12/12/2009 11:19AM

Saturday Stakes Preview

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Let's take a look at some of this afternoon's stakes action from around the country:

Native Diver (Hollywood - Race 7):
This very competitive event was expected to showcase the return of Lava Man, but with wet weather on the West Coast over the past few days, his trainer, Doug O'Neill has mentioned that the veteran gelding will likely fight another day. 
With Tres Borrachos and Mast Track entered, I foresee a solid pace up front, and that could help horses like O'Neill's Square Eddie as well as my selection, Neko Bay
Neko Bay got the best of Mast Track with a solid late run two starts back, notable because it was Neko Bay's first start in almost nine months.  Heartened by the effort, Neko Bay's excellent trainer, John Shirreffs, decided to start Neko Bay in the Breeders' Cup Synthetic Mile at Oak Tree, and Neko Bay was forced out of his preferred running style by the lack of pace up front.  Instead of racing midpack, he pressed early leader Midshipman from the get-go, and that just isn't Neko Bay's kind of race.  Neko Bay should get more pace this time around so expect him to revert to his best style - closing - and that may spur the needed improvement it's going to take to win this.
Selection:  Neko Bay

Queens County (Aqueduct - Race 8)
I don't like the two morning line favorites, Researcher and Storm Play.  The former, the defending Queens County champion, earned a big figure two back in the slop at Charles Town when loose on the lead, and it's unlikely he'll shake clear in the early going today.  Last time out, Researcher disappointed as the favorite in the Mountaineer Mile, and I didn't like how he finished up during the stretch drive of that race.  Storm Play missed most of the year recovering from surgery, and he didn't do much in his first start off the bench at Belmont when favored against fellow layoff runner, Midshipman.  Storm Play's trainer, Todd Pletcher, is on fire at the Big A, but he's going to ask Storm Play to run 1 3/16 miles in his second start of the year, and first start in almost three months.  At 3-1 on the morning line, I have to let him beat me.
Rodman is taking a big step up in class and distance, but he destroyed entry-level allowance horses at a mile last time out, and the runner-up, Well Positioned, returned to score at that level with the fastest Beyer Speed Figure earned in North America last week.  A grandson of A.P. Indy and Affirmed, I'm hoping Rodman will handle this extra distance, and he may be able to rate behind some other speeds.
Selection:  Rodman

Prairie Bayou (Turfway - Race 10):
I'm hoping that the horse for course, Timeless Fashion, can rate a little bit in this spot as there appears to be a good amount of speed drawn to his inside.  A three-time winner over the Turfway polytrack, Timeless Fashion finished a close second in this race last year, and enters the 2009 Prairie Bayou following a game gate-to-wire victory on grass at Churchill Downs.  While that race was only a four-horse affair, and Timeless Fashion was able to set slow splits, he was put to the test by the runner-up five and one-half furlongs from the wire, and refused to let that rival go by.  Timeless Fashion rallied from slighly off the pace to win on grass at Mountaineer Park earlier this year, and may find a nice spot off likely leaders Omaggio, Trooper D., and Inca King
Selection:  Timeless Fashion

Louisiana Classic (Fair Grounds - Race 11):
Star Guitar will deservedly be odds-on in this race, and it's obviously his race to lose.  Still, they have to run it on the track, and we've seen far stranger things happen.  I'll take a long distance swing with Star Production, a horse that has been beaten five times in his career by Star Guitar, and doesn't look to be in very good form.  I'll toss his last race at Delta Downs as it doesn't appear he likes that track at all (beaten 11 1/2 lengths, 28 1/4 lengths, and 11 3/4 lengths in three lifetime races there).  The old Star Production would attempt to run his rivals off his feet early, but he's been rated in his last two starts (two back because of post, last time by his rider).  His only chance to make an impact would be to go to the front, and I think he's faster than Takin' the Bullet, the other logical speed horse. 
Selection:  Star Production

Louisiana Sprint (Fair Grounds - Race 12):
Not sure what happened to Foreign Production (no relation to Run Production) last time out as the consistent colt didn't pick up his feet as the 2-1 favorite.  Usually, I don't like to play horses off that kind of race, but most of the signs point to it as an anomaly.  He's only been off the board twice in his career, and he earned a very competitive Beyer Speed Figure at Louisiana Downs two back.  Perhaps he regressed last time out as it was his second start following a short layoff.  Because of that recent poor showing, Foreign Production's odds may drift up in the wagering, and he's run several races on his past performance page that can win this.
Selection:  Foreign Production

Rooting for Sourdough Sam in the Gold Rush at Golden Gate (Race 8)

Best of luck to all:

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I found this bit of information on the Hong Kong races:

http://horseracing.about.com/od/hongkong/a/aa121009a.htm

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Congrats to FRANKIE M @ TOYOTA for finishing first in yesterday's HandiGambling.  He gets to select this week's race.

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Enjoy the racing.

Dan