03/12/2010 10:44PM

Super Stakes Weekend

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Let's take a peek at what should be a spectacular weekend of racing:

There's a little something for everyone on Saturday with the long-awaited return to the races of Horse of the Year RACHEL ALEXANDRA and Breeders' Cup Classic heroine ZENYATTA.  Both will be prohibitive favorites in their respective races as the sporting world waits with bated breath for their possible showdown in the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 9. 

For fans of three-year-old racing, there will be a trifecta of important Kentucky Derby prep races. LOOKIN AT LUCKY, the champion juvenile of 2009, makes his seasonal, and dirt, debut in the Rebel at Oaklawn against a solid field of runners. 

Another chapter will be added to the rags-to-riches tale of CARACORTADO in the San Felipe at Santa Anita, but he'll have to dispose of a field that will include the speedy SIDNEY'S CANDY and the late-running, long-striding DAVE IN DIXIE. 

The Tampa Bay Derby features the three-year-old debut of SUPER SAVER, but the Todd Pletcher-trained colt may have his hooves full with a potentially important horse in ODYSSEUS as well as rock-solid local hopefuls UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN and SCHOOLYARD DREAMS.

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For the flagship race of the Tampa Bay Downs meeting, the Tampa Bay Derby, I'm very interested to see how Odysseus fares in his first start against stakes competition.  He didn't beat much last time out, but he didn't beat much by fifteen impressive lengths, and he may work out a decent trip tracking the early pace. 
Super Saver's form is eerily reminiscent of Rule, a WinStar-owned, Pletcher-trained speed horse making his return from a layoff in a graded route at Tampa Bay.  Rule won gate-to-wire and it wouldn't be a surprise if Super Saver struts to the winner's circle either.  Still, this is his first race in over three months and he may face some pressure from Schoolyard Dreams and the newly-blinkered Uptowncharlybrown. 

I wrote the following about Uptowncharlybrown in my Sam F. Davis "Report Card" on the drf.com Kentucky Derby page:

"UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN stretched out in distance for the first time after a pair of impressive sprint wins and he seemed to run in spots for jockey Daniel Centeno...Uptowncharlybrown is still green with only three starts on his record. He has some upside potential and may be a horse that would improve with the addition of blinkers."

He draws a good inside post for the Tampa Bay Derby and I'm expecting him to show improved speed and focus with blinkers on Saturday afternoon. 

It's a good solid race and I'll go with Odysseus.

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Lookin At Lucky and NOBLE'S PROMISE, the two-three finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and one-two runners in the CashCall Futurity, both must travel a route of ground in their first race in almost three months.  Add in the fact that both have never raced on dirt and one should hesitate to take a short price on either one of these quality performers. 
DUBLIN seems very logical after rallying over a speed-favoring track in his first start back from throat surgery in the Rebel, but I wonder if he'll regress off that effort, and I have a feeling he's going to take his share of play with that 96 Beyer staring people in the face.
UH OH BANGO hasn't raced since his bang-up second to the aforementioned Rule in the Delta Jackpot, his first start around two turns, and he's only worked once over the Oaklawn strip due to freezing weather conditions in Arkansas this winter.  I wonder if he'll be fully cranked up for this prep race but he has the speed to track ROYAL EXPRESS and I'm guessing Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise will be close to the pace as well. 

There are legitimate fears that Uh Oh Bango won't go this far but I'll take a shot with him in the Rebel. 

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She is the Picture of Perfection, the Equine Orchid, the Toast of the Coast.  She is ZENYATTA, the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic winner that will attempt to run her amazing undefeated run to fifteen in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.  With a potential "Race for the Ages" with Rachel Alexandra looming on the horizon, it's hard to call yourself a true racing fan if you're rooting for either one of these amazing Amazons to lose. 
Both look vastly superior to their opposition on Saturday.  While I don't expect Zenyatta to lose, I'm a bit interested in FLOATING HEART, the third-place finisher of the Grade 2 La Canada for four-year-old fillies on Valentine's Day.  Floating Heart looked to be commencing a three-wide bid on the turn, but the hole seemed to close at that exact moment, and she was shuffled back just a bit.  Once she got going, she rallied nicely for third. 

She'll likely have to catch a ride on a jumbo jet to beat Zenyatta, but I think this filly has a bit of promise and may be worth a couple of bucks at double-digit odds. 

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No strong thoughts on the San Felipe, but INKADO may be an interesting longshot in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.  He's 20-1 on the morning line but has really picked up his game since removing blinkers and shipping into Gulfstream.  He'll have to beat a very good THIS ONE'S FOR PHIL, and it won't be easy, but he looks to have a puncher's chance. 

On Sunday, at Gulfstream, I'll give TAR HEEL MOM another chance as she makes the third start of the form cycle in the Inside Information Stakes.

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Enjoy this wonderful weekend of racing!

Dan