05/28/2010 8:08PM

Saturday/Sunday Opinions

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Let's take a look at some of the graded stakes action over the next couple of days:

Aristides:  Churchill Downs - Race 8 - Saturday:
Uncle Steve would forecast this one as a potential "barbecue" up front with ATTA BOY ROY, CHIEF OF AFFAIRS, CASH REFUND, and LISSA'S STAR (possibly not fast enough to keep up) all capable of playing the run-and-gun game.  
Cash Refund's outside post position may give jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. an edge as he'll have the valuable option of leaving for the lead with a good break, or sitting just off the leader(s) while in the clear. 
Cash Refund is a perfect 5-5 at six furlongs (his only career loss came over "good" going at seven furlongs against the quality sprinter Capt. Candyman Can).  After that loss in the Matt Winn Stakes on May 19, 2009, Cash Refund's trainer, Steve Margolis, noted that there was the "start of a condylar fracture" brewing and gave Cash Refund the rest of the year off.  That decision proved to be extremely wise as the horse has returned just as capable as before. 
In his most recent start, the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds, Cash Refund drew outside his other pace rivals and still decided to go on with it from the start.  He battled hard through legitimate fractions and still held gamely in the stretch over quality runners like Kensei and Euroears. 
If he, or any of these horses, continues to progress, they could possibly factor in the division later in the season.  With the Breeders' Cup at Churchill this year, familiarity over the track couldn't hurt. 
Selections:  Cash Refund, Chief of Affairs, Atta Boy Roy.

Gamely:  Hollywood Park - Race 9 - Saturday:
There's a little bit of everything in this star-studded Grade 1 at Hollywood Park.  GOTTA HAVE HER is a multiple Grade 3 winner sprinting down the hill at Santa Anita (she handles that course just as well as any runner I've seen).  MEDAGLIA D'AMOUR is three for four in her career, had worlds of upside, and successfully handled the jump to graded competition last time out in the Wilshire despite missing some time with a minor foot problem.  FOREVER TOGETHER, the champion turf distaffer of 2008, has a Breeders' Cup win on her record, and is a two-time Grade 1 winner at this nine-furlong distance.  The game, genuine, and classy TUSCAN EVENING did the improbable over the winter.  Yes, I realize she was favored in her last four races, but she won graded stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs, 1 mile, 1 1/8 miles, and 1 1/4 miles.  She's won 10 of 14 starts since shipping here from Europe, and may have the tactical advantage up front.  WELL MONIED won the Grade 2 Honeymoon over this course and distance last year.  GENERAL CONSENSUS was compromised by poor pace scenarios in her last two races.  PRINCESS HAYA beat Forever Together in last year's Canadian Stakes at nine furlongs and adds blinkers for her second start following a long layoff.  CAT BY THE TALE won the San Gorgonio at this trip at Santa Anita. 
Some handicappers have written Forever Together off as a bit past her prime, but I think the gray mare still has some racing left.  True, she was the beaten favorite in her last four races, but she got beat a dirty nose in the Canadian while spotting Princess Haya nine pounds and a better trip.  In the First Lady at Keeneland, she caught soft ground and a perhaps over-confident ride by Julien Leparoux.  She was left with too much to do from the back of the pack in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and had every right to be short against a sharp Wasted Tears in her first start of the year, the Jenny Wiley on April 10.  Her regular rider, Leparoux, is out with an injury so it will be interesting to see how Forever Together gets along with Rajiv Maragh.  She worked in 58 and change before shipping out here and can make her patented late charge if given a little help up front.
Selections:  Forever Together, Gotta Have Her, Princess Haya

Hanshin Cup - Arlington - Race 9 - Saturday:
I have two ideas for this one-turn mile over the polytrack.  Plan A is to use one of my old favorites in RECAPTURETHEGLORY.  That is, of course, if he even goes in this spot as he's also entered on Saturday at Prairie Meadows. 
The Illinois Derby winner of 2008, Recapturetheglory seems to have found his niche at the one-mile distance.  He ran some good races over the turf at the distance last summer at Arlington and wasn't disgraced in his five-year-old debut on May 9.  That afternoon, he chased loose pacesetter Tizdejavu through moderate splits and was still trying to get that classy comebacker all the way down to the wire.  He hasn't run on polytrack since his juvenile campaign, however, and it's possible that his connections don't want to go that route with him.  Still, he could be sharper for his second start back and has the tactical speed to sit just off the early lead. 
If he doesn't start here, then Plan B lies with WILDEYDSOUTHERNBOY, a polytrack lover.  He's won six of seven at Arlington and should relish getting back to the synthetics after wintering at Oaklawn and Hawthorne ("only" 2-6 over dirt).  Last time out, he raced evenly going six furlongs at Hawthorne, but it looked like he galloped out with a ton of gusto.  A one-turn mile should be within his scope (he's won at 7 1/2 furlongs at Arlington), he has tactical speed, and we know he likes the footing.
Selections:  Recapturetheglory, Wildeydsouthernboy, Tybalt

Vagrancy Handicap - Belmont - Race 9 - Saturday:
As in the Aristides, there seems to be a good amount of pace and that may work to the advantage of HOUR GLASS, who chased loose-on-the-lead TAR HEEL MOM last time out over muddy footing (note Tar Heel Mom is 4-8 on wet) in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct on April 17. 
Hour Glass earned a good figure two back when beating restricted stakes horses and I think she'll appreciate turning back slightly in distance for the Vagrancy.  The six other ladies in this race all have shown good races when on or near the lead and Hour Glass might sit back and try to catch them all in the final quarter-mile. 
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tar Heel Mom, but she's now run four hard races in a row, will likely take a good amount of money, and probably won't shake loose in this spot. 
MALIBU PRAYER ran some big numbers last fall for Todd Pletcher and wouldn't be a surprise, but she hasn't run since Breeders' Cup Saturday.
Selections:  Hour Glass, Malibu Prayer, Saarlight

Connaught Cup - Woodbine - Race 8 - Sunday:
Sunday's DRF Race of the Day (go to the homepage for video analysis, race advance, and Formulator past performances) is a contentious affair featuring some tough war-horses.  RAHY'S ATTORNEY ($1.5M in earnings) earned a Grade 1 victory in the 2008 Woodbine Mile.  SOCIETY'S CHAIRMAN (500K) won the Grade 3 Appleton at Gulfstream two back and finished a solid third last time behind Karelian and Court Vision in the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile.  FIELD COMMISSION (825K) won the Grade 2 Nearctic the last time he raced on turf and has three triple-digit Beyers from his last four races.  SUCCESSFUL MISSION has taken three in a row while JIMMY SIMMS prevailed over this course in two of his last three races.  PASSAGER won the Appleton in 2009 and is making his third start following an injury-induced layoff.  JUNGLE WAVE goes second off the bench and won the Grade 2 Play the King over course and distance last year.  CHEROKEE HEAVEN is a stakes-winner going down the hill while GRAND ADVENTURE should appreciate returning to Woodbine while stretching out to seven furlongs.  NOT BOURBON is the epitome of class.  He's won 7 of 13 races including the Queen's Plate and scored in his most recent start despite an almost two-year layoff.  He's returned from a fractured knee and fractured shoulder and will be trying turf for the first time.  He's my sentimental choice as he's shown the true heart and determination that we love from these thoroughbreds in simply getting back to the races. 
From a wagering standpoint, I'm willing to give MAJOR MARVEL one more try although he certainly won't be the 69-1 odds he was when going gate-to-wire in the first turf race at Woodbine in 2010.  It's quite possible that he was aided by the rail placement that day (when the rails are out, speed often holds well on the turf), but I thought he looked pretty good.  He went right to the front, fended off pace pressure and would not stop in the stretch.  Expect Chantal Sutherland to be more aggressive with Jungle Wave in the Connaught Cup so Major Marvel may have to sit just a bit under Emile Ramsammy.
Selections:  Major Marvel, Jungle Wave, Field Commission

Kingston - Belmont - Race 8 - Sunday:
This race features the seven-year-old debut of BANROCK, a wonderful New York-bred turf runner that has won the last two editions of this race and is eight for his last nine against statebred competition.  He won this race off a similar layoff last year and is strictly the horse to beat, but there are some other legitimate contenders in this intriguing grass heat. 
WRITINGONTHEWALL looked very good going gate-to-wire against second-level statebreds on the Aqueduct turf on April 15.  Trained by Carlos Martin, he faced some pace pressure but simply shrugged them off to dominate by 6 3/4 lengths.  The runnerup from that race, Smart Enuf, came back to beat open starter allowance horses and Writingonthewall should be forwardly-placed once more in the Kingston.  It's possible he's coming into his own.
MINNIE PUNT is a tactical sort that took advantage of a solid pace to beat a good performer in Straight Story on Derby day at Belmont.  That race was Minnie Punt's first start of the year, and the lightly-raced four-year-old may have a good season in front of him.  He draws a good inside post and can work out a ground-saving, pace-tracking trip under hot-riding Jose Lezcano.
Selections:  Writingonthewall, Minnie Punt, Extra Zip

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

If I can, I'll check in with some Memorial Day thoughts.  If not, I'll see you Tuesday with the recap.

Best of luck,

Dan