G2 Rebel Stakes (Oaklawn Park)
Z Fortune had the misfortune of running against his stablemate Pyro last out, but finished a game second in the G3 Risen Star. He will be the favorite here, but improving others are worth a hard-look, including Stone Bird who is two for two at Oaklawn this year. His last race gained some credence when third-place finisher Celina Slew won today, and I like the way he is improving for D. Wayne Lukas; he’s bred to run all day (by Grindstone out of the Kris S mare Bird Cage, who’s a half-sister to G1 Belmont winner Birdstone), but I would be shocked with a win. If I could will a horse to win, it would be Anak Nakal who showed nothing first-time-out for Nick Zito in the G2 Fountain of Youth; he is a better horse than that. However, I think the big surprise here will be King’s Silver Son—the “other Asmussen” horse—who is coming in off breaking his maiden (on his sixth attempt). Still, he’s never raced under 8 furlongs, and started with four second-place finishes—all to eventual stakes-placed horses (Mr. Harry, Isabull, Court Vision, and Real Appeal). His only out-of-the-money finish (at 9 furlongs) was only one length behind the winner; with two months off, he came back to win at Fair Grounds, and with Shaun Bridgmohan up, King’s Silver Son looks to be a live longshot
G2 San Felipe Stakes (Santa Anita)
What I wouldn’t give to see Bob Black Jack and War Pass going at it this weekend…at least for the first six furlongs. Beyond that, the son of Stormy Jack has tons to prove so I’m inclined to leave him out of the exotics here. G1 winner Georgie Boy has yet to finish out of the money, and looks strong coming in after his first-after-layoff victory in the G2 San Vicente. High Stakes Silver fascinates me here, but I’m pegging French invader Shediak for the surprise win for Doug O’Neill with Julien Leparoux up.
G3 Tampa Bay Derby (Tampa Bay)
The undefeated BC Juvenile champion War Pass has never been headed, though I don’t doubt that day will eventually come. When exactly is the question…if (and that’s a big “if” at this point) it happens on Saturday, my money is on Big Truck. With Eibar Coa up for the first time last out in the Sam Davis, Big Truck added a new dimension to his running style and Barclay Tagg has him very sharp so he might be able to pull off the upset. I like Atoned, but figure he needs at least once race under his belt this year for The Toddster.
G3 Florida Oaks (Tampa Bay)
My Baby Baby looks to be on the verge of breaking out, and I find it hard to oppose her here, especially after her second place finish over this track in the Suncoast Stakes. Last year’s G2 Demoiselle runner-up Elusive Lady failed miserably in her 2008 opener and I hate her chances here, with no workouts over four furlongs coming in. Awesome Chic has never finished more than one length from the winner, won the Gasparilla Stakes over this surface (and over Unfolding Wish) in January, and is bred to run all day—whether she will or not is the question; we’ll see today. Calico Bay looked good over turf and all-weather in her last three races, and if the track is off, she could play a bigger role in threatening My Baby Baby.
G3 Cicada Stakes (Aqueduct)
Chances are astronomical that we will not see any of these fillies in the G1 Kentucky Oaks—all six are sprinters, through and through, and quite evenly matched so the key may come down to track condition. If it rains, Throbbin’ Heart stands out—and frankly, I love her chances even it the track is bone-dry. In her maiden effort last August at Saratoga she finished second to Indian Blessing; she replicated that effort against G2-placed Elusive Lady next out, before reeling off two winning efforts (including over Dill or No Dill who is entered here today). She performed poorly when shipped to Gulfstream for the G2 Old Hat, but rebounded with a win in the Marshua Stakes at Laurel. Mario Pino is winning 27% for Gary Contessa, so you gotta love Ready for Fortune breaking from post position two, especially as she has posted two recent bullet works after winning the Dearly Precious Stakes over this course. Dill or No Dill, Psycho DJ and Carolyn’s Cat should set a very hot early pace, perfect for setting up Throbbin’ Heart and/or Ready for Fortune to finish for the win.
G3 Honeybee Stakes (Oaklawn Park)
Eight Belles should enhance an already-successful winter at Oaklawn for Larry Jones with a win here—she’s won her last two races by a combined 28-1/2 lengths, and looks unbeatable today. Undefeated Pure Clan (already a G2 and G3 winner) hasn’t run since November so I would be surprised by a win, though she is certainly capable. I saw Vancy Pants run at Presque Isle last fall so she’s a sentimental inclusion in the exotics.