02/25/2012 12:40PM

Weekend Stakes Opinions

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There's plenty of star power on display this weekend. 

Kentucky Derby aspirants strut their stuff in Louisiana and Florida while three Breeders' Cup winners (AMAZOMBIE, PERFECT SHIRL, ROYAL DELTA) kick off their 2012 campaigns in some salty spots.

Let's take a look at some runners with price potential:

FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP - RACE 6 - FAIR GROUNDS:

ACHAEMENES (12-1 MORNING LINE, please note scratches of GLEAM OF HOPE, UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN and MISTER MARTI GRAS), a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic heroine Unrivaled Belle, may finally be realizing his potential for trainer Doug Matthews.  A lightly-raced 4-year-old colt, Achaemenes takes a major step up in class, but looked pretty good in beating a pair of next-out winners in an 'n2x' optional claimer at Fair Grounds on January 7.  After taking over the lead in uper stretch, Achaemenes seemed a bit green.  He looked around for the competition, but was resurgent when tackled by a rallying Forbidden Forest.  Achaemenes dug in gamely to prevail by a nose, galloped out nicely and should appreciate this added distance.  He drew a comfortable inside post position and may work out a pace-tracking trip while saving some ground.

Selections:  ACHAEMENES, MR. VEGAS, DUBIOUS MISS

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TAMPA BAY STAKES - RACE 9 - TAMPA BAY:

This looks like one of the top betting races of the weekend with a full field of evenly-matched turf runners squaring off over the Tampa Bay Downs lawn.  I must admit that I've never been a big fan of GUYS REWARD (6-1 MORNING LINE, scratch UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN), but his last race at Gulfstream was solid and he may be rounding into his best form as he makes the third start of the form cycle for trainer Dale Romans.  Two starts back, in his first appearance in over two months, Guys Reward chased the sharp Little Mike and could only finish evenly after that one controlled things on the front end with a facile 24.13 opening quarter.  Last time out, in the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale, Guys Reward raced in and among horses on the backstretch and was in a little bit of traffic turning for home.  He split rivals in upper stretch and was only beaten a length at the wire.  Guys Reward has a touch of back class as he has placed in three Grade 3 events during his career.  He should get some pace to attack in this spot and figures to be rallying in the lane.

Selections:  GUYS REWARD, SUCCESSFUL MISSION, ROMAN TIGER

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MINESHAFT HANDICAP - FAIR GROUNDS - RACE 9:

I had hoped for FAST ALEX (5-1 MORNING LINE) to be lost in the shuffle, but three scratches (COOL BLUE RED HOT, PANTS ON FIRE, GLADDING) may depress his odds.  Fast Alex is in career form over his favorite track.  He registered a pair of 99 Beyers in his first two starts at this meet and was very game in winning the Tenacious Handicap here on December 17.  Most recently, he attempted to rally over a speed-favoring surface while bogged down on the rail and just couldn't get to the pacesetting THISKYHASNOLIMIT, falling a length shy at the wire.  It's possible that TRES BORRACHOS will take up the mantle of pacesetter this time around.  If the pace is a bit quicker, Fast Alex can take advantage late.

Selections:  FAST ALEX, THISKYHASNOLIMIT, ALMA D'ORO

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MAC DIARMIDA (Sunday) - GULFSTREAM - RACE 10:

NEWSDAD (6-1 morning line) looked like a proper stakes horse in wiring a solid field of 'n2x' optional claimers on January 28 and could wind up the main speed in a virtually paceless edition of the Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.  Newsdad, third in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes here last season, has improved since trainer Bill Mott added blinkers and stretched Newsdad out in distance.  Newsdad broke the track record for 1 1/4 miles over the Keeneland polytrack four back and handled his opponents last time out at 1 7/16 miles under mostly hand urging from Julien Leparoux.  He'll have to defeat a pair of hickory veterans in MUSKETIER and SIMMARD (troubled when beaten by stablemate Musketier in the W.L. McKnight Handicap on November 26), but should get the jump on those two turning for home.

Selections:  NEWSDAD, MUSKETIER, SIMMARD

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Here are some quick and dirty selections:

Sabin:  ROYAL DELTA, GROUPIE DOLL, AWESOME MARIA
Rachel Alexandra (scratch APPLAUDING):  BELIEVE YOU CAN, SUMMER APPLAUSE, INNY MINNIE
Davona Dale:  GRACE HALL, THE CAT'S ALL THAT, FROLIC'S REVENGE
Risen Star:  EL PADRINO, MARK VALESKI, Z DAGER
San Carlos:  THE FACTOR, SWAY AWAY, AMAZOMBIE
Fountain of Youth (Sunday):  ALGORITHMS, DISCREET DANCER, UNION RAGS

For a more detailed analysis, please check out the videos that Mike Beer and I produced under the "Handicapping Preview" heading:

http://www.drf.com/events/weekend-stakes-previews-picks-analysis-more

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

I'll be back early next week with some past performance requests, the weekend recap and more.  Once our HandiGambling winner is declared official, he or she should e-mail cservice2@drf.com in order to claim the prize package.

Have a great weekend!