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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Stakes Races

What an incredible weekend for racing! Let’s take a stab at picking Saturday’s winners:

At Belmont in the G1 Flower Bowl, I’m not sold on Wait a While, although her recent G2 Ballston Spa victory was impressive. Instead, I’m banking on Argentina, after a series of strong workouts during her layoff, even though she’ll go with Kent Desormeaux in lieu of injured Edgar Prado. She was closing on My Typhoon in the G1 Diana last out, and I’m hoping the extra distance will be to her liking. However, I’ll factor My Typhoon into the equation, even though the distance may be longer than she likes. Finishing out my trifecta box will be Royal Highness whom I’m hoping bettors will overlook. Her G1 Beverly D victory last out was impressive, as was her last race at Belmont—the 2006 G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, where she finished third behind English Channel and Freedonia.

In the G2 Kelso Handicap, After Market ships in from the left coast—but has won both times at previous attempts at Belmont. I won’t leave him off my trifecta ticket, but will attempt to get some value by rooting for Trippi’s Storm. Besides After Market, he is the only horse in this field coming in off two grade 1 races—in both he was on the lead before fading (to fourth in the G1 Man o’ War, and to third in the G1 Sword Dancer) in much longer races than this. In fact, this will be his first attempt at one mile, and it could be the perfect fit. The third component of my tri was a toss-up between Woodlander and Strike a Deal—the former I’ll go with based on age and experience (and much longer odds) versus the three-year-old Smart Strike colt.

At Turfway in the G3 KY Sprint, Piratesonthelake comes in off a big deadheat win with veteran In Summation in the Arlington Sprint Handicap; he’s 2 for 2 on synthetic surfaces and appears to have the edge here. If he bounces, I expect Elite Squadron to pick up the pieces, coming in off his win on Tapeta surface at Presque Isle in the Tom Ridge Labor Day Stakes. Todd Pletcher’s Base Commander has never faces stakes company, but has yet to finish out of the money in four races on artificial surfaces. Still, I like Pauillac to come in off his terrible G1 Kings Bishop defeat with a strong showing here.

In the G3 KY Distaff, India on paper looks strongest, but I’m taking a chance on Pleasant Hill who comes in off a nice win in the G3 Gardenia and a string of impressive workouts including a 5f bullet over this track. I also like Danzon on the rail; she had a real nice third place finish against males in the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day, won by Sky Conqueror. She’s been working well since her poor performance in the G1 Diana at Saratoga in July.

In the G2 KY Classic, it rightly looks like a two-horse race—Hard Spun and Street Sense. As many times as I keep coming back to Stream Cat as a possible upset victor, the more I’m convinced it won’t happen. This is Hard Spun’s race to lose; he’s got the edge in early speed and a win over this artificial surface. And, sorry John, I just don’t like Street Sense—he’s a nice enough horse, but I don’t think he’s a superhorse.

The Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet features the G1 Yellow Ribbon, where undefeated Nashoba’s Key runs for the first time against Citronnade—this should be a monster race! In my eyes, it’s advantage Citronnade. Possible spoiler: Imagine who has improved in every races this year and has been working well for John Shirreffs.

In the G1 Oak Leaf Stakes, this will be the first route test for these juvenile fillies, and I’m not going to let The Golden Noodle beat me again. She hasn’t run since June 30, but sports the most serious set of distance workouts. However, Cry and Catch Me looks even more impressive, with her big speed number at Del Mar last out and some serious distance bullet works. For a longshot, look no further than Runforthemoneybaby, a full-sister to stakeswinner Spenditallbaby.

In the G1 Goodwood, I’m counting on Tiago to put in a big performance against his elders ahead of the BC Classic. Lewis Michael hasn’t finished worse than second all year so I expect him to be here at the end, as will Arson Squad and Awesome Gem.

Finally, Presque Isle Downs closes its short inaugural meet tonight with two stakes races. In the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes, I like Little Nick who won an allowance race here on September 7 over Sok Sok (who really hasn’t been getting better as the year has wore on). P. Bass ships in from Ellis Park, but has worked very well over the artificial surface at Turfway leading up to this start; he should be tough to beat here. High Appeal has already run (on turf) a whole lot farther, so I like his chances shortening up.

In the H.B.P.A. Stakes, Plaid seems an obvious choice, but the rail’s not favorable here so I’m going with Ever and Anon who comes in off two nice races at Delaware—and regularly trains over the Fair Hill Tapeta surface. I love Smoke Glacken offspring, and Dixie Marrone looks extremely good here off a driving win over this surface. The big question is, can she spread out to a route? If not, look for Anura (another Fair Hill regular) for money.