07/17/2009 3:10PM

Weekend opinions, etc.


Let's take a look at some of the upcoming weekend's stakes races:

Delaware Handicap (Sunday - Race 10):

UNBRIDLED BELLE's record at Delaware Park is very impressive, and the 2007 Del 'Cap heroine had an excuse when beaten back to third by Hystericalady in last year's renewal.  As the betting favorite, she flipped in the paddock and never seemed comfortable thereafter.  It looked like Unbridled Belle's career was over after she bombed in the 2008 Spinster and 2009 Louisville Distaff - she was reportedly bred to A.P. Indy - but after not getting in foal, she came back with a vengeance in the local prep, the Obeah on June 20.  She's the class of the field, but I'm going with ICON PROJECT, a Marty Wolfson-trained daughter of Empire Maker that freaked in the mud in the off-the-turf New York Stakes at Belmont.  Although that field was weakened by scratches, Icon Project looked very good drawing off to win by 13 1/4 lengths in her main track debut, and it's possible that she's found a home on dirt. 
Selection:  Icon Project

Greenwood Cup (Saturday - Philadelphia Park, Race 9):

NITE LIGHT ran a heck of a race in the Brooklyn as he put away a handful of would-be pace challengers only to fall short by a dirty nose at the end of the 12-furlong marathon.  While an effort like that would usually make him an easy selection, I am a bit concerned that the start was too taxing, and he may be primed for a regression at a short price.  He must be used, but I'll look for some value elsewhere.  ELDAAFER was the last one to draw his sword at Nite Light in the Brooklyn, and he got his hoof raised despite drifting out in the stretch.  A former $20,000 claim, Eldaafer seems better on wet tracks, and he won't be 17-1 this time around.  ALAAZO, one of our friend Alan's favorite runners, has been a disappointment, but he gets a chance to plod around three turns here, and may have been compromised by a speed-biased track at Monmouth last time out.  He'll be the better price of the uncoupled Pletcher entry, and gets one last chance to atone.
Selections:  Alaazo, Nite Light, Eldaafer

Delaware Oaks (Saturday - Race 7):

BON JOVI GIRL and PAYTON D'ORO renew acquaintances for their rubber match, but LIVIN LOVIN may be primed to take them down in her second race since being sidelined by an ankle chip that needed surgery.  She returned in the Acorn, and was mired down on the rail for the first three furlongs before splitting rivals three wide entering the turn.  She raced four wide turning for home, and was bumped and forced out several times in the lane.  All in all, she still kept on to her business to finish fourth, and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure.  I'm guessing she can improve off that race, and the graded stakes-winning daughter of Birdstone can add to her resume. 
Selections:  Livin Lovin, Bon Jovi Girl

Virginia Derby (Saturday - Colonial Downs, Race 11):

Unfortunately, Barbaro's baby brother, NICANOR, has been scratched.  Even with his defection, there seems to be a lot of speed in the race, and I'll look for EL CRESPO to run them down when it counts.  Last time out, in the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs, El Crespo was forced to be closer than usual as FLORENTINO backed down the fractions to a crawl.  On Saturday, AFFIRMATIF, TAKE THE POINTS, SAFETY VALVE, and STRAIGHT STORY may keep Florentino honest, and Julien Leparoux may ease El Crespo off the expected scrum.  A good-looking son of A.P. Indy, El Crespo has already earned graded status this year in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream, and should offer some value to boot.
Selections:  El Crespo, Take the Points, Affirmatif

A Gleam Handicap (Saturday - Hollywood, Race 6):

Some handicappers are predicting COCO BELLE's downfall at seven furlongs, but she looked so good beating Indian Blessing, SILVER SWALLOW, and SHE'S CHEEKY last time out that she may be sharp enough to last the extra panel.  While LOVELY ISLE and CRY AND CATCH ME both have speed, I don't think they can go with Coco Belle, who figures to be gunned from the gate by Mike Smith. 
Selection:  Coco Belle

Sunset Handicap (Sunday - Hollywood, Race 3):

Only a field of four for this marathon, but OBRIGADO got a long-overdue victory last time out in the Round Table, and may have found his lost confidence.  Yes, he was helped by a solid pace in that heat, and the splits may not be as fast this time around, but he proved his superiority over PORFIDO in the Round Table, and probable pacesetter BLACK ASTOR may not want to go this far.  That leaves the solid SPRING HOUSE, who may go favored.  Spring House won at Golden Gate last time out, but I didn't love the way he galloped out after that race, and he's been away almost two months.
Selections:  Obrigado, Porfido

Hopefully, things will go better this week than last, but more importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.


i heard that the daily saratoga drf seminar's @ siro's hosted by the ageless harvey pack have been cancelled. is this true?  i hope not as they contributed to the entire unsurpassed and unequaled spa experience.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pack has retired from Siro's duties at Saratoga, but he will join me in the DRF studios for a look at the late Pick 4 each Saturday at the Spa.  Those video features will be available on drf.com


Completely off all topics...
Does anyone know what happened with Stardom Bound? I haven't seen or heaard anything about her at all!
Thanks for any info!

She was reportedly turned out at Three Chimneys Farm during the middle of April for sixty days.  The original plan was to freshen her up for a late summer or fall campaign.  She reportedly walked under tack at Churchill on July 3, and was scheduled to be shipped to New York shortly thereafter.


Well. one way to fill out the West Virginia Derby and Jim Dandy fields is to give an early sneak peek at where Rachal Alexandra is heading, and that is the Haskel! Now, where is Big Drama going to be found? Any guesses?
Keith L.

The West Virginia Derby may be the next stop for Big Drama.


Any information that you have on Close Alliance (Gone West-Shoogle by A.P. Indy) is greatly appreciated.
I know that he was a 3YO trained by John Gosden and he ran in the Kempton Kentucky Derby win and you're in Challenge Stakes.
He's now been in training at Belmont since June. Has he ran in any U.S. races? Who is his trainer? Where is he being headed? etc. Any information is appreciated. Thanks
Calvin Carter

Close Alliance has been transferred to Bobby Frankel's stable in New York.  After finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby Challenge at Kempton, he ran sixth in the Group 3 Craven Stakes at Newmarket on April 16.  In his final start in Europe, Close Alliance finished fourth in the listed Newmarket Stakes on May 2.  I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing we'll see him at Saratoga.


Congrats to David W. for finishing first in HandiGambling 142.  He get to make next week's selection. 

Have a great weekend!