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Weekend Stakes Action at Gulfstream and Santa Anita (1/8 - 1/9)

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Date

Race

Grade

Track

Age/Sex

Dist.

Surf.

1/8/2011

San Pasqual

2

Santa Anita

4up

8.5

Dirt

1/8/2011

Hal's Hope

3

Gulfstream

4up

8.0

Dirt

1/8/2011

Spectacular Bid

Listed

Gulfstream

3yo

6.0

Dirt

1/9/2011

Santa Ysabel

3

Santa Anita

3yo, F

8.5

Dirt

1/9/2011

Fort Lauderdale

3

Gulfstream

4up

8.5

Turf

1/9/2011

Marshua's River

3

Gulfstream

3up, F&M

8.5

Turf

 

Five graded races dot the racing landscape this weekend, along with a listed stake for three-year-old colts.  The two turf stakes at Gulfstream, the G3 Fort Lauderdale and G3 Marshua's River, feature a couple of large and competitive fields .

Below is a quick overview of each of the weekend's stakes races:

San Pasqual

The San Pasqual is headlined by Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Dakota Phone, who in his last effort (his second since the Breeders' Cup) finished a disappointing 4th in the Grade 3 Native Diver at Hollywood.  Two of the horses that he finished behind at Hollywood show up in this race - Aggie Engineer and Spurrier.  He should like getting back on dirt but he might be a bit pace compromised in this race.

Native Diver winner Aggie Engieer might be the logical pick in this spot because, once again, he looks like he's going to be all alone on the front end.  However, unlike his last race, Aggie Engineer will have to prove himself over a completely new surface.  He's run sixteen times in his career with six victories and all of those sixteen races took place over synthetic or turf.  It would seem logical that his speed would transfer over to dirt, and his bullet work last Sunday would add further credence to that thought.  But until he actually breaks from the gate and proves it on the track, it's a question mark.  I think he makes sense around odds of 3/1 or better and with Dakota Phone still in the mix that shouldn't be too hard to get.  (UPDATE: Perhaps not on Aggie Engineer's odds; the morning line pegs him at 2/1, top choice in the field.  Dakota Phone starts at 5/2, with Spurier at 7/2.)

Hal's Hope

The Hal's Hope at Gulfstream features the return of a couple of decent three-year-olds from 2010: Rule and Morning Line.  Rule hasn't been seen since his 3rd to Ice Box and Pleasant Prince in the Florida Derby, a lay-off of over nine months.  That layoff is a bit of a concern and you have to wonder whether he'll be able to hold up for eight furlongs after engaging in what will probably be a fairly decent pace duel.  At 2/1 on the ML, Rule looks like a bit of an underlay to me.

I didn't think much of Morning Line's chances in this year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile due to the way the track was playing (somewhat tiring) and what was sure to be a very quick pace situation.  Not only did Morning Line prove me wrong but he put in one of the gutsiest performances of the Breeders' Cup by finishing just a head back of winner Dakota Phone.  He didn't come home in a blaze (25.87 for the final quarter) but he didn't have to after he ran most of the field off their legs with opening splits of 22.43 and 22.53.  I'm a bit concerned that he won't be able to fire his best in his first start of 2011 and am leery of those 8/5 ML odds, but I'd rate Morning Line a bit higher than Rule.

The pace in the Hal's Hope looks fast enough that a closer should be able to make up some good ground and contend for win honors in the final furlongs. Of the two horses that I would expect to be making a late charge, 4-Dream Maestro and 5-Soaring Empire, I like the looks of Soaring Empire given his success closing in one-turn races (5-3-0-1).  With a couple of favorites that might be getting a bit leg weary in the final strides, Soaring Empire might have a great opportunity to pick up the graded stakes score.

Spectacular Bid

Trainer Wesley Ward is off to a strong start at Gulfstream and he has a nice looking gelding in the Spectacular Bid that could add to his early meet tally.  6-Gangsterontherun gets his first start since Labor Day when he steamrolled a Maiden Special Weight at Philly (or Parx) by nine lengths.  The field he beat that day was a mixed bad - the 2nd and 4th horses came back to break their maidens against special weight company and then both ran credibly in last weekend's Count Fleet at Aqueduct.  Everyone else in the race has done very little since. 

The presence of 2-Wildcat Formation (20/1) and 7-Dual Exhauzt (5/1) will probably ensure Gangsterontherun won't have it as easy up front in this race.  Both of those colts have shown the ability to get out and run early which could mean a three-way battle for the lead heading into the turn.  

Given all the speed on the front end, I like 1-Winchill to sit in the garden spot and swoop by once the field turns for home.  This Dale Romans trained son of Tapit broke his maiden at Ellis Park last fall and came back to score a win over N1X company in late November.  Romans, as he is apt to do, is moving him along slowly and looks like he's got him going in the right direction.

5-Leave of Absence (5/2) comes into this race off a sparkling performance against Maiden Special Weights at Aqueduct back on November 7th but he's taking a big step up in class.  His running style suggests that he should be able to stay out of the pace mix early on, which is a plus, and trainer Richard Violette is strong with horses coming off a two plus month layoff over the last five years when running on dirt (21%, $2.11 ROI).  It could come down to him and Winchill at the wire.

Santa Ysebel

A small field and only one of the five fillies entered in this race have ever touched a dirt track during a race in her career.  3-Zazu and 4-May Day Rose look like the class of the field, with the edge probably going to May Day Rose given her early pace. 

If the Santa Ysebel doesn't interest you from a wagering side, it's at least got some nice pedigrees to look at:

1-Bluegrass Chatter is a daughter of Bluegrass Cat out of a Lost Soldier mare (Chatter Chatter)
2-Scarlet Scarlet is a Contrats filly out of a Tabasco Cat mare (Red Hot Star).
3-Zuzu is by Tapit out of a Mr. Greeley mare (Rhumb Line)
4-May Day Rose is by Rockport Harbor out of a Pine Bluff mare (May Day Bluff), and cost $220,000 at auction.
5-Plum Pretty is a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro out of an A.P. Indy mare (Liszy).

Not a bad set of pedigrees.

Fort Lauderdale

2-Get Stormy (3/1) leads the field in the 1 1/16 mile G3 Fort Lauderdale on Saturday following a last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile last time out.  There is a lot of reasons to think he'll run a strong race: he's got a good bit of early speed and not a lot of rivals appear suited to pressure him, the 8 ½ furlongs is right in his sweet spot, the ground should be firm, and he's had a bit of time to freshen up after a taxing final race in 2010.  On the other hand, this horse has run two very sub-par races in his last couple of starts and you wonder if he might be a bit vulnerable.  He's seems like the logical choice but I don't think he's a lock.

If Get Stormy isn't up to the challenge on Sunday then I like the chances of 6-Smart Bid (12/1) to pull an upset.  Graham Motion has run this horse over the synthetics for most of 2009 and 2010 with consistent, if unspectacular, results.  His only two turf tries saw him win a OC/N1X event and finish a neck behind Stormalory in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland last April.  This horse has a nice cruising speed and can win without the lead, which should allow him to secure good position early on in the race.

5-Blues Street (8/1) is a gelding that I could go either way on in this spot.  The seven-year-old Pletcher trainee put together a string of four straight wins at the end of 2009 and into early 2010, only to fall off the radar after a 5th in the Woodford on Derby day and a brutal 23-length defeat at Monmouth in early June.  Sunday will be his first race in over six months, so maybe he'll be freshened up after those two poor races...or perhaps he's just not up to par with the rest of this field.  He's shown excellent form over the Gulfstream turf in the past (5-2-1-1) and he's got a good, consistent work patter over the turf at Palm Meadows since late November.

Marshua's River

The second of the two Grade 3 races on the Gulfstream turf this weekend, the Marshua's River will be run with the temporary rail at 96 feet, as opposed to the 36 foot rail placement for the Fort Lauderdale.  As a result of the rail placement, I'm looking first at the two expected pacesetters: 5-Trip for A. J. (8/1) and 7-Quebrado Shiner (ARG) (12/1).

Trip For A. J. ships in from Calder where she's won four of her last seven starts, two of which were on the lawn.  She's taken fields wire-to-wire in the past but she's not a pure speedball from the gate.  On the other hand, Quebrado Shiner has spent most of her career sprinting only to stretch out to a mile on the lawn in her last race, a win in an OC/N3X event at Aqueduct.  Of the two, Quebrada Shiner will probably have an easier time gaining command of the field in the early stages.

If Quebrada Shiner is able to control the early pace the key question becomes: can she take them all the way and, if not, which filly or mare has the best chance of running her down in the lane? 

The field in the Marshua's River is much stronger than anything Quebrada Shiner has faced in her previous thirteen races.  If she's not able to get the 8 ½ furlongs, I like the chances of 12-C.S. Silk (5/1) to run her down in the lane.

C. S. Silk put together a very solid campaign in 2010 (7-2-3-1) and finished an excellent second to Proviso (GB) in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland last fall.  Dale Romans gave her a bit of a freshening after that Keeneland race, off of which she fired a big effort to defeat a group of 100k optional claimers at Churchill Downs.  She got another breather after that and should be in good condition to once again fire a big effort in her debut race of 2011, especially given the fact that she should be stalking a mare that is running at the highest level of her career.