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Weekend Stakes Action: Zenyatta, Quality Road, Juveniles, and Sprints

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ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Winner Mike Smith rides Zenyatta races in the Breeders' Cup Classic race during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park November 7, 2009 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Winner Mike Smith rides Zenyatta races in the Breeders' Cup Classic race during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park November 7, 2009 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Updated: Just noticed a couple of omissions from the original table of graded stakes this weekend - I forgot to include the G2-West Virginia Derby and the G3-Seagram Cup Stakes.  Both have been added.

-This weekend's graded stakes action begins with the juvenile fillies in tonight's Grade 3 Sorrento at Del Mar.  Wesley Ward's 6-Sky Mesa (5/2) rolls into this race off three straight victories to begin her career, including back-to-back scores against listed stakes competition at Delaware and Woodbine.  Her most recent effort saw her win the five furlong My Dear Stakes by 7 ¾ lengths in Canada.

Bob Baffert's 3-A Z Warrior (4/1) is a daughter of Bernardini out of a Carson City mare (Carson Jen) and is a half-sister to E Z Warrior, who won the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship at six furlongs and the Grade 1 Kings Bishop Stakes at seven.  Not a bad pedigree for this filly and the odds are much nicer than those of Sky Mesa. 

-Zenyatta was made the 1/5 morning line favorite for Saturday's Hirsch Stakes, a number that makes perfect sense in that spot.  If you can pick out while filly or mare will finish second, an ice cold exacta might be the way try andmake some money.

-We get a good opportunity to size up the competition in the Filly & Mare Sprint division in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday. 

2-Buckleupbuttercup is a filly that I like an awful lot in this spot as I believe the seven furlongs suits her much better than the six furlongs and mile she was asked to run in her last two tries.  In her career in races at 6 ½ or 7 furlongs, Buckleupbuttercup is a solid 4-3-1-0 with a score in the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill on Derby day.  She's got a good late kick and a bunch of fillies in this field that want to go hard early.

9-Christine Daae (15/1) got a lot of attention earlier this year after she blew away a MdSpWt field at Gulfstream and then won at next asking going a mile and an eighth against N1X company.  Since then, however, she's faced some adversity, finishing 5th in both the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss and the Grade 3 Jersey Shore.  The Jersey Shore was against the boys so perhaps we can forgive the sub-par effort.  Christine Daae, like Buckleupbuttercup, is a filly that may relish the seven furlongs.

Franny Freud was originally entered in this race but has been retired and will scratch out.  She was originally 5/2 on the morning line and her abscence will greatly change the odds we see on the other contenders in this field. With Franny's defection, 1-Pica Slew (7/2) will be the likely favorite after an impressive win in the Grade 3 Azalea at Calder last time out.

More below the jump...

-The top older male horse in the country will be on display in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, and on paper, the small field and light pace appears to set the race up perfect for Quality Road.  It will likely be up to Haynesfield to prevent QR from getting loose on the lead, a tall task.

-Male sprinters will be on display at Saratoga on Sunday in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap at six furlongs.  5-Majesticperfection (3/1) comes into this race after a powerful performance in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows last time out, a race that featured graded stakes quality horses even if the race itself was ungraded.  Benny the Bull won that same race at Prairie Meadows back in 2007 before going on to finish second in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga that same summer.

The last time we saw 6-Bribon (FR) (5/2) he was inhaling the field in deep stretch to win the Grade 2 True North Handicap at Belmont Park on June 5th.  The leaders went the first half in :45.60 that day and he could get just as fast of a pace to run into in this spot. 

-Saturday's Test Stakes allows the three year old fillies the limelight while the Grade 2 Honorable Miss on Sunday will feature older filly and mare sprinters.  Sadly, this race only drew a field of five which will make it pretty tough to find value.

2-Warbling (6/5) has never finished worse than 2nd when ridden by Julien Leparoux, and she comes into this race off of a good second in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney to Jessica Is Back after dueling through a strong opening quarter of 21.96.

3-Hour Glass (5/2) also comes into this race out of the Princess Rooney, a race where she had the worst performance of her career.  I got to think she's a better filly than what she showed that day and perhaps she just didn't care for things down in Florida.  If the pace gets hot on the front end, Hour Glass could be the one to swoop by in deep stretch.

-The juvenile division gets a bit of action on Sunday at Del Mar with the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs. 

1 - J P's Gusto will see a jockey switch from Joe Talamo after he suffered a broken wrist during a fall in the third race on Thursday.

Jerry Hollendorfer's 5-Western Mood has shown an ability to come from off-the-pace in each of his first two career races including a neck defeat to J P's Gusto in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 5th.

6-Sway Away is an Afleet Alex colt that won in impressive fashion at first asking at Pleasanton on June 27th.  Trainer Jeff Bonde has done well during the current meet (13-2-2-1, 15%) and he's dangerous with two year olds.  The fourth and fifth place horses in that Pleasanton race both came back to win at next asking - El Gaucho won a Maiden Special Weight race at Santa Rosa, while Offlee Wild Boys won a state-bred Maiden Claimer at Del Mar last week.  Sixth place horse, Jerry's Fever, ran 2nd to El Gaucho by a neck in that Santa Rosa race.