04/09/2011 11:26AM

Uncle Mo Headlines a Tremendous Weekend of Racing


There's a little something for everyone at this weekend's scrumptious racing buffet.

Racing fans looking to anoint the next superstar will be watching UNCLE MO with tremendous interest as he goes off the heavy, heavy favorite in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Triple Crown form students will study the results of the Wood, the Santa Anita Derby (now, unfortunately, without the two morning line favorites in PREMIER PEGASUS and JAYCITO) and, to a lesser extent, the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.

Like fillies?  I do.  How about the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland?  KATHMANBLU seeks her fourth straight victory against the well-regarded DANCINGINHERDREAMS and five other stakes-winners. 

One must always respect their elders and MISREMEMBERED may be the best handicapper in the division, as of this writing.  He'll ship to Oaklawn and will be backed with gusto by the Hot Springs faithful. 

Feel the need for speed?  The historic Grade 1 Carter Handicap features APRIORITY, he of the recent 113 Beyer Speed Figure, and MORNING LINE, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Fans of good turf horses needn't worry as CARACORTADO and JERANIMO will butt heads in the Arcadia at Santa Anita, a tasty appetizer before the Santa Anita Derby. 

For an in-depth video analysis of these races, please head to the link listed below (just click on the race name on the right hand side of the video player):



Let's dig into a few of these races.

Quick-and-Dirty Selections:


Ashland Stakes - Keeneland - Race 9:
I respect KATHMANBLU, but will not hesitate to try and beat her in the Grade 1 Ashland.  While she's performed well on dirt and grass in her career, she will run on synthetic for the first time this afternoon and that's a bit of an unknown.  Also, this will be her first race at nine furlongs and she, despite eight runs on her resume, seems a bit green at times.  Last time out, she was rank and hard to handle.  Three back, she changed to her wrong lead in late stretch.  In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Jessamine Stakes, she flipped leads back-and-forth in the stretch.  She's good, don't get me wrong, but I'll try to beat her at a short price.
The problem with the Ashland is that the horse I like, DANCINGINHERDREAMS, isn't going to offer a ton of value either.  After two visually-impressive races to kick off her career, including a six-furlong debut over this polytrack surface, Dancinginherdreams didn't move forward as expected at Gulfstream over the winter.  Perhaps one could make the argument that she was short of her best conditioning when upset in the Forward Gal, and she ran into, arguably, the top 3-year-old filly in the country, R Heat Lightning, when a wide second in the Davona Dale last time out.  I think she'll appreciate the slower pace of this two-turn route and she may really relish getting back to the polytrack.
WYOMIA is a perfect 2-2 on synthetic, and both of those wins came around two turns at Woodbine.  Her only bad races have come on turf, she has tactical speed, and she showed a good turn of foot to win the Suncoast last time out at Tampa Bay Downs. 


Wood Memorial - Aqueduct - Race 10:
UNCLE MO, the undefeated juvenile champion of 2010, looks unstoppable in the Wood Memorial.  We've learned, however, from Big Brown and countless others, that they have to run the race first.  We can handicap speed, pace, and class all we want, but who knows how Uncle Mo is feeling this morning?  Who knows how he'll break?  Who knows if he'll get into trouble?  Who knows if he's as effective at nine furlongs?  These are the great unknowns with Uncle Mo, but, again, we can't handicap most of those factors.  Going off the cold dope, he should put on a show this afternoon.  He's a very good horse, and perhaps we'll see him rate again with SON OF POSSE and DUCA possible pacesetters.
I can't get clever in the exotics, either.  TOBY'S CORNER and NORMAN ASBJORNSON, both exiting the Gotham, may be next-best behind the chalk. 


Arcadia Stakes - Santa Anita - Race 7:
Although LIBERIAN FREIGHTER appears to be the main speed, I don't think he's good enough to pull off a theft when facing the likes of CARACORTADO.  A rags-to-riches Cal-bred (he made his debut going four furlongs at Fairplex in a $40,000 maiden claimer) that made it all the way to the Preakness last year, he has really taken to the turf as a four-year-old.  His best grass race may have been his only defeat on the lawn, the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 5.  Despite a good break, he was taken back to the rear of the field, and was bottled up inside entering the far turn.  While the winner, the good turf runner Fluke, saved all the ground and got through on the fence, Caracortado has to angle out to split rivals.  He came with a good rally, but fell a head shy.  Switch his trip with Fluke's, and I believe Caracortado wins.  He might just be too good for these. 
JERANIMO is no slouch, either, but he couldn't finish with Caracortado last time out despite getting the jump on that one turning for home.  He flopped at 7-5 in the Sunshine Millions Turf when fourth behind Caracortado and showed up with front wraps last time out. 


Santa Anita Derby - Santa Anita - Race 10:
It's a crying shame that both PREMIER PEGASUS and JAYCITO are out due to injury.  You have to feel for the horses, their connections, and the handicappers that wanted to bet against them at short prices. 
The Santa Anita Derby is still a contentious race, however, and I'll go with ANTHONY'S CROSS, who showed a lot of grit and determination in winning the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis at this nine-furlong distance on February 12.  That was his first race in blinkers, and he had to do some dirty work chasing the runaway speed of Tapizar for the first six furlongs.  After putting Tapizar away turning for home, Anthony's Cross then was passed by Riveting Reason, but he came back gamely along the inside the grab the decision.  We shall see if Eoin Harty's unorthodox decision to bypass the San Felipe in favor of waiting almost two months for the Santa Anita Derby will pay off, but Anthony's Cross has good tactical speed, and should find a good stalking spot while outside of rivals. 
INDIAN WINTER and BENCH POINTS are intriguing price possibilities, but both will need to improve drastically.  The former had to word hard to win the San Pedro in his first start of the year at 6 1/2 furlongs before faltering as the favorite when attempting two turns for the first time in the Turf Paradise Derby.  Take note, however, that Indian Winter was the only part of the pace to be remotely close at the finish, however, and the Turf Paradise Derby line looks a little better.  He may work out a good pace-tracking, ground-saving trip switching to Pat Valenzuela. 
Bench Points returned from knee surgery to win a four-horse optional claimer after a good trip.  He picked up some of the pieces of that hot pace in the San Felipe, not a bad performance for a lightly-raced gelding making his first start around two turns. 
SILVER MEDALLION is very logical following his victories in the Eddie Logan and El Camino Real Derby.  We know he likes the distance, but this will be his first start on dirt.  Like the top pick, he hasn't raced since February 12.


La Puente Stakes - Santa Anita (Sunday) - Race 8:
MAJOR ART, Group 2-placed on grass in Europe, was placed in a tough spot for his North American debut on September 8 when his connections opted to try him on the main track in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity against the likes of J P's Gusto and Jaycito.  After a tenth-place finish, the colt rebounded with a good fourth behind Silver Medallion in the Eddie Logan on grass, and he got back on the beam with a visually-impressive entry-level allowance score last time out.  He broke well on March 11, but was rated to midpack while saving ground.  He was in behind horses in upper stretch and had to alter course to the three path, but came with a furious rally to get up by a head.  I think he's good enough to handle the step up in class and trip.
JAKESAM has big early speed and could be dangerous if allowed to make the front.  I'm not sure if he can last nine furlongs, however, and he could face pressure from THE FLYING WHIZZER. 
INSCRUTABLE, a listed stakes winner at 10 furlongs over fibresand in France, looms the X-factor for new trainer Jenine Sahadi.  Note that he was 20-1 in that Prix Policeman.


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

Have a wonderful weekend.