10/08/2011 12:14PM

Oak Tree Mile, First Lady Stakes, Hawthorne Gold Cup

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Let's take a look at some of the major stakes races scheduled for this weekend:

Santa Anita - Race 9 - Oak Tree Mile:

I'm really looking forward to this race.  MR. COMMONS, third in the Santa Anita Derby and a contestant in the Preakness Stakes, has really found a home since being switched to the grass.  He took his turf debut in the restricted Oceanside Stakes on opening day at Del Mar and then ran a bang-up second in his first race against older horses, the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile.  He had missed a little time in between the Oceanside and Del Mar Mile with a bruised foot, but still earned a career-best speed figure and it looks like he's rounding into form as he makes his third start of the form cycle.  There is pace in heer for Mr. Commons to attack and he should give another good performance for trainer John Shirreffs.

Selections:  Mr. Commons, Crown of Thorns, Calimonco

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First Lady - Race 7 - Keeneland:

THEYSKENS' THEORY will switch from turf to polytrack for the First Lady and is now under the tutelage of Shug McGaughey.  I'm not that concerned about the surface switch as we've seen good grass form successfully translate to synthetic surfaces and Theyskens' Theory ran a bang-up second in the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont on September 17.  She was bumped early and seemed a bit eager heading into the first quarter-mile, but Garrett Gomez soon settled her down to track the slow pace while three wide and they surged to the front in upper stretch.  It's not like Theyskens' Theory was stopping - she ran her final three-eighths in 34.56 - but she couldn't contain the grey locomotive, Winter Memories, in the lane.  I like the slight cutback in distance and she'll get three pounds from her older rivals (she beat older horses in Europe two back).

Selections:  Theyskens' Theory, Daveron, Never Retreat

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Hawthorne Gold Cup - Race 9 - Hawthorne:

My friend, PGM, isn't going to like it, but he's used to my fascination with GIANT OAK and I'm going to pick him one more time.  I thought I was slowly cured, having not picked Giant Oak in his last three races, but the pace of the Hawthorne Gold Cup looks pretty fast (Cherokee Lord, Rule) and he could get the setup he absolutely needs.  In his most recent race, the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, Giant Oak was placed closer to the pace than usual and he was down on the inside (his trainer, Chris Block, maintains that Giant Oak does his best running from outside and from way back).  He still finished up evenly for fifth against some of the better handicap horses in training and will get a class drop in the Gold Cup.
He's not the most trustworthy runner in the world, obviously, but this looks like an opportunity for him to get back on the beam.

Selections:  Giant Oak, Rule, Where's Sterling

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Here are quick and dirty selections for some of the other major stakes:

TCA:  Switch, Rapport, Holiday for Kitten
Jamaica:  Brilliant Speed, Western Aristocrat, Casino Host
Frizette:  My Miss Aurelia, Stopshoppingmaria, Holiday Soiree
Woodford:  Magoo, Great Attack, Varsity
Breeders' Futurity:  Take Charge Indy, Majestic City, Shared Property
Shadwell Turf Mile:  Zoffany, Gio Ponti, Sidney's Candy
Champagne:  Union Rags, Power World, Right to Vote
Ancient Title:  The Factor, Amazombie, Mensa Heat
Bourbon (Sunday):  Lucky Chappy, Here Comes Frazier, Monastic
Spinster (Sunday):  Stars to Shine, Tapitsfly, Pachattack

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For a more in-depth look at these stakes races, check out the video previews that Mike Beer and I produced (click on the link below, head down to the second video player and click on the race name):

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

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