06/27/2008 5:50PM

Weekend Opinions

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Debutante Stakes - (Churchill - Race 10):
Garden District couldn't get to the pacesetting winner when taking on the boys last time out, but it wasn't for lack of trying.  She is comfortable rallying from off the pace, and should get a strong pace to attack.  Simplify earned a big Beyer first-out for Steve Asmussen, but may face strong pace pressure, and has to navigate an additional furlong and a half.  Rachel Alexandra went gate-to-wire against maidens, and wheels back on relatively short notice.  A pace presence at the very least.  Corlett was very game with the addition of Lasix, but gets a strong class test here.  Songtress beat a pair of next-out winners in her debut, and is bred to be very fast.  Renda ships up from Calder after going gate-to-wire, but they probably will go faster in the early stages here than they did in South Florida.
Selections:  Garden District, Simplify, Rachel Alexandra

Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap - (Arlington - Race 10):
I liked Indescribable last week when she was entered on the turf, and I still like her in this polytrack sprint.  She outgamed main rival Leah's Secret going nine furlongs in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron last time out, and draws a nice attack post outside of the plethora of speed horses.  Leah's Secret had every chance in the Matron when skimming the rail turning for home, but she was still beat by a wide Indescribable.  She'll make the third start of the form cycle, and may be a bit more comfortable on the turnback than Indescribable.  Dhanyata was Group 1-placed on turf at two in England, and looks to be rounding back into form.  She has good speed, and should be prominent when the field turns for home.  Featherbed and Mini Sermon, along with Leah's Secret, comprise the Pletcher hand.  The former has good early speed while Mini Sermon took a Grade 2 event last year. 
Selections:  Indescribable

Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap - (Prairie Meadows - Race 9):
Think Fairbanks is the main speed despite his outside post, and although I usually think of him in the same negative light as stablemate A.P. Arrow, he may have found a good spot in Iowa.  Zanjero makes his third start of the year, but needs pace to attack, and I don't like his penchant for lugging in during the stretch drive.  Encaustic set the pace in the Lone Star Handicap, and it will be interesting to see if Mr. Asmussen uses him as kind of a rabbit to aid mate Zanjero.  Encaustic is a pretty good horse in his own right, but the distance is a question mark.  Temporary Saint shook loose when upsetting the apple cart in the Grade 2 Excelsior, but that scenario may not duplicate itself here.  Trainer Bruce Levine is winning at a very high percentage.  Delightful Kiss and Prom Shoes have both battled some physical problems, and both need pace help.
Selections:  Fairbanks, Zanjero, Encaustic

Landaluce Stakes - (Hollywood - Race 4):
Trifecta King
didn't earn the biggest Beyer in the world when winning the Cinderella on May 25, but she prevailed in fine style.  She tracked the pace before drawing away powerfully in the lane.  As usual in these juvenile sprints, there is a ton of speed, and Trifecta King's successful rating experience should prove invaluable.  Glitter City may be the fastest of the speed horses, and she did earn a gaudy Beyer winning her maiden at five furlongs.  I didn't like how she drifted in during the stretch drive that day, however, and these are tougher opponents.  Cosmic Queen beat three next-out winners (including Trifecta King) when scooting clear in her debut.  She's the one to beat, but may have to battle hard from her outside post.  Maiden Emmy Darling cost $260,000 at auction, and rallied nicely in her debut.  A fast pace works in her favor. 
Selections:  Trifecta King, Glitter City, Cosmic Queen, Emmy Darling

American Invitational - (Hollywood - Race 5):
Daytona has been tremendous with six wins out of his last seven starts, and he showed valuable versatility in sitting just off Ever a Friend before pouncing to victory in the Shoemaker Mile.  Stretching out to nine furlongs won't be a problem - heck he has three wins at this distance, and a win at 1 1/4 miles to boot - but he won't offer much value in this spot.  Expect him to find his usual place on the lead, and he obviously should be used in multi-race and exotic gimmicks, but let's try Becrux for win honors at a little bit of a price.  He is a bit questionable at this nine furlong distance - he's probably better at a flat mile - but he showed his quality by winning the 2006 Woodbine Mile (Grade 1) as well as a restricted stakes at Del Mar last year.  Becrux was overmatched in his last start when ambitiously-spotted overseas in the Mile Championship by his usually-conservative trainer, Neil Drysdale, but he did pass some tired horses late.  Becrux has the tactical speed to stay close to Daytona early, and he's worth a chance despite the layoff. Hyperbaric enters after pairing up Beyer tops, and he galloped out nicely past Daytona when third to that one in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.  I didn't like that he was late to switch leads that day, but he is liable to improve in his second start back, and acts like he'll appreciate the added distance.  Storm Military didn't have the easiest trip when a narrowly beaten favorite at Lone Star, and he has the speed to keep Daytona somewhat busy going into the first turn.  Worldly is very talented when right, but he's been plagued by injuries throughout his career.
Selections:  Becrux, Daytona, Hyperbaric

A Gleam Handicap - (Hollywood - Race 9)
What a nice race!  These fillies have proven fragile, but when they're 100%, they're very solid.  Magnificience was awesome as a three-year-old filly, and she may have been short when returning off an injury and a year layoff on May 18.  She still got the job done in workmanlike fashion, and may be tighter for this assignment.  Dearest Trickski got sick prior to the Desert Stormer Stakes on May 17, and subsequently bombed as the 4-5 chalk.  She looms the speed of the speed.  Romance Is Diane has a habit of "tying up" prior to her races, but she wired the Grade 2 Bayakoa last year over this track.  She was only beaten a neck in her only previous try at this seven furlong distance.  Tiz Elemental returned from a bone chip in her knee to win two of three starts.  That's class!  Missvinski was sick prior to finishing third in the Lawndale on May 9.  Expect her to be better this time around.  Dawn After Dawn was sidelined by minor ailments before finishing fourth to Zenyatta in January, but she seems back to her best form now.  None of these fillies would be a surprise, but I'll go with a price with Spenditallbaby.  The daughter of Unusual Heat won the B. Thoughful over this course and trip three back, then raced wide behind a slow pace in the Long Beach on turf on May 14.  Toss out the recent debacle - she was overmatched against Grade 1 foes in New York - but she'll appreciate the turnback in distance, and the hot pace she'll likely attack here.  Intangaroo doesn't get the respect she deserves as a multiple Grade 1 winner at this distance, and she's another that would like a quick pace up front.  She's very logical and playable.  I like the spacing between Ashley's Kitty's races, and she really likes this course. 
Selections:  Spenditallbaby, Intangaroo

Hollywood Gold Cup - Hollywood - Race 10)
What a shame that Heatseeker, one of the top handicap horses in the country, won't compete due to some ankle swelling.  There doesn't seem to be much pace in this 10 furlong test so I'll take Mast Track as a pace play at a price.  He couldn't capitalize on a perfect trip when chasing Daytona on grass last time, but he stretches out, adds blinkers, and should be running-and-gunning from the gate under Tyler Baze.  If his rivals leave him alone long enough, he may steal this thing.  Racketeer makes his first start for new connections after earning a Beyer top at Belmont, but he was under the whip a long way out that day, and never threatened the winner.  Perhaps he'll appreciate the return to Southern California, and he's another that offers value.  Go Between was a bit rank in the early stages of the Big 'Cap at this distance, but he still rallied stoutly to finish second to Heatseeker.  He bombed as the chalk at Keeneland last time out, and may need a touch more pace to do his absolute best.  Perfect Drift received an excellent prep when finishing ahead of Mast Track in the Shoemaker.  The consistent Tiago was compromised by moderate fractions in the California, and may be faced with a similar situation here.  Student Council seems back in good form, and you know he'll stay the trip.  Big Booster also needs some pace, and may be more effective at longer distances. 
Selections:  Mast Track, Racketeer, Go Between

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

Will be back  Monday with Beyers and Handicappers of the Week as well as answers to some of  your questions and comments.

Take care,

Dan