03/05/2011 12:58PM

Big 'Cap Saturday!

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The historic Santa Anita Handicap headlines a top-notch day of racing at "The Great Race Place." 
At "The Big A," 3-year-olds attempt to sort themselves out in the Gotham. 
There are plenty of good ones to talk about.  Let's get to them:

Santa Anita Oaks - Race 4 - Santa Anita (Scratches and Track Condition N/A):
Do I bet with my heart or with my head?  Every fiber of my handicapping being is telling me that ZAZU is a bad play this afternoon.  After all, of the three fillies returning from the Las Virgenes (Zazu, MAY DAY ROSE, TURBULENT DESCENT), Zazu, by far, had the easiest trip, saving ground off a torrid pace.  Meanwhile, May Day Rose was caught up in that vicious duel and could have it much easier on the lead today.  And, Turbulent Descent, as Zazu saved that valuable ground, had to go the overland route. 
Common trip handicapping sense, and perhaps a good value perspective, prods me to believe that Zazu may be the wrong way to go.
So, I'll pick Zazu to win.
As I wrote that sentence, and attempted to watch the babies get to know each other at the same time, Olivia Katherine Duckworth, soon-to-be 4 years old, winced in agony.  Her younger brother, Aiden Clark Duckworth, aged 5 weeks, frowned (although, to be fair, that may be gas).  Their cousin, Daryn Lindsey, aged 3 weeks, simply looked ashamed. 
I know those looks. 
They're the same ones Mike Beer gives me when I pick horses like Zazu. 
I do believe that Zazu, one of my favorite sophomore fillies, has a good amount of talent and that there still may be more in the tank.  And, it's not like May Day Rose was that impressive two back when beating only two foes in the Santa Ysabel.  And, who's to say that Turbulent Descent isn't slightly better on synthetics?  And isn't the returning A Z WARRIOR, last in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her most recent start, at least questionable around two turns?
We'll find out in a couple of hours.
Selections:  Zazu, Turbulent Descent, Kilograeme

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Frank E. Kilroe - Santa Anita Race 9 (Scratches and Track Condition N/A):
Old "Scarface," CARACORTADO, has been a revelation since being switched to the grass.  He closed powerfully to win both of his turf appearances, including reeling in the quality The Usual Q.T. to take the Sunshine Millions Turf last time out.  He should give another strong effort this afternoon, but so should FLUKE, who recently scored in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Handicap.  Fluke put in a strong three-wide bid on the final turn that day, and has always threatened to be a top turf runner.  He won the Grade 1 Citation in 2009, and just missed in this race last year.  This will be his third race back since ankle surgery, and he may have slightly better tactical speed than Caracortado.  I'm hoping that Fluke will work out a trip from his inside post. 
It's probably unwise to discount JERANIMO, who defeated Fluke three back, was then a perfect-trip winner of the Grade 2 San Gabriel, and who then went favored over Caracortado in the Sunshine Millions.  I don't think he's as good as he looked in the San Gabriel, but he may not be as flat as he seemed last time.
Selections:  Fluke, Jeranimo, Caracortado

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Quick 'N' Dirty Selections:
Santa Anita Handicap:  Twirling Candy, First Dude, Gladding, Soul Candy
Tom Fool Handicap:  Calibrachoa, Flat Bold, Deputy Daney

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Gotham Stakes - Aqueduct - Race 10 - Scratch #7 Preachintothedevil, #9 Dawly - Track Fast:
STAY THIRSTY, the morning line favorite, is bred to run all day.  By Preakness and Travers winner Bernardini, and a half-brother to long-winded Andromeda's Hero, Stay Thirsty has the pedigree to handle two turns.  But, from what we've seen thus far, Stay Thirsty has been more effective in sprint races.  We can certainly give him a mulligan for his only previous route, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he faced Uncle Mo and Boys At Tosconova, but he still has to go two turns off the layoff and I do wonder if he's better going short.
TOBY'S CORNER won the Whirlaway over this course and distance, but that race was over wet going, and he was pretty late to change leads.  
Perhaps, THE FED EASED can take these on a merry chase from his inside post.  I know it's a big task stretching out for the first time in his first race out of the maiden ranks, but The Fed Eased looked very strong beating special weight foes on January 29.  A half to stakes-placed router Sweet Enticement (a winner at a mile), The Fed Eased, unlike Stay Thirsty, has a mostly sprint-oriented pedigree.  We'll see if he can make an easy lead and have enough left for the real running.
Selections:  The Fed Eased, Toby's Corner, Stay Thirsty 

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Honey Fox Stakes - Gulfstream - Race 10 - Scratch #14 Amazing - Turf Firm:
The filly and mare turf group in South Florida this winter has taken turns beating up on one another.  JUSTAROUNDMIDNIGHT upset PERSUADING, NEVER RETREAT, CHEROKEE QUEEN, TRIP FOR A.J., and SWEETEST SONG in the Marshua's River.  Trip for A. J. beat UNBRIDLED ESSENCE in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.  Cherokee Queen defeated Never Retreat, Persuading, and MISS BLAKELY in the Suwannee River. 
Perhaps it's time for a new face to come in and wipe the floor with all of them.  AVIATE,  a Juddmonte homebred, trained by Bill Mott, won the first three races of her career in Europe, and was sent off favored in the Group 1 English Oaks.  She's faced better company abroad, adds Lasix for her North American debut, and should get some pace to attack. 
If Aviate isn't ready to fire, perhaps BAY TO BAY will rally off the layoff.  Away since Saratoga, Bay to Bay showed talent as a three-year-old filly, and wouldn't be the biggest surprise in the world.
Selections:  Aviate, Bay to Bay, Never Retreat

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Sunday Quick and Dirt Selections:
Ladies Turf Sprint (Turf Only):  Rose Catherine, Midst, Ahvee's Destiny
Santana Mile:  Kensei, Matto Mondo, Misremembered

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You can check out video analysis of the weekend's big races at the below link:

http://www.drf.com/news/weekend-stakes-preview-videos

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

Best of luck to all.