09/19/2008 9:51PM

Saturday Spotlight


The three richest races in the nation Saturday are at three tracks that rarely command the sport's spotlight: the $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Philadelpia Park, the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs. Their approaches to their star turns could hardly be more different:

--At Philly Park, the outlandishly rich Cotillion is surrounded by....absolutely nothing. There are no other stakes races on the card. Three maiden races, three claiming or starter races, and three allowance races complete a 10-race card where the feature goes at 3:50 and the finale runs at 4:16 p.m. sharp so as not to inconvenience the slots players. The $750k Cotillion is an 8.5f G2 for 3-year-old fillies run one week after the 9f G1 $250k Gazelle, also restricted to 3-year-old fillies.

--At Suffolk, where there are still no slots, at least they tried -- bringing back the Mass 'Cap at all and putting three other stakes on the card. Getting Commentator, partly because of the track's admirable anti-slaughter efforts, was a neat accomplishment. But the field that's been rounded up to oppose him is wafer thin: 2-for-15 Dr. Pleasure is second choice on the ML, and the other five have all raced for tags. The only other stakes-winners in the field besides the favorite -- who has earned more than his six opponnets combined -- are winners in statebred and Claiming Crown company.

--At Harrah's Louisiana Downs Casino and Racetrack, the $500k Super Derby is only one of six six-digit stakes races on the cards offering a combined $1.25 million, including a $200k turf mile for older males and a pair of $150k grass routes for 2-year-olds. There's an all-stakes pick-six and a $100k guaranteed all-stakes pick-four, both ending with the Super Derby.

The Cotillion morning line has Proud Spell at 8-5 and By The Light at 2-1. Maybe I'm nuts but this seems totally out of whack. I would expect Proud Spell, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama and leader of the nation's 3-year-old filly division, to be a much heavier favorite than that against a filly who just won a statebred six-furlong race at Saratoga. I also would think that Macho Again is going to be shorter than 5-2 in the Super Derby.

The Mass Cap is ungraded while the Cotillion and Super Derby are G2's. The day's other graded stakes is the G2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont, where Indian Blessing is 3-5 against Sugar Swirl, Elope, Zada Belle and Port Bonheur. I think I'll be fooling around in the all-stakes pick-4's at Louisiana Downs and Suffolk, since the one involving the Gallant Bloom includes one turf sprint for conditioned claimers and another for statebred maidens.