02/21/2009 1:09PM

A Skimpy Saturday


This as as slow a Saturday for important stakes racing as you'll see until November, with just two graded stakes races on the national menu, neither of them for classic candidates. The only so-called Derby prep is the Turf Paradise Derby, where the favorites are a pair of Santa Anita shippers, 1-for-6 Mayor Marv and 0-for-2 Pauper's Prize. 

Both graded stakes are part of this week's weird Magna 5:     

What's weird about it, as often is the case, is the choice of races for the sequence and the self-contradictory thinking behind it. The opening leg from Laurel is usually the Saturday stakes race there, but today that race has been moved to the 8th on the Laurel card and a $25k conditioned claimer goes into the usual stakes slot -- understandable perhaps since the stakes (the Maryland Media H.) drew a five-horse field with a 6-5 favorite. Okay, but then why include the San Carlos, a six-horse field with a 3-5 favorite?

Darts But the worst choice of all is the Golden Gate race chosen for today's sequence -- a six-horse maiden race with three first-time starters. It's the smallest field on the card, and there are a total of four past-performance lines on which to evaluate five of the six entrants. It's difficult to imagine this race was chosen for the Magna 5 by means other than indifference or the toss of a dart.

In any case, most people will probably be playing the sequence as a Magna 4, singling Georgie Boy in the San Carlos. He's the only graded-stakes winner in the field and his three triple-digit Beyers in sprints are three more than anyone else has mustered. It's tempting to try to beat him, though, if only because he's coming off a vistory in a Sunshine Millions race where a pace meltdown set the table for him, whereas today's field lacks any proven sprint speed at all.

It's not clear whether that kind of pace angle matters any more in California's synthetic racing, and Georgie Boy may simply be better than these, but I'll also be using Past The Point. I'm a sucker for route-to-sprint turnbacks, and Past The Point hasn't tried a sprint since the first two of his 13 career starts. He's got enough talent to have given Curlin fits at 40-1 in the Woodward last year, and appears the likeliest upsetter.

At Aqueduct, the late pick-4 is guaranteed at $250k (the actual pool was $339k last Saturday), and it's worth a look if big fields of statebreds are your cup of tea:

Race 6: Statebred maiden fillies, including five firsters.

Race 7: $10k N2L claimers

Race 8: Statebred N2x milers.

Race 9: Statebred maiden claimers

It's sunny and 40 degrees in New York, but there's no question it's still February.