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Thursday Quick Hits: Rachel, Zenyatta, Derby, Oaks, and more

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 01: Rachel Alexandra, riden by Calvin Borel, crosses the finish line to win the 135th Kentucky Oaks at churchill Downs May 1, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 01: Rachel Alexandra, riden by Calvin Borel, crosses the finish line to win the 135th Kentucky Oaks at churchill Downs May 1, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Good stakes action taking place all over the country this weekend - New York, Florida, Arkansas, and California - but the big story of the weekend will be the 2010 debuts of both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.  Each should win easily (of course, in horse racing there are no sure things...just "almost" sure things) and take that next step towards their showdown in the Apple Blossom on April 9th.

The older ladies won't have the stage all to themselves as the Tampa, Gulfstream, and Oaklawn will all card races on the road to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Entries for this weekend's stakes action, and all the racing around the country, has finally been drawn (thank you, Oaklawn Park).  Below are the races, post times, and conditions for this weekend's major stakes events:

Date

Race

Post Time

Gr.

Track

Dist.

Condition

3/13

Hillsborough Stakes

3:57 / 12:57

III

TAM

9.0 T

4up f&m

3/13

Florida Oaks

4:27 / 1:27

III

TAM

8.5

3yo f

3/13

Cicada Stakes

4:40 / 1:40

III

AQU

6

3yo f

3/13

Tampa Bay Derby

5:30 / 2:30

III

TAM

8.5

3yo

3/13

Honeybee Stakes

5:42 / 2:42

III

OP

8.5

3yo f

3/13

Gulfstream Park Handicap

5:43 / 2:43

II

GP

8

4up

3/13

New Orleans Ladies Stakes

6:15 / 3:15

--

FG

8.5

4 up f&m

3/13

Santa Margarita Handicap

6:36 / 3:36

I

SA

9

4up f&m

3/13

Rebel Stakes

6:47 / 347

II

OP

8.5

3yo

3/13

San Felipe Stakes

7:38 / 4:38

II

SA

8.5

3yo

3/14

Inside Information Handicap

3:42 / 12:42

II

GP

7

4 up f&m

 

  • The races at Aqueduct and Tampa can be seen on TVG, while the Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, and Santa Anita cards are on HRTV.  Additionally, NTRA.com will have live streaming of both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta's races.  
  • I'm very curious to see what the pool numbers look like for both the Rachel Alexandra and the Zenyatta races on Saturday.  From just a cursory glance at each race, the Rachel event appears to be a nice opportunity to watch a great filly but a horrible race to wager any cash.  The Zenyatta race, however, at least drew a respectable field in terms of numbers, even if there isn't any likely upset candidates.  If you can find a decent price to run second you might be able to score a little exacta hit.  For that reason alone I'm guessing that Santa Anita will see more money wagered on the Santa Margarita than Fair Grounds will for Rachel's race.

    Another thought on the wagering aspect of both of these races is the bridge-jumper phenomenon.  The Rachel race, due to its small field, is screaming for a negative show pool the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time.  I mean, really, does anyone think that Rachel won't finish at least third in this race?

    The Zenyatta race is a little different beast due to it's much larger field size (9 wagering interests) AND the running style of the heavy favorite.  While I don't truly believe Zenyatta will finish worse than 3rd there is always the possibility for something to occur during a race that makes it difficult for a deep closer like her to get to the front.  A horse could break down in front of her or a jockey could take a spill, either of which would cause her to have a difficult trip.  Rachel, and front runners in general, have the luxury to avoid those types of trip problems.  

    Bridge-jumpers also love to target small fields where the element of chance is greatly reduced, such as the New Orleans Ladies Stakes.  Zenyatta's field, while over-matched, is large enough to probably deter that action.  For those reasons, I suspect we won't see any bridge-jumping at Santa Anita.
  • If you are looking for some Pick 4s to sink your teeth into this weekend there are two that look awfully enticing.  On Saturday, the late Pick 4 at Tampa ($0.50 minimum) features a turf route, the Florida Oaks, a turf sprint, and the Tampa Bay Derby.  Big fields in each of those races.  

    On Sunday over at Gulfstream the track will once again offer the All-Turf Pick 4, this one featuring contests with fields of 10, 12, 9, and 12 runners.  The last three weeks the All-Turf Pick 4 has paid a minimum of $1,900 on a $1 bet ($2,237, $4,558, $1,945.90).  
  • 2009 Juvenile Filly champion She Be Wild will take another shot at the dirt on Saturday when she runs in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.  As you may recall, She Be Wild tried the dirt for the first time in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream several weeks ago with little success.  In my opinion, until this filly proves she can run a credible race on something other than plastic my money will be directed elsewhere.  The morning odds maker, however, is expecting a serious She Be Wild crush at the windows and has installed her as the 2/1 ML favorite.  Could be a good opportunity to take down a odds-on interest...perhaps in the Pick 4.  Hmmmm.
  • I haven't followed the whole Aqueduct political circus very closely but from what I can gather the state of New York was supposed to select someone to run the Racino and, at present time, they seem to be having some difficulty deciding.  The recent headlines have indicated that the governor is about to pull the plug on the deal that was tentatively in place, to which the state legislature is unhappy about, which....you know what, read the linked article if you want a good blow-by-blow because the whole story is beyond me.  Is is really that hard to pick someone to run a on-track casino?  Apparently so.
  • I read an article today about Big Brown becoming a shuttle stallion for Vinery Australia and in the article it mentions BB's current stud fee of $55,000.  Now I may be alone on this, but I don't think I'd be shelling out $55k to breed to a horse that essentially had a foot problem throughout his entire career and was sired by a horse that, ta da!, had a foot problem during his career.  What do you think the chances are that Big Brown's offspring are going to have foot problems?  
  • Bob Baffert is going to put the blinkers on Lookin At Lucky for Saturday's Rebel Stakes and after reviewing this colt's last six works (in the chart below) that doesn't seem to be a bad idea.  Lookin At Lucky has generally sat near the lead in his races at Santa Anita (although he was well back early in the BC Juvenile) but he'll likely need to be a little more interested in order to get that type of trip at Oaklawn where the pace will be quick.  The shades should help him to do just that.

    Date

    Track

    Dist.

    Time

    Surface

    Cond.

    Type

    Rank

    03/08/2010 

    SA

    5F

    1:01.20 

    All Weather Track

    Fast

    H

    43/82

    03/01/2010 

    SA

    7F

    1:25.20 

    All Weather Track 

    Fast

    H

    1/3

    02/22/2010 

    SA

    6F

    1:15.40 

    All Weather Track 

    Fast

    H

    7/8

    02/14/2010 

    SA

    4F

    :48.20 

    All Weather Track 

    Fast

    H

    21/72

    02/09/2010 

    SA

    3F

    :36.60 

    All Weather Track 

    Fast

    H

    9/37

    01/16/2010 

    SA

    5F

    :59.00 

    All Weather Track 

    Fast

    H

    2/54


  • Speaking of workouts, is there a horse in the Rebel working better than D. Wayne Lukas' Dublin?  He ran an very nice second to Conveyance in the Southwest and followed that up with a couple of blazing efforts over the Oaklawn strip at four and five furlongs.  Dublin could be sitting on a huge race in Arkansas.

Tomorrow I'll take a more in-depth look at the Derby preps and some of the more interesting stakes races taking place this weekend.