11/17/2007 12:51PM

Saturday Stakes


--I'm leaning against jumping into Saturday's Aqueduct pick-six pool. Three of the six races in the sequence are loaded with firsters, and the one-day carryover of $25k is not exactly a siren song. If I did get involved, though, I'd end up leaning pretty heavily on Utopia in the featured Stuyvesant Handicap.

3:44 pm EST: Aqueduct race 8, G3 $100k Stuyvesant Handicap, 3+, 1 1/8m
Whether it's a G3 stakes or a claiming race, New York handicappers have learned to be very skeptical of horses whose major credentials are big-figure wins against small fields at Delaware Park. For whatever reason, these horses rarely replicate those performances elsewhere. Barcola(5-2 ML favorite) and Pretty Smart (4-1) fit that bill, making Utopia an attractive play. Delaware aside, Utopia has a huge class edge on those two, having won graded stakes in Japan and Dubai as well as beating Political Force and Sun King over this track in the Westchester. The negatives on Utopia are that he hasn't won at over a mile in more than four years and that he comes off a poor effort after a bad start in the Meadowlands Cup, but at 2-1 or better he's worth the risk. Barcola obviously poses a threat to wire the field if he gets loose early but the pricier horse I'll try to get into the number is Who What Win(12-1), who fires an occasional big one.

--The afternoon's two other graded stakes are G3's at Churchill Downs and Golden Gate.

4:37 pm EST: Churchill race 9, G3 $150k Cardinal H., 3+F, 1 1/8m-Turf
It's tough to look beyond the two heavy favorites in this field of 10. Argentina(ML 2-1) is dropping out of five straight G1 appearances against world-class competition, but is tough to back at any price given her 0-for-9 American record. Criminologist (8-5) has never faced a filly of Argentina's caliber, but is in career form and comes off two good-figure victories in New York. Jade Queen (3-1) looks like the lone speed and would be dangerous if she ever ran back to her '06 Flower Bowl, but has been getting caught late against lesser. You could make some kind of a case for the 12-1 shots Nottawasaga (second off a layoff) and Bicoastal (back class in Europe) for minor awards, but a chalky outcome seems likely.

7:22 pm EST: Golden Gate race 8, G3 $150k All America H., 3+, 1 1/8m-Tapeta
The new Tapeta surface is the wild card in this competitive field of nine that includes millionaires Buzzards Bay (9-5) and McCann's Mojave(4-1). At those prices I'd take my chances with the latter, who has been training up a storm at Golden Gate and makes his second start off a summer freshening and a good tightener in the Morvich.