04/03/2009 4:51PM

Saturday G1 Thoughts



Some initial thoughts on Saturday's five Grade 1's around the country:

Ashland Stakes (5:03 pm): Stardom Bound will be even-money or less shooting for her sixth straight Grade 1 victory, and faces a field that has combined to win only two graded stakes, but it might be worth taking a small shot against her. She was a dominant and exciting juvenile champion, but she simply  appears to have made no progress in the last few months, and the rest of the crop may be catching up to her. Add in that this will be her first start outside of California, and she's shaky at odds-on.

The three fillies she just won a four-horse photo from in the Santa Anita Oaks are all back to try her again, but I don't really want any of them. I'd rather try to resuscitate Dream Empress (5-1), who was a good second to the good Stardom Bound in the BC Juvenile Fillies. She's been awful in two starts this year but those were on dirt and grass and today she returns to the track and distance over which she won the Alcibiades six months ago. If you're feeling particularly creative and contrary, What a Pear and Be Fair are worth a look at big prices.

Wood Memorial (5:19 pm): Can't beat the favorites in this one, which looks as simple as one A (I Want Revenge), one B (Imperial Council) and one C (West Side Bernie). I Want Revenge was magnificent winning the Gotham by 8 1/2 lengths, a pretty big gap for Imperial Council to close entirely, at least this time around. Imperial Council should get a better pace set-up this time, but I Want Revenge also figures to sit a dream trip from the rail, second or third early behind the overmatched speed in the race, and get first run on his primary rivals. West Side Bernie should improve off a non-effort over Poly in the Lane's End as he returns to dirt, but may still be third best.

Santa Anita Derby (5:36 pm): The race is widely perceived as a two-horse showdown between 9-5 The Pamplemousse nand 2-1 Pioneerof the Nile, but I'm going to play it is a one-horse race, focussing on The Pamplemousse and trying to get cute and beat Pioneerof the Nile for second. I think The Pamlemousse can relax behind his rival's pacesetter, Z Day, and blow the race open at will while Pioneerof the Nile is still loping along at the back of the pack.

Carter Handicap (5:51 pm): Only seven betting interests, but by far the most wide-open of today's G1 quintet. With three intractable front-runners in the field (True Quality, Fabulous Strike and Driven By Success), I'm looking for a meltdown in the seventh furlong that lead to a rematch of the 2007 Belmont Futurity, when Tale of Ekati beat Kodiak Kowboy by a length. This might be Kodiak Kowboy's best distance, and you get a two-for-one coupling with Biker Boy, a late-bloomer who's been trouncing lesser fields. Ah Day could also snare a piece if he can work out a trip from the rail.

Apple Blossom(5:57 pm): This came up a dreadful race for a Grade 1 after the defection of Proud Spell and there have to be plenty of owners kicking themselves for not entering this five-horse, $500k G1 race which ended up with only one graded-stakes winner of any kind -- Acoma, the even-money favorite. Seventh Street, a tough-luck second in the Barbara Fritchie in her stakes debut, is her only plausible competition in a race where the two favorites figure to be something like 3-5 and 6-5.

I'll be posting live tomorrow from Aqueduct, where today's grass race was cancelled and tomorrow's two scheduled turf races are in jeopardy after a full day of rain today. Track officials said a decision on Saturday's turf racing won't be made until the course is evaluated in the morning.