03/17/2012 11:26AM

Weekend Stakes Opinions


The 2011 Horse of the Year, HAVRE DE GRACE, will go off a prohibitive favorite in the New Orleans Ladies' at Fair Grounds this afternoon, but it's more than fair to say that the race is unappetizing from a gambling standpoint.

Let's keep an eye on some other intriguing runners that will race this weekend:

Inside Information Stakes - Gulfstream - Race 10 (Scratch - #3 CATCH A THIEF):
I'm a big fan of GROUPIE DOLL, a filly that has run three grueling races at Gulfstream this winter.  In her final start at three, Groupie Doll exploded to a triple-digit Beyer over PERSUADING and next-out Laurel stakes-winner Lacie Slew (85 Beyer in the Maryland Racing Media).  Two back, she tackled a salty male named Boys At Tosconova and gave that one all he could handle before dropping a tough three-quarter length loss.  Most recently, she was placed in an extremely tough spot, facing Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria and champion Royal Delta.  Groupie Doll gave it her all that afternoon, but was simply third-best, hardly a disgrace under the circumstances.  She turns back in distance here, draws a comfortable outside post position and may work out a good trip stalking FUNNY SUNNY and R HOLIDAY MOOD.  Todd Pletcher has done a wonderful drop with the latter filly, who tied up earlier in the meet, necessitating a gate scratch.  Since then, she's been on quite the roll.

MUSICAL ROMANCE, the winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, was compromised in her 2012 debut when she grabbed a quarter coming of the gate.  The wound became infected after the race and it will be interesting to see if she'll fire her best shot off only a pair of recent works.  HER SMILE, a $1,000,000 purchase by Frank Stronach after the Breeders' Cup, may have been too close to the pace when an even third in the recent Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes.  She certainly could improve in a very competitive heat.

MAGICAL FEELING is a win machine.  She's taken 11 of 19 races, including a career-best 97 Beyer when winning the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at this distance on February 18.


Rebel Stakes - Oaklawn - Race 10 - 6:48:
SECRET CIRCLE and SCATMAN dominated the faster division of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on February 20, but I thought CYBER SECRET ran a bit better than it looked on paper.  He broke a beat slowly from the gate and was tracking the pace 3-4 wide for the first quarter-mile.  He moved up to prompt the leaders while four paths off the rail on the backstretch and he may have paid the price for his ground loss.  Two starts back, he exploded to a gate-to-wire win with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.  Cyber Secret draws a comfortable inside post and may attempt to save some ground in the second flight this time around.  It's possible he's a cut below the favorites, but I'll pay to find out at 15-1 on the morning line. 

UNBRIDLED'S NOTE beat eventual Sam F. Davis winner Battle Hardened in a sprint at Churchill Downs last year and did not have a good trip in the Southwest.  With an alert break, he may try to push both Secret Circle and Scatman early.



Honey Fox Stakes - Gulfstream (Sunday) - Race 10
TAPITSFLY has only won once since taking the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2009, but she showed some renewed life when finishing a close third in the Grade 3 Marshua's River Stakes at Gulfstream on January 7.  In the Marshua's River, Tapitsfly was four and five wide heading into the backstretch, moved in to be three wide after a half-mile, but was forced four deep again on the final turn.  She attacked from the three path turning for home and was simply outfinished by Heavenly Landing and LA REINE LIONNE.  It was her best race in several months and she has the tactical speed to lead or prompt.  At 6-1 on the morning line, I'm willing to give her one final shot.

Selections:  Tapitsfly, Romacaca, Bay to Bay


Here are some quick-and-dirty selections:

New Orleans Ladies: HAVRE DE GRACE

Santa Margarita (check track conditions and scratches): AWESOMEMUNDO, INCLUDE ME OUT, ELLAFITZ



For a more-detailed analysis, check out the "Handicapping Previews" that drf.com Handicapper Mike Beer and I taped earlier in the week:




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