03/06/2009 6:18PM

Weekend preview

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Let's take a look at some interesting horses entered in this weekend's stakes races:


Honey Fox Stakes (Gulfstream Park - Race 10 - Saturday):

WILD PROMISES is going to receive all of the attention, and it's deserved.  She's won 12 of 17 starts including six in a row, but one has to wonder if all of this cross-country travel is going to catch up with her.  I prefer SCOLARA, a Bill Mott-trained filly that looked really good in winning a stakes race for Florida-breds on February 8.  That day, Scolara broke a bit slowly, and was bogged down inside until the final turn.  Once she shook clear, however, she rolled on home like a filly with potential.  With stretchout sprinter COCKTAIL ATTIRE in the lineup, Scolara should get enough pace to attack, and she'll offer a better price than Wild Promises.

Picks:  Scolara, Wild Promises, Flibberjibit

Gotham Stakes (Aqueduct - Race 9 - Saturday):

They're coming from all over to run in the Gotham, and I prefer the Florida contingent over local hopefuls MR. FANTASY and HAYNESFIELD, and California invaders AXEL FOLEY and I WANT REVENGE.  MASALA broke slowly in his first start of the year, then raced wide every step while chasing 100 Beyer winner Take the Points, the recent runnerup finisher in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.  Masala can move forward off that race, and I like the three five-furlong workouts that Mr. Pletcher has given the Lion Heart colt.  GIANT RYAN and RUSSELL ROAD should provide enough pace for Masala to run at late, and the price should be square.  IMPERIAL COUNCIL received a nice prep at Gulfstream, and wouldn't be a surprise for Shug. 

Picks:  Masala, Imperial Council, Mr. Fantasy

Santa Anita Oaks (Santa Anita - Race 7 - Saturday):

Been waiting for a spot to try and beat STARDOM BOUND, but I'm not sure this is it.  Perhaps the fillies coming out of the Sunshine Millions Oaks will make the 2008 Juvenile Filly champion run for her money.  BELTENE, one of Steve T.'s flying Unusual Heats, ran her record to a perfect 3-3 after running down HOOH WHY in the lane.  The additional distance is a major question mark as trainer Jack Carava seems to have called an audible by running Beltene in this spot (the original plan was the Santa Paula going short).  Beltene should get the jump on Stardom Bound turning for home, and is worth a flier if anywhere near her morning line odds of 15-1.  Hooh Why gave the promising colt Patena a scare going this distance over Woodbine's polytrack, and starts for the crafty Carla Gaines.

Picks:  Beltene, Hooh Why, Stardom Bound

Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (Santa Anita - Race 9 - Saturday):

I have all the respect in the world for both VENTURA and GIO PONTI, but the former is coming off a solid, if unspectacular win in the Santa Monica, and now has to face the boys.  Gio Ponti flopped in the Strub, but is back to his preferred surface, and has always hinted at serious ability.  While both horses could certainly win the Kilroe, I'll go for a price with ARTISTE ROYAL, the recent winner of the Grade 2 San Marcos at 10 furlongs.  Last and down on the rail at the quarter-pole in the San Marcos, Artiste Royal was hopelessly beaten until angled wide in midstretch by Garrett Gomez.  Then, he came flying with a huge late flurry to win by a nose.  He probably wants more ground than this mile distance, but HEWITTS should set a good pace up front, and the frontrunners may be coming unglued when the real running begins.

Picks:  Artiste Royal, Wise River, Hewitts

Santa Anita Handicap (Santa Anita - Race 10 - Saturday):

EINSTEIN broke from post 10 in the Donn, was spun five wide going into the first turn, and was never closer than three paths off the rail from that point forward.  That he still finished a close third is a credit to the classy warhorse, a Grade 1 winner on turf, and a Grade 2 winner on dirt.  We've seen good grass form successfully translate to the synthetic surfaces, and Einstein's stalk and pounce tactics should serve him well in the historic Big 'Cap.

Picks:  Einstein, Matto Mondo, Court Vision

Razorback Handicap (Oaklawn - Race 9 - Saturday):

Some familiar faces in this Grade 3 heat.  SPOTSGONE and JONESBORO ran 1-2 in the 2008 Essex, but the former hasn't shown much stamina since returning from an injury-induced layoff, and Jonesboro has been reportedly battling tender feet since his most recent start.  PROM SHOES and SHIM'S PRIDE seem like the 'now' horses, and Shim's Pride may offer a bit more value.  He beat both Jonesboro and Spotsgone in an allowance race earlier in the meet, and seems to have put it all together after going one for his first 18 (has won four of his last nine).

Picks:  Shim's Pride, Prom Shoes, Jonesboro

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

Back Monday with the weekend recap and answers to questions and comments.

Have a great one,

Dan