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Weekend Stakes Preview (Updated)

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UPDATE: Current changes can be found at the links below

Golden Gate
Gulfstream
Tampa
Santa Anita

ORIGINAL POST: Tampa Bay Downs and Golden Gate Fields get into the three-year-old stakes action this weekend with their first two graded Derby preps of the season.    Below is a summary of the graded action on tap for this weekend, along with a closer look at a few of the races on tap.

Date

Race

Gr.

Track

Age/Sex

Dist.

Surf.

2/12/2011

Robert B. Lewis Stakes

2

SA

3yo

9.0

Dirt

2/12/2011

Sam F. Davis Stakes

3

TAM

3yo

8.5

Dirt

2/12/2011

El Camino Real Derby

3

GG

3yo

9.0

Poly

2/12/2011

Santa Maria Stakes

2

SA

4up, f&m

8.5

Dirt

2/12/2011

GP Sprint Chmpshp.

2

GP

4up

7.0

Dirt

2/12/2011

Endeavor

3

TAM

4up, f&m

8.5

Turf

2/13/2011

LaCanada

2

SA

4yo

9.0

Dirt

2/13/2011

Hurricane Bertie

3

GP

4up

6.5

Dirt


Grade 3 Sam F. Davis

Brethren (5/2) hasn't done anything wrong in the first two efforts of his career and he didn't have the best of trips in either one.  He was away a bit slow when breaking his maiden at Belmont and he took the wide route to victory when winning an N1X at Churchill.  The Sam F. Davis is his first taste of graded stakes company but he seems poised to step up to the challenge. 

Monzon (3/1) appears to be a bit of a wildcard in this spot; his win in the Count Fleet, when he rallied from ten lengths back to score by a length at the wire, was far and away the best race of his young career.  Some horses really take to the inner at Aqueduct so we'll have to see how he'll handle what can be a quirky Tampa main track.  

A Maryland-bred son of Thunder Gulch, Monzon should be right at home at two-turns and he's certainly had a good amount of education in his previous six starts.  He's got a shot to prove he's the real deal.

Carl Nafzger's Beamer (5/1) finished over twelve lengths back in his most recent effort but no one in that field got near runaway winner Soldat on that day.  Soldat racked up a 103 Beyer after winning by ten lengths at the wire.

Beamer already owns a win over the Tampa main track (MSW on 12/30) and at two turn, and he could be a good fit in this spot.

Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis

Comma to the Top is expected to scratch from this field and run at Golden Gate Fields in the El Camino Real Derby, leaving 4-Tapizar (4/5) as the undisputed king of the Lewis.  Tapizar began his career with a couple of weak maiden efforts at Monmouth Park before finally putting things together at Churchill in late November in a 10 ½ length score over maiden specials at a mile and a sixteenth.  Steve Asmussen then shipped him to SoCal where he proceeded to validate that maiden breaking win with an easy-as-they-come score in the Grade 3 Sham on January 15th.  If he matches that performance in this spot he'll be awfully tough to beat.

There's a bunch of speed in the Lewis field, even with the expected defection of Comma to the Top.  1-Wegner (10/1), Tapizar, 5-Ten Devils (6/1), 6-Riveting Reason (4/1) and 7-Quail Hill (20/1) all prefer to up front in the early stages, something that should ensure another solid pace on the Santa Anita main track.  If we were at any other track the potential for a hot and contested pace would be a major factor in determining the winner.  I'm not so certain that will be the case at the current Santa Anita meet where speed is king.  Tapizar set fractions of 22.62 and 22.63 in his last effort...and drew off easily.  He's also shown the ability to sit just off the pace which presents Gomez a lot of options in the early stages.

Grade 2 Santa Maria

The last time we saw 1-St Trinians (GB) (8/5) she was all out to try and hold off Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Vanity, ultimately coming up a ½ length short in her quest.  That race took place in June, after which St Trinians took an extended vacation, only returning to the track for morning works in early January.  Mike Mitchell crushes with layoff horses (28-for-100, 28% $3.62 $2 ROI) but he doesn't use that move very often with stakes runners (0-for-3, 66% ITM).  St Trinians looks the best of the bunch but I'm hoping she'll be a bit below par first time off the bench and will try to beat her with one of her rivals.

I'll stay away from 5-Zardana (BRZ) (5/1) as I don't care for the layoff and the running style in this spot, and I've got too many questions around 3-Washington Bridge's (5/2) ability on dirt to jump in with both feet.  So where does that leave me?  Not much.  Not much at all.

7-It Tiz (12/1) didn't fare too well in her first try on dirt (5th in the Grade 1 LaBrea on 12/26) but I'm willing to cut her a bit of slack in that one.  First, she'll get a bit more ground in this race, which I think will help her greatly.  Second, she went up against a pretty nice sprinter in the LeBrea, Switch, a filly that's put together a fantastic start to 2011.  The strength of that race is even more apparent when you consider that the 4th place filly Always a Princess, came back to win the Grade 2 El Encino next time out. 

It Tiz has the tactical speed to get into this race in the early stages and her busy start to 2011 might give her a bit of a fitness edge over some of her tougher rivals.  I'll take It Tiz at anything over 10/1.

Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby

1-Comma to the Top's (6/5) likely scratch from the Lewis leaves him the one to beat at Golden Gate Fields, a track he's already won over twice before in his career.  The Peter Miller trainee has won five in a row since his 6th place finish in the Del Mar Futurity, including wins in the G3 Generous and the G1 CashCall Futurity. 

Silver Medallion and Positive Response have run decently in their recent starts, but I like Jerry Hollendorfer's 6-Jakesam (8/1) if anyone is going to pull the upset.  The Smoke Glacken colt has a tough task in this spot since he'll likely be challenged for the lead by Comma to the Top in the early going.  He draws outside of that rival and perhaps he can apply enough pressure to Comma to get him to crack.  It's unlikely but it's the best shot he's going to have.

Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship

Morning Line favorite 1-Soaring Empire (8/5) has only tried six furlongs once in his career, an allowance race at Gulfstream last February where he won by ¾ of a length.  This colt hasn't shown a ton of speed in his other sprint races something that might be the only weakness in the armor of this deserving favorite.  The turn back in distance, however, probably ensures that he'll have plenty in the tank to run down the leaders inside the final furlongs. 

There's a lot to like with 3-Coffee Boy (6/1) but Marty Wolfson is another trainer that is great with 180+ day layoffs until you look specifically at graded stakes races, then he's a paltry 0-for-3.  I'll pass on Coffee Boy until I he gets on under his belt.  Wolfson, however, has as second entry in this race: 2-Gaucho (8/1), a Ghostzapper colt that's put in some decent sprint efforts against OC company over the last half of 2010.  If I'm looking for an upset, I'll probably lean in the direction of Gaucho.

7-Tackleberry (3/1) got things all his own way in the Sunshine Millions Classic, something that is unlikely to happen in this spot.  At 3/1 on the morning line he seems like a bit of an underlay.