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Super Bowl Weekend Stakes (Updated)

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Most of this weekend's attention will be directed towards the proceedings taking place in Dallas on Sunday but, as usual, racing stops for nothing.  Seven graded stakes are schedule for Saturday and Sunday, including three Grade 1 races on Saturday at Gulfstream and Santa Anita.

Below is a summary of the key stakes races on the calendar along with a quick look a few of those races.  Previews of the Donn and the Strub were posted earlier.

Donn Preview

Strub Preview

UPDATE: Early reports from DRF's Mike Welsch at Gulfstream indicate a strong wind at the horses back on the backstretch (and into their faces in the stretch).  If that continues, that should give an edge to early speed in one-turn races, which will include the Donn.  (um, Donn is two turns...but anyway...)

Date

Race

Grade

Track

Dist.

Surf.

Winner

 $2 Win

5-Feb

Donn Hcp.

1

GP

9.0

Dirt

Giant Oak

$16.80

5-Feb

GP Turf Hcp.

1

GP

9.0

Turf

Teaks North

$52.60

5-Feb

Las Virgenes

1

SA

8.0

Dirt

Zazu

$10.00

5-Feb

Strub Stakes

2

SA

9.0

Dirt

Twirling Candy

$3.00

5-Feb

ThunderRoad Hcp.

3

SA

8.0

Turf

Fluke

$8.60

5-Feb

Suwannee River

3

GP

9.0

Turf

Cherokee Queen

 $11.00

5-Feb

Whirlaway

Listed

AQU

8.5

Dirt

Toby's Corner

$11.60

6-Feb

San Antonio

2

SA

9.0

Dirt

Gladding

$5.20

6-Feb

Hallandale Beach

Listed

GP

8.5

Turf

Master Dunker

$26.80

G1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap

8-Battle of Hastings (5/2) grabs morning line favoritism in the top turf race of the weekend after finishing a disappointing 6th in the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale last time out.  His effort in the Fort Lauderdale wasn't that bad as he got completely shut off in mid-stretch when Blues Street and Smart Bid got together.  Once jockey Julien Leparoux was able to guide him into the clear he commenced a solid drive to the wire, finishing just a lenght and a half back of the winner.  His final 3/16ths in 29.39 seconds is quite impressive considering the traffic he encountered in the stretch.

While Battle of Hastings is a deserving favorite, I like a price play in this spot with the lone filly in the field, 3-Justaroundmidnight (IRE) (10/1), a deep closer that can absolutely bring it in deep stretch once she gets rolling.  Sal the Barber, Little Mike and Twilight Meteor should provide enough of a pace upfront in the early going to give this filly a shot to make a move in the final furlongs.

G1 Las Virgenes

Undefeated 6-Turbulent Descent (4/5) is the heavy favorite for Saturday's Las Virgenes on the strength of three fantastic races to start her career.  She won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in a relative breeze - David Flores gave her one brief cross inside the final quarter and that's all the encouragement she needed to put away the field.   

If you're looking for a possible in the armor for Turbulent Descent there's this little item: the Las Virgenes will be her first start over a traditional dirt surface and she's never so much as put in a published work over a dirt surface.  It's questionable as to whether the surface switch will really come into play but there's at least a small question as to whether she'll run as well on dirt as she did on synthetic.

G2 San Antonio

Aggie Engineer made a seamless transition from synthetic to dirt in his last start, a 3 ¼ length victory in the Grade 2 San Pasqual back on January 8th.  He may or may not have to contend with Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Dakota Phone who is entered in both the San Antonio and the G3 Thunder Road on Saturday.

I have no idea what to make of the 5-Pode IR (BRZ) who will make his North American stakes debut after a nice score in an OC/N1X last time out.  He posted a bunch of nice wins in his native Brazil to start off his career but his most recent score was a bit of a cherry picking opportunity since he qualified for the N1X level due to his non-North American races not counting towards the "one other than" condition.  At the same time, take a look at the horses he went up against in his U.S. debut: Tweebster won his next start and then finished second by a nose in the Grade 2 San Fernando and Oilisblackgold will take a shot in the Strub on Sunday.  At a minimum, Pode IR's connections think he's got some "stakes ability" in him.