07/03/2010 12:15AM

Quiet Fireworks

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The holiday weekend's 15 graded stakes include three Grade 1's, but the most intriguing races are the pair of Grade 2's featuring the seasonal debuts of Mine That Bird, last year's Kentucky Derby winner, and I Want Revenge, who would have been favored if he hadn't been scratched the morning of the race:

(TV coverage is limited to the racing channels: Arlington and Churchill on HRTV, Monmouth and Hollywood on TVG, Belmont on both.)

I Want Revenge and Mine That Bird are the respective ML favorites in today's G2 Suburban and tomorrow's G2 Firecracker, but strike me as very different propositions. If I Want Revenge is close to where he was two Aprils ago, the Suburban should unfold perfectly for him, with plenty of suspect speed to set things up for a closer. You could say the Firecracker seems to set up similarly for Mine That Bird, but he is only running on the grass as a last-minute fallback after a dirt allowance race didn't fill for him. Given how dull he was in two starts over the Santa Anita Pro-Ride last fall, he doesn't saeem like a great candidate to fire his best shot on grass. It's fun to have a Derby winner return to the races, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to bet against him.

Of the weekend's three Grade 1's, the United Nations is by far the strongest, and a nice betting race with three virtual ML co-favorites in Take the Points (3-1), Winchester (7-2) and Acclamation (7-2). Note to Monmouth and Belmont: How about some cooperation on the stakes schedule next year so that there's not a G1 $750k 11-furlong United Nations just seven days before a G1 $600k 11-furlong Man o'War at Belmont? There are barely enough G1 turf routers to fill two such races from coast to coast, much less in the New York-New Jersey area.

The American Oaks at Hollywood is a shell of what it has been in recent years and a G1 in name only. Once a $750k race that drew top 3-year-old turf fillies from around the country and abroad, this year it's a $250k version of the Senorita or Providencia, with just seven locals entered and only one graded stakes-winner in 2-1 favorite City to City. Sunday's G1 Prioress at Belmont drew a field of just five, with Acorn winner Champagne d'Or facing G2 winner Franny Freud and just three others.

Twenty days until Saratoga.