01/08/2011 1:10PM

San Pasqual, Santa Ysabel, Fort Lauderdale, Marshua's River


Let's take a look at some of this weekend's stakes races:

San Pasqual - Santa Anita - Race 7:

It's doubtful that Aggie Engineer will receive the same easy lead that propelled him to a facile gate-to-wire score in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood on December 4.  That afternoon, he coasted on fractions of 25.55, 50.52, and 1:15.49 before scooting home as much the best.   In today's San Pasqual, look for Ryehill Dreamer and/or Red Door Drive to make Aggie Engineer work a little harder in the opening two furlongs.  Also, it's worth noting that Aggie Engineer has yet to race on dirt. 
It seems logical that the two horses that may have been compromised by Aggie Engineer's slow pace last time - Spurrier and Dakota Phone - would improve given a more honest setup, and neither would be a surprise, but Aggie Engineer may simply be in better form right now.  Since returning from a short layoff, he is two-for-two with a pair of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures on his card.  He has questions to answer in regards to the pace and the surface, but I'll go against my gut and pick him right back. 
Selections:  Aggie Engineer, Red Door Drive, Spurrier

Santa Ysabel - Santa Anita - Race 3 (Sunday):

It's disappointing that this race only drew a field of five and May Day Rose, the only two-time winner in the field, looks like the filly to beat.  She does her best running when on the lead, and it will be interesting to see if Bob Baffert's other entrant, stretch-out sprinter Plum Pretty, makes things at least somewhat difficult for May Day Rose early. 
I'll take my chances with Zazu, who finished a disappointing fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in her most recent outing.  Zazu never picked up her feet that day, and finished behind May Day Rose.  It's possible that she doesn't want to go this far, and she could be in trouble if May Day Rose gets an easy lead in this short field.  Still, I did like Zazu's maiden win sprinting three starts back, and I'll give the Sadler-trained filly one more chance to atone. 
Selections:  Zazu, May Day Rose, Plum Pretty

Fort Lauderdale - Gulfstream - Race 8 (Sunday):

For the most part, I don't like to play favorites coming off dismal tries.  Thus, my goal in this race is to try and beat Get Stormy, the morning line favorite and a very talented speedball on the grass.  I may be wrong and Get Stormy will go wire-to-wire, but I just didn't like his last two races of 2010, albeit against much better horses.  Two starts back, in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, Get Stormy didn't finish very powerfully, and came back with some cuts on his legs.  In the Breeders' Cup Mile, Get Stormy stalked Sidney's Candy's pace from good position, but completely folded in the stretch to finish last. 
On the other hand, Battle of Hastings is in good form.  You know what you're going to get with Battle of Hastings.  He usually runs the same race.  Sometimes, it's good enough to win.  Often, it isn't.  But, I did like his most recent win in the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 4.  Battle of Hastings was in a tight spot passing the stands the first time, was in and among horses on the final turn, was looped on the same bend, and still re-rallied on the outside to post a comfortable score.  He'll never dazzle you with his numbers, and he'll step up in class on Sunday, but he may work out a good trip saving ground from the rail.
Selections:  Battle of Hastings, Souper Spectacular, Blues Street

Marshua's River - Gulfstream - Race 9 (Sunday):

This should be a fantastic betting affair.  I'm going to take a chance with Quebrada Shiner, a turf sprinter for most of her career.  In her most recent start, she made the most of her opportunity to stretch out around two turns with a gate-to-wire performance in one of our HandiGambling races.  She doesn't need the lead to win, and may find a decent stalking spot going into the first turn on Sunday afternoon at Gulfstream.  The fourth-place finisher of that last race, Group 3 winner Domonation, returned to win an 'n3x' optional claimer at Tampa Bay.  Quebrada Shiner needs to take another step up in class, and it's possible that she was aided by a speed-favoring course at Aqueduct last time out, but she could be worth the gamble at playable odds.
Selections:  Quebrada Shiner, Never Retreat, Trip for A.J., Wild Mia

Some quick and dirty picks at Gulfstream on Saturday:

Spectacular Bid:  Leave of Absence, Dual Exhaust, Determinato
Hal's Hope:  Morning Line, Soaring Empire, Rule

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