06/12/2010 9:14AM

Weekend Thoughts


If you happen to have a case of the post-Triple Crown Blues, fear not!

This weekend's racing action is sure to cure.

Star power will surround the Sport of Kings as Zenyatta, racing's Reflection of Perfection, goes to battle on Sunday at Hollywood Park against the talented St Trinians.  Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, will look to get back to her winning ways at Churchill Downs later this afternoon.  The talented Rail Trip will go off an odds-on favorite in the Californian while the speedy and game Presious Passion heads a contentious field in the Monmouth.  Blame and Battle Plan, a pair of emerging handicappers, share top billing in the Stephen Foster, but they'll have to fend off defending champion Macho Again and hot horses Arson Squad, Duke of Mischief, and General Quarters.  Unrivaled Belle, who conquered Rachel Alexandra last time out, leads a small but select grouping in the Ogden Phipps.

It's a smorgasbord of talented horses and there are some excellent betting opportunities sprinkled among them.  Let's take a peek.

Jefferson Cup - Churchill Downs - Race 7:
LOST APTITUDE looks to have a strong pace advantage in this spot, a situation that failed to present itself in the American Turf on Kentucky Oaks afternoon.  He's talented, but headstrong, and he hasn't finished ahead of another horse since New Year's Day.  Perhaps he got sour after they unsuccessfully tried him on dirt in the Fountain of Youth and one has to wonder if he's still the same horse that won the Grand Canyon over this course and distance last year.  At 5-2 on the morning line, I'll play against him.
ASPHALT received a beautiful ride under the now-sidelined Julien Leparoux in the American Turf, rating behind the sizzling pace, staying inside turning for home, and rallying to finish second behind Doubles Partner.  He doesn't have to be too far behind the pace and should be in striking position when they straighten into the stretch.  He'll go second off the layoff for high-percentage local trainer Eddie Kenneally and may be ready to fire another good one.
Selections:  Asphalt, Our Douglas, Formulaforsuccess

Northern Dancer - Churchill Downs - Race 8:
This time, I'll stick with the controlling speed.  COLIZEO, trained by Todd Pletcher, prepped nicely for this in gate-to-wire fashion on May 9 and wasn't under heavy urging to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths over PRINCE WILL I AM.  The third-place finisher that day, Down With Dixie, returned to nose out entry-level optional claimers with an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.  Favored over Fly Down and First Dude at Gulfstream over the winter, Colizeo may be ready to fulfill his promise and seems ideally-spotted in the Northern Dancer.
Selections.  Colizeo, Max Silverhammer, Vow to Wager

Stephen Foster - Churchill Downs - Race 10:
Simply a wonderful race.  Ten stakes-winners (nine graded) line up to compete for the lion's share of the $600,000 purse.  BATTLE PLAN is the dangerous, controlling speed for Todd Pletcher while BLAME is a professional and extremely talented, yet underrated, racehorse.  It wouldn't be a surprise if either wins the Foster, but I'll go with a bigger price with DUKE OF MISCHIEF, the impressive winner of the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in his most recent outing. 
A late-developing three-year-old in 2009, Duke of Mischief won the Iowa Derby before flopping in his final three starts of the year.  It was discovered he flipped his palate after finishing a dull seventh in the Oklahoma Derby and he returned to the races at four with a flourish, winning the off-the-turf Ft. Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park on January 10.  Duke of Mischief reportedly bled while well-behind Quality Road in the Donn, but he got back on the beam at Oaklawn, tracking the pace along the inside before making a decisive three-wide sweep on the turn.  It must be pointed out that the Oaklawn Handicap field wasn't the strongest and Duke of Mischief will get the proverbial "acid test" this afternoon.  Still, he has enough tactical speed to sit in close attendance to Battle Plan.  Let's find out if he's this good.
Selections:  Duke of Mischief, Battle Plan, Blame

Californian - Hollywood - Race 9:
RAIL TRIP is the most likely winner, obviously.  He returned from some foot problems to score in the Mervyn LeRoy and he should work out a great trip stalking probable pacesetters TRES BORRACHOS and ONE TRACK MIND.  It's probably folly to pick against him, but I'll toss a couple of bucks on AITCHO. 
His trainer, John Shirreffs, has always felt that Aitcho had talent, but the Stormy Atlantic colt has never really put it together.  His main claim to fame has been that he worked in company with Zenyatta on May 17, four days before Aitcho's third-place finish behind One Track Mind in an optional claiming race.  He'll go second off the layoff here and should get some pace to attack at a big price.
Selections:  Aitcho, One Track Mind, Rail Trip

Ogden Phipps - Belmont - Race 4:
Only a field of five, but the Big Three look pretty strong.  UNRIVALED BELLE will likely go off favored based on her big performance against Rachel Alexandra last time out and the Belmont-loving FUNNY MOON was sharp last time out in the Grade 2 Shuvee.  Both are very tough customers, but I'll take a chance with LIFE AT TEN, a mare that has been nursed through quarter crack issues to post four straight victories for Pletcher.  She stalked and pounced to win the Sixty Sails at Hawthorne and should be close to the pace once again in the Ogden Phipps.  As with Duke of Mischief in the Foster, this will be the sternest class challenge Life At Ten has ever faced and it's possible that the hulking mare is better around two turns.  I'll tread lightly, but play her on top.
Selections:  Life At Ten, Unrivaled Belle, Funny Moon

Monmouth - Monmouth - Race 10:
PRESIOUS PASSION flopped in Dubai, but that scenario wasn't the best for him as he faced a strong international field on a course with a long stretch.  He's back in the States and should flaunt his tremendous early speed in the Monmouth, but there are reasons to be leery.   First, this race may serve as a prep for the United Nations later in the meeting.  Second, GET SERIOUS has serious early speed and may try to go with Presious Passion early. 
The race may go to a closer and BLUES STREET has been a revelation for Pletcher since being offered for as low as $75,000 last Fall.  He's won four of his last five and was in with a chance before flattening out late in the Grade 1 Turf Classic over boggy conditions at Churchill Downs last time out.  Blues Street showcased a powerful stretch run to win a couple of graded events at Fair Grounds and should be rallying in the lane once more today.
Selections:  Blues Street, Presious Passion, Get Serious

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