

Track

Division

Dist.

Surf.

10/8/2010

Alcibiades

1

Keeneland

Juvenile Fillies

8.5

Poly

10/8/2010

Phoenix

3

Keeneland

Sprint

6.0

Poly

10/9/2010

Shadwell Turf Mile

1

Keeneland

Mile

8.0

Turf

10/9/2010

Jamaica Hcp.

1

Belmont

Mile

9.0

Turf

10/9/2010

Ancient Title

1

Oak Tree

Sprint

6.0

Poly

10/9/2010

First Lady

1

Keeneland

F&M Turf

8.0

Turf

10/9/2010

Breeders' Futurity

1

Keeneland

Juvenile

8.5

Poly

10/9/2010

Champagne

1

Belmont

Juvenile

8.0

Dirt

10/9/2010

Frizette Stakes

1

Belmont

Juvenile Fillies

8.0

Dirt

10/9/2010

Oak Tree Mile

2

Oak Tree

Mile

8.0

Turf

10/9/2010

Monmouth Cup

2

Monmouth

Mile

9.0

Turf

10/9/2010

TCA Stakes

2

Keeneland

F&M Sprint

6.0

Poly

10/9/2010

Mazarine

3

Woodbine

Juvenile Fillies

8.5

Poly

10/9/2010

Hawthorne Derby

3

Hawthorne

Turf

9.0

Turf

10/9/2010

Ballerina

3

Hastings

Ladies' Classic

9.0

Dirt

10/9/2010

Dover

Listed

Delaware

Juvenile

8.5

Dirt

10/10/2010

Spinster

1

Keeneland

Ladies' Classic

8.5

Poly

10/10/2010

Grey Stakes

3

Woodbine

Juvenile

8.5

Poly

10/10/2010

Bourbon

3

Keeneland

Juvenile Turf

8.5

Turf

10/10/2010

BC Premier

3

Hastings

Marathon

11.0

Dirt

10/11/2010

Morvich Hcp.

3

Oak Tree

Turf Sprint

6.5

Turf