04/14/2012 10:02AM

Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass Stakes Saturday!

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We're getting down to the nitty and the gritty as it pertains to Kentucky Derby prep races.  Not to be overlooked, however, are some other excellent graded stakes races. 

Here are some opinions:

JENNY WILEY STAKES - KEENELAND - R8:

ZAGORA, the winner of the Grade 1 Diana Stakes last year at Saratoga, ran roughshod over the competition in two starts at Tampa Bay this season and would cement her spot at the top of the distaff turf division with a win in the Jenny Wiley.
I got lucky with TAPITSFLY in the Grade 2 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream on March 18, however, and will go back to her in this spot.  The winner of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Tapitsfly's career was curtailed for a bit by injury and she never fulfilled the promise she showed at two.  She won the Honey Fox with a solid performance, but I'm hoping that Julien Leparoux will tap into the early speed that Tapitsfly showed earlier in her career.  There doesn't appear to be much pace in the Jenny Wiley and Tapitsfly could take advantage if allowed to dictate the tempo. 
Selections:  TAPITSFLY, ZAGORA, ARUNA

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Some quick-and-dirty selections:
Count Fleet Handicap:  OUTTA TUNE, HAMAZING DESTINY, IZZY RULES
Distaff Handicap:  NICOLE H, C C'S PAL, IT'S TRICKY
Commonwealth Stakes:  PLUTONIUM, BERGERAC, COMEDERO
Shakertown Stakes:  GREAT MILLS, SURFRIDER, GREAT ATTACK

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OAKLAWN HANDICAP - RACE 10 - OAKLAWN:

The Oaklawn Handicap features a fascinating mix of older horses.  Donn Handicap winner HYMN BOOK tackles Big 'Cap hero RON THE GREEK and 2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up NEHRO at nine furlongs.  I respect all three of those horses, but landed on Oaklawn-loving ALTERNATION as my top selection.  The winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan around a one-turn nine furlongs last year, Alternation has blossomed since being given blinkers by his sharp trainer, Donnie K. Von Hemel.  The Distorted Humor colt paired up Beyer tops in both starts this season and may be ready for another forward move in the Oaklawn Handicap.  Most recently, in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap, Alternation showed a new dimension.  He outkicked the fleet Tapizar to the front en route to a game gate-to-wire score.  Alternation is just as effective when allowed to sit off the pace and he could find a good spot just off the stretchout sprinter YAWANNA TWIST.  Alternation could get the jump on his main competition turning for home and should offer a bettable win price.
Selections:  ALTERNATION, HYMN BOOK, YAWANNA TWIST

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Some more quick hits:
Blue Grass Stakes:  SCATMAN, HANSEN, MIDNIGHT CROONER
Arkansas Derby:  BODEMEISTER, ISN'T HE CLEVER, SECRET CIRCLE
Las Cienegas Handicap:  MIZDIRECTION, TERODA, LA NEZ

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CHARLES TOWN CLASSIC - RACE 12 - CHARLES TOWN:

UH OH BANGO is in career form for Kory Owens and I'm hoping he will overcome a tough outside post in the three-turn Charles Town Classic.  After defeating TRES BORRACHOS and SKIPSHOT in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes to kick-off his campaign, Uh Oh Bango ran very well when second to top handicapper Game On Dude in the San Antonio.  Last time, in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, Uh Oh Bango dropped far off the hot pace up front.  He spun widest turning for home and kicked on well for third.  He galloped out nicely and will regain the services of Aaron Gryder, a veteran jockey that has really done well this year in Northern California.  Gryder rode Uh Oh Bango to a narrow win in the Grade 3 Berkley Stakes at Golden Gate last year.
Selections:  UH OH BANGO, TACKLEBERRY, REDDING COLLIERY

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Last, but not least:
Beaumont Stakes (Sunday):  SACRISTY, GYPSY ROBIN, LIVI MAKENZIE

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For a more detailed analysis of this week's major stakes races, check out the "Handicapping Previews" that Mike Beer and I produced: 

http://www.drf.com/events/weekend-stakes-previews-picks-analysis-more

http://www.drf.com/news/oaklawn-patience-oaklawn-handicap-threat-alternation-has-paid

http://www.drf.com/events/arkansas-derby-oaklawn-park

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More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

Best of luck!