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Weekend Stakes Preview (7/17)

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ARCADIA, CA - APRIL 03: Jockey Joseph Talamo celebrates after riding Sidney's Candy to victory in the 73rd running of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3, 2010 at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
ARCADIA, CA - APRIL 03: Jockey Joseph Talamo celebrates after riding Sidney's Candy to victory in the 73rd running of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3, 2010 at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
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Stakes_sched_7

A horseplayer can't really ask for much more in terms of stakes action this weekend, especially if you like races on the turf course.   Here's a rundown of what's on tap for Saturday and Sunday.

-The Grade 2 Delaware Handicap (Ladies' Classic) and the Greenwood Handicap (Marathon) are both "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup races.

-Sidney's Candy will make his first start since finishing 18th in this year's Kentucky Derby in Saturday's Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park.  The Santa Anita Derby winner will take on a field of only four other horses, only three of which are separate betting interests (Sidney's Candy is coupled with Twirling Candy, another Candy Ride colt owned by Jenny Craig).

Sidney's Candy is a colt that's in a peculiar position heading into the late summer/fall stakes calendar.  If the connections have aspirations of running at the Breeders' Cup they are going to likely have to make some decisions regarding surface and distance.  A start in the Classic seems like a poor idea after his performance at the Derby.  Sure, it could have simply been the off-track that led to him spitting the bit on the turn, but I think it was more likely the distance and the surface.  He seems to be a better fit in either the Dirt Mile or the Mile.

The sire of Sidney's Candy, Candy Ride, had his greatest success running on the dirt, winning the Grade 1 Pacific Classic and the Grade 2 American Handicap, but Candy Ride's dam sire, Candy Stripes, was a solid performer on the lawn in group stakes in France.  After his racing career was over, Candy Stripes went on to sire 2007 Horse of the Year Invasor and 2005 Champion Male Turf Horse Leroidesanimaux.  That's a good amount of turf pedigree and you got to wonder if at some point the connections will take a shot with Sidney's Candy on the lawn. 

-Saturday's is Million Preview Day at Arlington Park and features the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap, the Grade 2 American Derby, and the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, all of which are local preps for Arlington Million day on August 21st.

Tuscan Evening (IRE) looks quite strong in the Modesty as the field doesn't feature a whole lot of pace and the field is on the small side; looks like a situation where she can control this race from the outset.

I'm pretty intrigued by the German-bred filly, Éclair de Lune, a Ron McAnally trainee that will be making her third start in North America after spending 2008 and 2009 in France.  She didn't run that well out in California but I wonder if the harder turf courses on the West Coast weren't her cup of tea.  Additionally, the bigger course at Arlington might play a bit better to her running style. 

Eclair de Lune is owned by Richard Duchossois, the Chairman of Arlington Park.

-I thought a return to the grass would help Lane's End winner Dean's Kitten get back on the right track in the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup last time out, but he ran an average race.  He's 7/2 on the morning line for the Grade 2 American Derby, odds that seem a bit too low for this horse given his current form.

There's a lot to like about Workin for Hops: solid recent form, prior success over the Arlington Park turf course, and Robby Albarado in the irons.  The only bad race for this gelding this year was in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs but that race was a complete throw out due as soon as he stumbled from the starting gate.   

I really liked Gleam of Hope's race in the Arlington Classic, even though he finished a well-beaten 3rd to Workin for Hops.  He finished up the best of any colt in the field and came out of that race to post a nice win in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup at next asking.  I think he might be disadvantaged with the pace in this race, just like he was in the Arlington Classic, but I give him a bit of a shot at the upset.

-General Quarters gets back on the turf for the Arlington Handicap after finishing 3rd in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster last time out.  This colt has only one two races in since April of 2009, but each were on a non-dirt track (Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland and Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill), so it certainly appears that he prefers that kind of surface.

I like Marsh Side a bit in this race as his turf form is pretty solid over the last couple of years.  In fact, if you draw a line through all of his non-turf races you're left with a horse that has competed pretty well at the Grade 1 level.  He's not going to find a ton of Grade 1 talent in this race and one of his main rivals, Just As Well, is a much lower price on the morning line at 2/1.  For me, Just As Well and Marsh Side are pretty equal but with a stark contrast in odds.  If that odds difference were to remain during the betting on Saturday I'll likely play the value.

Tajaaweed got roughed up pretty badly at the start of his last race at Churchill Downs and I think it's safe to throw that one in the trash bin.  He's still a long shot to win this race but I would expect him to come back and run a solid race.