04/23/2011 11:25AM

Last Chance Derby for Silver Medallion, Rainbow 6 Guaranteed

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Two weeks to the Kentucky Derby and the field is still in flux. 

It's the last chance for Silver Medallion, the El Camino Real Derby winner that bombed as the chalk in the Santa Anita Derby.  He'll get his opportunity to run for the roses if he win today's Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland.

Preakness hopefuls will clash over wet going at Aqueduct, but the major story of the weekend is the guaranteed payout of the Rainbow Pick Six on closing afternoon at Gulfstream Park. 

I'm sitting out this one, but you guys have at it.  I wouldn't call it an "official" FormBlog contest, but I'd love to hear your opinions on the sequence.

Ace handicapper Mike Welsch has his Rainbow Six video analysis at the link below:

http://www.drf.com/news/gulfstreams-rainbow-pick-six?utm_source=DRF.com&utm_medium=Marquee&utm_campaign=Rainbow%2BPick%2B6

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Here are a few opinions on some of today's stakes races:

Jerome Stakes - Aqueduct - Race 9:
ASTROLOGY will attempt to move forward off his first start of the year, a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.  He was pretty close to a wicked pace that afternoon so I'll give him a mulligan for that defeat off the bench.  I wasn't a big Astrology fan, however, last year at two.  He seemed green when winning a weak running of the Grade 3 Iroquois at this one-turn mile, then scored in a slow edition of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.  He'll have to break from the inside post coming out of the chute and will try a wet track for the first time in his career. 
I prefer CAL NATION, a lightly-raced Pletcher-trainee that did nothing wrong in two career starts at Gulfstream Park.  He won his debut over weak maidens with the greatest of ease and then raced 3-4 wide over a speed-favoring track when outnodded by stablemate Dance City in his first race against winners.  Dance City flattered the race by returning to run so very well in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.  Cal Nation has good tactical speed so John Velazquez has several options on where to place him in the early furlongs. 
Selections:  CAL NATION, JUSTIN PHILLIP, ASTROLOGY

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Lexington Stakes - Keeneland - Race 9:
If the Lexington was being contested on dirt, I would be pretty confident with my selection of PRIME CUT.  But, it's on polytrack so I'll have to decide if I'll:

A)  Play the race as usual.
B)  Cut my bet in half
C)  Land on a different horse
D)  Save with others
E)  Eat a hamburger instead.

A game winner over the highly-touted Bind in a race that was only one-fifth off the track record at Fair Grounds last time out, Prime Cut has improved since being allowed to stretch his legs around two turns.  The main issue is the polytrack as we've seen plenty of horses with good dirt form regress at short prices when running on synthetics for the first time.  If he handles the surface, I would expect him to be close to the pace with a prominent placing at the head of the stretch.
Selections:  PRIME CUT, SILVER MEDALLION, TAPTOWNE

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Snow Chief Stakes - Hollywood - Race 9:
Cal-breds get their time to shine at Hollywood Park, and I'll be very interested to see if THIRTYFIRSTSTREET can rebound off a poor showing in the Grade 3 Spiral at Turfway Park.  Two starts back, for his first race of the year, Thirtyfirststreet was ambitiously-spotted in the nine-furlong, Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.  He stumbled badly at the break, made a slightly premature move from last along the inside on the backstretch, and finished evenly without threatening.  I think that race might be good enough to get it done in the Snow Chief and the addition of blinkers may allow him to get into the running a bit earlier. 
Selections:  THIRTYFIRSTSTREET, CHILOQUIN, DRINK AT BUSTER'S

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Ben Ali Stakes - Keeneland - Race 7:
RESEARCHER may not be Seabiscuit or Secretariat, but I wonder if his life would make an interesting movie.  A former $25,000 claimer, Researcher has earned over $1.3M after taking two runnings of the Charles Town Classic over his favorite surface.  Proving he's not just a one-state pony (he's also won a stake at Mountaineer), Researcher took the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap over the Aqueduct inner dirt in 2008.  But a funny thing happened to Researcher after he won last year's Charles Town Classic.  His new owners (they purchased him just prior to the Classic) decided to forge on with the plan of converting Researcher into a steeplechaser.  Apparently, this was news to Researcher, who didn't take to jumping at all and is now back on the flat after a long layoff. 
In his first start back, Researcher finished a tiring fourth going a demanding nine furlongs around three turns at Charles Town.  The connections wanted Researcher to make it a three-peat in this year's Charles Town Classic, but Researcher was mired on the also-eligible list and had to scratch.  Now, he'll try polytrack for the first time, a test in and of itself let alone one for an aging veteran of the turf wars. 
Researcher looks in tough here as the probable favorite, EXHI. seems loose on the lead for Todd Pletcher.  Exhi hasn't raced in a bit, however, and nine furlongs off the layoff isn't an easy feat to accomplish.  Exhi is the horse to beat, but I'll play something on Researcher.
Selections:  RESEARCHER, EXHI, DEAN'S KITTEN

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Inglewood Handicap - Hollywood - Race 7 (Sunday):
Rafael Bejarano is one of the best riders in the world, but I wonder if he rode favored Caracortado as much as his own mount, JERANIMO, in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 9.  Perhaps figuring that Caracortado was the main danger in the race, Bejarano and Jeranimo kept Caracortado hemmed in along the inside before swinging into the stretch.  In the meantime, LIBERIAN FREIGHTER, the lone speed of the Arcadia, was allowed to back down the fractions to his liking.  Jeranimo came with a strong late rally in between horses, but fell three-parts of a length shy to Liberian Freighter. 
Liberian Freighter and Jeranimo will meet again in Sunday's Inglewood at Hollywood, but the pace dynamic may be much different thanks to the entry of RYEHILL DREAMER.  A gate-to-wire winner last time out, Ryehill Dreamer may put heat on Liberian Freighter, setting things up for a closer like Jeranimo.  THE USUAL Q. T is only considered questionable for this race after battling foot issues for most of the spring.
Selections:  JERANIMO, LIBERIAN FREIGHTER, RYEHILL DREAMER

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Saturday Quick and Dirty Pick:
Texas Mile - THISKYHASNOLIMIT, KATE'S MAIN MAN, FRIESAN FIRE (trying to beat the chalk, Gladding)

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For a more-detailed analysis of this week's races, please check out the video analysis at the below link (just click on the race name on the right side of the video player):

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

I'm wiped out.  Anyway, I'm more interested in your opinions on this week's races so let me have them.

Best of luck.