07/11/2008 10:57PM

Saturday stakes opinions

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Carry Back:
Lantana Mob
is a legitimate three-year-old sprinter, but he may have been aided by a slight closers bias in the Hirsch Jacobs, and there isn't a lot of speed in the Carry Back to setup his strong late surge.  I'm not sure how much I believe the 104 Beyer Speed Figure earned by Golden Spikes and My Gentleman James in the Unbridled over this Calder surface on June 14.  The former was exposed in races like the Illinois Derby and Peter Pan although it's possible trainer Marty Wolfson has found his colt's niche as a rallying sprinter.  My Gentleman James, on the other hand, earned a speed figure 19 points higher than anything he had previously received.  Still, I'm willing to give My Gentleman James a timid nod.  First, he may be able to set the early pace, and he may get brave if allowed to coast for the first three-eighths of a mile.  Second, I usually prefer local horses to shippers on these big days at Calder.  They usually offer more value, and the Calder main strip is kinda quirky.  Some horses just don't handle it.  Third, Gentleman James kept fighting hard all the way to the wire in the Unbridled after being passed by Golden Spikes in upper stretch.  Successful Love had trouble in the Unbridled, but he previously won over this sufrace by the length of the track in the Naked Greed Stakes.  Salute the Sarge ships in from Southern California with solid polytrack form, but he hasn't really run any fast races out there, and may need a faster pace up front.  Carson's Legacy is an Asmussen-trained colt that has shown a tendency to hang.
Selections:  Gentleman James, Lantana Mob

Princess Rooney:
I'm still trying to figure out how Dream Rush lost her comebacker to Looky Yonder in the Vagrancy.  The 2007 multiple Grade 1 winner was clear from the get-go, but stopped to a crawl in the final sixteenth allowing the in-form Looky Yonder to blow by late.  Perhaps Dream Rush needed the race.  It was her first since the Breeders' Cup, but it's also possible that she's not the same filly she was last year.  She's had her share of injuries.  At a short price, I'll try to beat her, but not with Looky Yonder.  Instead, I'll try Dixie Dreamer, a local mare trained by Marty Wolfson.  She was pretty far back in the U Can Do It Handicap on June 14, but steamrolled the pacesetters once set down for the drive.  That was her career-best Beyer, and the subsequent bullet workout allays fears of a bounce.  Perhaps she can work out an inside-out trip from the wood.  Rgirlsdon'tbluff may have been too conservatively-ridden by Elvis Trujillo in the U Can Do It.  She was clear turning for home, but Trujillo didn't start moving his hands until the field caught up to him.  Rgirlsdon'tbluff responded pretty gamely, but she didn't have the momentum, and she ended up dropping a neck decision to Dixie Dreamer.  High-percentage trainer Kirk Ziadie removes Rgirlsdon'tbluff's blinkers, and she may end up sitting just off Dream Rush's flank going into the turn.  Looky Yonder has blossomed under the care of Richard Dutrow Jr., and she's won her last three on dirt.  She's a logical contender.  Mistical Plan has back class but, like Dream Rush, has had some physical issues since last summer.  She set the pace against foes like Ginger Punch in the Ogden Phipps going long last time at Belmont, and is comforable sprinting.
Selections:  Dixie Dreamer, Dream Rush, Rgirlsdon'tbluff

Smile Sprint Handicap:
Benny the Bull showed a great deal of class in winning the True North on Belmont Day.  He looked hopelessly beaten over the speed-favoring oval at the eighth pole, but roared back late to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  He should get plenty of pace in the Smile Sprint, and looms a likely winner, but a low price coupled with his inexperience over this course has me looking elsewhere.  Ok, Marty Wolfson, where is the real Rockerfeller, and who is this imposter that you have masquerading as the Maria's Mon gelding?  The Rockerfeller I know was a 1-15 plodder that was hopelessly stuck in entry-level allowances.  The Wolfson-trained Rockerfeller is two for two with a pair of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.  Rockerfeller's win in the Ponche Handicap at Calder on June 14 was pretty impressive.  He inhaled a loose-on-the-lead pacesetter, and rolled to win by seven.  While we can question his class as he steps up to face Benny the Bull and company, he should get the right setup, and he does seem to adore this strip.  One more time before he turns back into a pumpkin?  If he turns back into a pumpkin?  Indian Chant is a pretty good sprinter with four triple-digit Beyers this year out of five races.  He looked very good winning the Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill, but may get hounded hard on the lead with other pace foes as Man of Danger, Winnie's Tigger Too, Blue Pepsi Lodge, and Ravalo likely to scrimmage for the front.  Poor Man of Danger!  He's come close in his last four races - all in stakes - only to earn bridesmaid status each time.  I'm thinking that if he couldn't take full advantage of the speed track in the True North, then he probably won't be able to overcome the intense pace pressure he'll probably face here.  Ravalo is razor-sharp, but is another that may get cooked up front.
Selections:  Rockerfeller, Indian Chant, Man of Danger

Delaware Oaks:
Proud Spell
is wheeling back quickly after the poor ride/tough trip she endured in the Mother Goose, and she did get scraped up pretty badly in that race.  Still, she seems to be the best filly in the race, and is going to be hard to down at a short price.  Weathered and African Violet come out of the local prep for the Delaware Oaks - the Susan's Girl - on June 14.  The former was allowed to walk on the lead while African Violet was wide off the slow pace.  Weathered may not make as easy a lead here with Maren's Meadow and Proud Spell in the race, and I didn't like how African Violet tried to lug in during midstretch of the Susan's Girl.  Shes All Eltish is a quality performer, but she's been too green for her own good.  She easily won the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream despite being rank, but she seemed to pull herself up once she made the lead in the Black Eyed Susan.  If Proud Spell falters, it wouldn't surprise anyone if Shes All Eltish takes this.
Selections:  Proud Spell, Weathered, African Violet

Quick and Dirty picks:

American Derby:  Great War Eagle, Tizdejavu, Blue Exit.

And that's not even half of the great stakes races this weekend!

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

Have been having terrible computer troubles today so will cut this short.  May be back tomorrow with a look at the Delaware Handicap as well as responses to some of your comments.

Cheers!

Dan