01/29/2010 5:09PM

Some weekend thoughts

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Let's take a look at a couple of interesting horses that are scheduled to compete this weekend:

Santa Monica Handicap (Grade 1 - Santa Anita - Race 8 - Sunday):
I really like PROVISO (#7) turning back from the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic.  She was 3-3 over this seven furlong distance on turf in France and showed some grit when finishing first (dq'd to second) in the Grade 1 Spinster over polytrack in her first start in North America.  In the Breeders' Cup, she was sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place when chasing runaway pacesetter Careless Jewel down the backstretch.  Proviso was among the first wave of challengers to attack Careless Jewel and understandably tired in late stretch.  If FREE FLYING SOUL (#6) faces some pressure up front (maybe from CZECHERS or GABBY'S GOLDEN GAL), Proviso may be the one to benefit. 
Selection:  Proviso

Forward Gal (Grade 2 - Gulfstream - Race 9 - Sunday):
SHE BE WILD (#6), the champion 2-year-old filly of 2009, makes her seasonal debut in the Forward Gal, but she didn't scare anybody out of the entries.  A full field is expected to challenge She Be Wild as she makes her first start on dirt and AILALEA (#7) could be the one to take the champ down.  A $340,000 yearling by Pulpit, Ailalea got off the advantageous rail path to angle three wide on the turn of the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct on November 7.  She professionally made the front and kept to her task nicely in the stretch of that one-turn mile event.  Ailalea previously defeated three next-out winners when taking  a one-mile maiden special weight at Aqueduct in 1:38.30 (Dad's Crazy defeated Tapitsfly in the off-the-turf Miss Grillo that afternoon in 1:40.04).  There should be enough speed to set Ailalea up on Sunday and she looks like a nice alternative to She Be Wild.
Selection:  Ailalea

John B. Connally Turf Handicap (Sam Houston - Race 9 - Saturday):
This looks like a really fun race with a full field of evenly-matched horses.  FIFTEEN LOVE (#2) looks like an intriguing candidate despite a tough outside post position.  Last time out, he received a weird trip in a four-horse turf race at Woodbine won by 2007 Arlington Million hero Jambalaya.  Fifteen Love showed good speed, but was wrangled off the pace after five furlongs to track from the inside.  He finished evenly without excuse to be second and shows a pair of bullet workouts for his new connections (he was purchased from Juddmonte at public auction for $85,000 since the last run).  We'll see if he wants to run this far (0-1 at nine furlongs), but should offer some value (10-1 on the morning line).
Selection:  Fifteen Love

WEBN Stakes (Turfway - Race 11 - Saturday):
I liked LUCKY CHUCK (#8) last time and he didn't run well at all as the 6-5 betting favorite in the Turfway Park Prevue on January 2.  He had previously parlayed a perfect trip into an 84 Beyer win and may have been returning too quickly in the Prevue (16 days with a bullet five furlong work in the interim).  He has now had four weeks to recover from the Prevue and will go two sprints to a route on Saturday.  One more chance at, hopefully, a better price.
Selection:  Lucky Chuck

Manatee Stakes (Tampa - Race 9 - Saturday):
SATANS QUICK CHICK (#12) is 10-1 on the morning line, but I expect her to drop precipitously from those odds.  When last seen, this daughter of Sky Mesa won the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland over three next-out winners (including Grade 1 winner Flashing).  And she was much the best in doing so.  After being squeezed back at the start, Satans Quick Chick steadily advanced along the inside before being blocked from the quarter-pole to midstretch.  Once clear, she looked hopelessly beaten, but came with a strong late run to pull off the 23-1 upset.  This will be her first start on dirt, and that's always a question mark, but if she can duplicate her good all-weather form to the surface, she'll be tough to beat.
Selection:  Satans Quick Chick

Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf (Santa Anita - Race 7 - Saturday):
CLOSEOUT (#1) has only raced once in Southern California, but that resulted in a decent runner-up effort at 28-1 odds in the Grade 2 Las Palmas on Breeders' Cup Weekend.  She was checked on the first turn that day, was buried on the inside, and split horses to just get up for second in the shadow of the wire.  She'll try to duplicate the second-off-the-layoff angle that resulted in her Grade 3 win in the Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs on July 5 and may get enough pace to help her late with BOOTLEG ANNIE and CENTURY PARK possibly contesting the fractions.
Selection:  Closeout

Sunshine Millions Distaff (Gulfstream - Race 9 - Saturday):
SWEET REPENT looks like the horse to beat after some big runs at Calder, but I'll give one more try to JESSICA IS BACK (#7), a mare that has improved by leaps and bounds since being claimed by Marty Wolfson last April.  Jessica Is Back has earned triple-digit Beyers in four of her last five starts and should be close to the pace throughout under Julien Leparoux.  Be warned, though.  Jessica Is Back is 8-15 on wet tracks and only 2-23 on fast going.
Selection:  Jessica Is Back

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

Been feeling under the weather so will have to wait until Monday to get to your comments, questions, and pp requests.

Enjoy the weekend.

Dan