03/19/2010 3:22PM

Weekend Stakes Opinions

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Five graded races at Gulfstream Park, highlighted by the Grade 1 Florida Derby, take center stage this weekend.

BONNIE MISS STAKES:
Amen Hallelujah figures to take a good amount of betting action following her triple-digit Beyer win in the one-turn Davona Dale Stakes on February 27, but she's going to have to stretch her ability around nine furlongs on Saturday afternoon, and it's been reported that she'll wear an aluminum pad. 
That may leave things open for Christine Daae, a big-figure maiden winner going seven furlongs at Gulfstream on January 15.  Perhaps more importantly, Christine Daae owns a win at this nine-furlong distance, a facile entry-level allowance score on February 27 in which she was never asked for her best run.  Christine Daae has tactical speed and may work out a good stalking trip behind probable pacesetter Crisp and Amen Hallelujah.
Selection:  Christine Daae

RAMPART:
Like most racing fans, I'll be looking forward to the stateside debut of Bambera, the Queen of Venezuelan racing that has won 16 of 18 starts, mostly against males at the highest levels of racing down there.  She loves to hear her feet rattle and she figures to be running and gunning from her advantageous inside post.  It will be interesting to see if anyone goes with her (Champagne Eyes and Unrivaled Belle both have speed).  If she goes off anywhere near her 8-1 morning line odds, she's a very, very attractive play.  I just wonder if she'll be more like 8-5 than 8-1.  She's a horse that shouldn't be discounted in multi-race wagers, but I'll hang my hat on the in-form Aurora Lights, the winner of the Sabin Stakes over a one-turn mile at Gulfstream on February 27.  The Sabin was run at a snail's pace and Aurora Lights raced in-and-among horses at the second of two flights of runners that afternoon.  Once angled into the clear, Aurora Lights wore down the leaders with a workmanlike run.  She's won around two turns and acts like the nine-furlong distance (unfamiliar territory for Aurora Lights) is within her scope.
Selection:  Aurora Lights

APPLETON:
This looks like a fun race.  Defending champion Kiss the Kid won last year's Appleton with a perfect trip and he's gone 0-10 since that effort.  While he's an admirable, hard-hitting veteran, one may want to try and beat him once again at possibly short odds. 
I also respect horses like Society's Chairman, who I feel is much better on grass than on polytrack and can improve returning to turf.  But he's seven, running off a layoff, and could be prepping for Woodbine. 
Rahy's Attorney, the 2008 Woodbine Mile winner, didn't run well in his local debut but could be sharper for this.  Still, I'd rather not play short-priced horses off poor performances. 
There are several proven commodities in this race but I'll look for an up-and-comer.  Boots Ahead won a 'n2x' allowance here on February 6 and the lightly-raced four-year-old may move forward off that co-Beyer top.  In that last race, Eddie Castro gave Boots Ahead a nice ride.  After losing ground heading into the backstretch, Castro was able to rate Boots Ahead back a bit and the pair were able to save ground after five furlongs.  Boots Ahead swung out in upper stretch and he was up late despite being bumped nearing the wire.  He loses Castro to Kiss the Kid for the Appleton but Julien Leparoux is certainly a capable replacement.
Selection:  Boots Ahead

I actually prefer those three races to the two marquee events for three-year-olds.  In the Swale, chalky D'Funnybone should be very tough at his preferred distance. 
I don't have much of an opinion on the Florida Derby.  Rule hasn't been headed in his four route appearances but one has to wonder if he'll get more pressure on Saturday afternoon.  Even so, he may have enough to turn back a field mostly full of horses looking to find their way.  I'll take Rule, Radiohead and Miner's Reserve, but won't be doing much with that race. 

SAN LUIS REY:
Bourbon Bay has been unstoppable since stretching out to 1 1/2 miles and he looms the horse to beat in the San Luis Rey.  Perhaps if anyone can take him down, it will be High Court Drama, who almost parlayed Loup Breton's tough trip into a victory for himself in the Grade 2 San Marcos at 1 1/4 miles.  Unfortunately for High Court Drama, odds-on Loup Breton got out of traffic in the nick of time and the favorite got up in the waning strides.  Since shipping in from his native Ireland, High Court Drama hasn't finished worse than second in three races, two against graded company.  High Court Drama is unproven at 12 furlongs but he shouldn't be far away from Bourbon Bay when the real running begins.
Selection:  High Court Drama

SANTA ANA (SUNDAY):
Tuscan Evening looks solid after winning three of her last four outings but I wonder if nine furlongs is a bit beyond her scope.  She's certainly usable but a better price may be waiting for us with General Consensus, an impressive optional claiming winner on January 8.  General Consensus was last on the rail for most of the way, was blocked from midway on the far turn to mid-stretch, and still mowed down her opposition to win by three-parts of a length.  This will be a big jump up in class, but General Consensus seems sharp for Paddy Gallagher.
Selection:  General Consensus

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

Sorry I couldn't get to any questions this afternoon.  I'm swamped.

Back Monday with the weekend recap, comments, and pp requests.

Enjoy the weekend.

Dan