02/26/2011 9:04AM

Fountain of Youth, Davona Dale, Canadian Turf, Valentine Dancer, Stymie, Hutcheson


Leading 3-year-olds To Honor and Serve and Soldat square off in the Fountain of Youth, a major Kentucky Derby prep.  But, if that race doesn't tickle your fancy, there are plenty of other stakes races to analyze. 

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH - Gulfstream - Race 10

Many handicappers will cast a skeptical eye on SOLDAT's recent Beyer Speed Figure.  After all, it was in the slop and who knows if Soldat can run on fast going?  I think he can.  Sure, the track was wet for his entry-level allowance win over this course and trip last month, but he was simply tremendous in winning by open lengths.  He was hustled up to set a pressured pace, and then faced a stiff challenge from the runner-up entering the far turn.  It was a prolonged bid, but Soldat didn't crack.  In fact, he shrugged off his main rival, and drew away to triumph as much the best.  Soldat has good tactical speed.  He can lead or rate and that's a healthy option for jockey Alan Garcia.  If he breaks cleanly, he might attempt to grab the early advantage.  If TO HONOR AND SERVE is intent on the lead, he can sit off that one.  Soldat showed ability on turf at two, and we've seen several instances in recent years (Big Brown, Eskendereya) of horses that started out on grass that successfully transferred their form to dirt. 
Selections: Soldat, To Honor and Serve, Gourmet Dinner


DAVONA DALE - Gulfstream - Race 8

Sophomore fillies get their chance in the spotlight in this one-turn mile event.  I think that DANCINGINHERDREAMS may have the most upside as she was super impressive in both starts last year and was running at the end of her 2011 debut.  She's extremely logical and for the multi-race wagers, but I may take a chance on OH CAROLE on the win end.  Thirteen days after being listed as a vet scratch, Oh Carole ran her last quarter in 12.10 to win her debut going seven furlongs over the Keeneland polytrack.  She may not have beaten much that day, but she again ran strongly late to capture an entry-level allowance race at Gulfstream on January 30, and was flattered when the runner-up returned to win yesterday by 10 3/4 lengths with a 95 Beyer Speed Figure.  Although she's yet to route, I'm guessing a one-turn mile is well within her scope.
Selections:  Oh Carole, Pomeroys Pistol, Dancinginherdreams


VALENTINE DANCER - Santa Anita - Race 7

The early scratch of UNZIP ME may drastically alter the running of the Valentine Dancer.  She projected as the main speed with CAMILLE C in closest attendance during the backstretch run.  With Unzip Me out, Camille C may have free rein on the engine.  I won't change my original selection, however, as ANTARES WORLD has enough speed to find a good spot near the leader.  Grade 1-placed on grass last year, Antares World looked good in defeating ULTRA BLEND at Golden Gate on September 23.  Two back, she chased a lone front-runner through glacial fractions, and never really had a chance.  Last time out, she did nothing on dirt, but I'm willing to throw that race out as dirt isn't her surface.  A two-time winner at this distance on synthetics, Antares World will look to stalk and pounce under new rider Martin Garcia.
EVENING JEWEL, a multiple Grade 1 winner, is the deserving favorite but, despite winning the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint last time out, I'm not sure if she's as sharp as she was last year.
Selections:  Antares World, Ultra Blend, Camille C (TURF ONLY)


STYMIE - Aqueduct - Race 9

The participation of ARSON SQUAD is in doubt because of lingering foot issues.  I wouldn't mind if he runs because I think I can beat him at a short price.  REMAND looms the lone speed, but I thought he rode the crest of an inside, speed-biased track to win last time out.  Perhaps the two favorites are somewhat vulnerable so I'll take a shot with MASALA, a gelding that was a very game winner two starts back in an 'n2x' optional claimer.  He had to work very hard after being passed at the quarter-pole, but he re-rallied along the inside to grab the brass ring, and the runner-up returned to score in similar company with a 101 Beyer.  Masala bombed as the 4-5 favorite last time out for a $75,000 tag, but perhaps he regressed off the hard-fought victory.  I'm guessing he'll be Remand's closest threat entering the turn, and he should be a nice price.
Selections:  Masala, Remand, Arson Squad


HUTCHESON - Gulfstream - Race 9

Both TRAVELIN MAN and FLASHPOINT were impressive, big-figure winners of their career debuts, but I'm often hesitant to play these kind of horses when they step up to face winners for the first time.  It's not because of a perceived lack of class, but I wonder if the stronger pace scenario usually found in these races are more difficult for the inexperienced runners to overcome.  I'm tossing the Hail Mary pass with ROYAL CURRIER, an experienced three-year-old that has never been out of the exacta in seven races.  He was no match for favored Fort Hughes in last month's Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct, but did finish ahead of next-out winner Rift (85 Beyer in entry-level allowance).  While Royal Currier does have speed, and this race is chock-full of speed, he draws way outside, and may opt to sit just off the expected skirmish up front.  He's going to be a big price, but I'm not sure he's that far off the top contenders in terms of numbers and class.
Selections:  Royal Currier, Travelin Man, Madman Diaries



YANKEE FOURTUNE is 5-5 on turf and showed a new dimension when rating from off-the-pace in his most recent start, the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf against three-year-olds.  He hasn't raced since, however, shows some gaps in the work tab, and I didn't really love how he finished up that race (hopping back to his wrong lead in the final 100 yards).  Instead, I'll play ZIFZAF, a fascinating story.  A Shadwell homebred, Zifzaf graduated on June 26, 2009, but didn't race after that until being sold at the Keeneland January sale for only $25,000.  Zifzaf won his first two starts for his new connections, finished third in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga, and was a courageous fifth in the Woodbine Mile after prompting a quick pace throughout.  Zifzaf doesn't need the lead, however, and he may save valuable ground behind good fractions. 
Selections:  Zifzaf, Yankee Fourtune, Tannersville (TURF ONLY)

Quick-and-dirty pick:



For a thorough video analysis of these stakes races from yours truly and drf.com Handicapper Mike Beer, please visit the below link:



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

Best of luck,