01/17/2009 1:31AM

Weekend stakes horses


Let's take a look at some horses to watch in this weekend's stakes races:

Santa Ynez - Santa Anita - Race 7
Just not thrilled with the likely favorites so will go fishing for a price horse.  Spanish Ice gave an improved effort in her first start with blinkers as she broke awkwardly, and was forced to rally wide in the stretch.  She already owns a win at this tricky seven-furlong distance, and the Cal-bred can be close to the expected moderate early pace with an alert break this afternoon.  Horses like Empressive Lady (hated her gallop-out after winning the maiden, then bombed twice against Stardom Bound, then reportedly came back sick), Evita Argentina (one-run closer may be at the mercy of tepid splits), and Alpha Kitten (promising runner should appreciate the turnback in distance, but I couldn't find a valid excuse for her recent loss in the Hollywood Starlet) may simply take too much money.

San Rafael - Santa Anita - Race 8
Square Eddie isn't a very clever selection, but he's out looking for some respect after getting snubbed for third-place in the 2-year-old Eclipse voting.  The Juvenile was the only BC race that went to speed-types on the closer-friendly Pro-Ride surface that weekend, and although the top three ran that way around the track after contesting mild fractions, I think those three (Midshipman, Square Eddie, and the now-retired Street Hero) are quite good.  Square Eddie found himself on the lead in the paceless juvenile, and he may just be a bit better with some targets to attack.  He'll get that scenario here as there are plenty of speeds to his inside. 

San Fernando - Santa Anita - Race 9
Nownownow looks like an interesting longshot in the San Fernando.  Quite possibly the worst managed horse in the world in 2008 after winning the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf the previous season, Nownownow finally may have found a spot where he can flourish.  First, it was shipping to Ireland for the 2000 Guineas where, in his seasonal debut, he was whipped by Henrythenavigator and New Approach.  Then, although just recovering from a foot abscess, Nownownow was thrown to the wolves in the La Jolla Handicap and Del Mar Derby.  His most recent race, the Malibu, was his first start back with Pat Biancone, and it looked like a prep all around.  He couldn't win that race anyway with Bob Black Jack projected loose on the lead, but Nownownow gave an even effort, and galloped out in a lovely manner after the wire.  He gets blinkers for the first time, the additional distance suits him nicely, and he'll get pace to attack.

Affectionately - Aqueduct (Sunday) - Race 8
Mike Luzzi rode Spritely like she was Affectionately, and that may have cost them both the lion's share of the Restored Hope Stakes on January 2.  Spritely stumbled at the start, but soon righted herself and set slow fractions under a very confident Luzzi.  Perhaps too confident.  Instead of trying to make a daylight break for it on the turn, Luzzi sat still on Spritely until the stalkers got some momentum, and came after her in earnest.  Spritely, perhaps feeling the strain of an almost 60 day layoff, packed it in late.  She gets a rider switch to Ramon Dominguez, who has an intriguing problem in this short field.  There is a good amount of speed drawn to her outside, and Dominguez may attempt to rate his Touch Gold filly just off the other pace horses.  Can she do it?  We'll find out Sunday.

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

Best of luck,