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Weekend Stakes Preview (8/28)

The Breeders' Cup picture is beginning to clear up given the rush of graded stakes races taking place all over the country.  Last weekend it was turf racing at Arlington Park while this weekend we have races in the Classic, Ladies' Classic, Mile, Sprint, and Filly & Mare Sprint divisions taking center stage.

Below is the schedule for the weekend along with some thoughts on several of the races taking place this weekend.

Date

Race

Gr.

Track

Division

Dist.

Surf.

8/27/2010

Bernard Baruch Hcp.

2

Saratoga

Mile

9.0

Turf

8/28/2010

Ballerina Stakes

1

Saratoga

F&M Sprint

7.0

Dirt

8/28/2010

King's Bishop Stakes

1

Saratoga

Sprint

7.0

Dirt

8/28/2010

Pacific Classic

1

Del Mar

Classic

10.0

Poly

8/28/2010

Pat O'Brien Stakes

1

Del Mar

Sprint

7.0

Poly

8/28/2010

Travers Stakes

1

Saratoga

Classic

10.0

Dirt

8/28/2010

Ballston Spa Hcp.

2

Saratoga

F&M Turf

9.0

Turf

8/28/2010

Del Mar Mile

2

Del Mar

Mile

8.0

Turf

8/28/2010

Victory Ride Hcp.

3

Saratoga

F&M Sprint

6.0

Dirt

8/29/2010

Moyglare Stud

1

Curragh

Juvenile Fillies Turf

7.0

Turf

8/29/2010

Personal Ensign

1

Saratoga

Ladies' Classic

10.0

Dirt

8/29/2010

Del Mar H.

2

Del Mar

Turf

11.0

Turf

8/29/2010

Molly Pitcher

2

Monmouth

Ladies' Classic

9.0

Dirt

8/29/2010

Play the King

2

Woodbine

Mile

7.0

Turf

 

-Following the tragic death of Tuscan Evening (IRE) after a workout over the Del Mar turf course, the Filly and Mare Turf division was left with a gaping hole at the top of the board.  Éclair de Lune (GER), runner-up to Tuscan Evening at Arlington over a month ago, took one step to fill that hole when she won last Saturday's Beverly D. Which every filly wins the Ballston Spa will take another step to fill that gap.

There appears to be a decent amount of speed in the Ballston Spa, as well as a solid selection of closers looking to run it down in the lane.  While this field doesn't contain any standouts it does feature a collection of very evenly matched fillies and mares. 

8-Cherokee Queen (6/1) lost the rider following a bad start in her last effort, the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park, after winning a listed stake at Philly Park in early June.  She's one of the few runners in here that seems to be more comfortable running just off of the leaders rather than setting the lead or closing from well back.  That might give her a bit of an edge in this spot as the pace should be fast enough to soften up the front-runners and her tactical speed will give her first run on the closers.  Julien Leparoux gets back in the irons and I can't pass up a turf race where he's riding a horse with a decent chance at solid odds.

-Much like they did several weekends ago, Saratoga is offering two graded stakes races for sprinting fillies and mares this Saturday.  The first is the Grade 3 Victory Ride, a six furlong race limited to three year olds, while the second is the Grade 1 Ballerina, a seven furlong event for older females.

The Victory Ride, like the Ballston Spa, is an evenly matched race (at least on paper) with several fillies that all seems to have a good shot to take home top honors.

Two of the more interesting runners in the Ballston Spa are 8-Touching Beauty (8/1) and 9-Katy Now (7/2).  Both are cutting back to a sprint distance - Katy Now set the pace in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont before falling to a well-beaten fourth; Touching Beauty won the Grade 3 Comely at a mile at Aqueduct on April 10th.  The fitness edge probably goes to Katy Now given the fact that she's raced recently, as opposed to the fourth month lay-off for Touching Beauty, but I think either filly could be in line for a solid performance. 

-Informed Decision (5/2) grabs favoritism in the Ballerina after back-to-back wins at Arlington Park and Presque Isle Downs but she's a tough mare to bet in this spot given the fact that she's much, much better on synthetic surfaces than she is on traditional dirt.  I'll pass and look for a bit more value on the board.

2-Warbling (4/1) has broken poorly from the gate in her last two efforts and you can make the argument that those poor starts cost her each race.  She loses Leparoux in this race, which is a negative, but picking up Castellano isn't all bad.  If this filly can actually get out of the stall in good order she should run a much better race.

-This year's renewal of the King's Bishop looks like a two horse showdown between D' Funnybone (5/2) and Discreetly Mine (6/5).  A lot of people are probably wondering what in the hell caused Discreetly Mine to suddenly become a monster sprinter in his last two starts.  He rnn some decent races throughout the spring, including a win in the Grade 2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds during Derby prep season.   Racing around two-turns, however, was obviously not his preferred distance as he's put up three very excellent performances since cutting back to sprints, including wins in the Grade 2 Jersey Shore and the Grade 2 Amsterdam (111 Beyer, won by 8 ¾ lengths).  If he maintains his current form he'll be the logical winner.

Earlier this spring, 3-D' Funnybone looked like he was going to be the standout three year old sprinter in the country following wins in the Hutcheson, Swale and Woody Stephens.  In his last race he finished second in the Grade 2 Carry Back at Calder, a race where he was the absolute standout on paper.  From there, Richard Dutrow gave him a bit of time off which he probably needed after a pretty busy spring.  He's going to need to come back in top form in order to take down the favorite but he does hold a previous win over Discreetly Mine (Woody Stephens on June 5th).

-The Grade 1 Pat O'Brien at Del Mar has a lot of different factors that you have to get by in order to find the winner: 

  • 6-Crown of Thorns possess excellent back class after missing by a nose to Dancing Silks in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last fall, but he hasn't been seen since and he's got a fitness question mark after almost ten months off.
  • 8-Smiling Tiger wired the field in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby and in the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera (Concord Point, 2nd place finisher in the Barrera, came back to win the West Virginia Derby) but he's going to have to face a bit more pace pressure in this race in the form of Tropic Storm. 
  • 2-Tropic Storm, he made his first start in almost two years when he ran in an OC/N2X allowance event on the Del Mar turf course on August 6ht.  He was beaten by a nose that day but placed first after a disqualification of the winner.  He's got the speed to contest this pace but stamina is probably still a concern given the long lay-off.
  • 7-Hard Bill (CHI) doesn't measure up on class but he's a nice looking closer that could get up for some cash should the front-runners come up empty in the lane. 

Smiling Tiger seems like the logical play for the win but Hard Bill makes some sense as a value play in the exotics.