07/03/2009 12:00AM

American Oaks best spot to price shop

Michael Amoruso
A speed duel could set things up for Munnings in Belmont's Tom Fool.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - There are five graded stakes races scheduled for Sunday. They run the gamut from dirt, to turf, to synthetic, going both short and long.

Let's start with the Grade 3, $200,000 Jersey Shore, a six-furlong sprint at Monmouth Park. Snapshot appears to be the speed of the speed. He shows a string of four consecutive ascending Beyers since his debut last year at Del Mar. It probably isn't a coincidence that his two wins were earned in the races in which he was able to clear his field during the first quarter-mile. He set a quick pace en route to a 2 3/4 length maiden victory at Gulfstream three races ago. And he led throughout last time in a highly rated first-level allowance at Belmont, which netted him a 100 Beyer. Given the likelihood of another favorable pace scenario, he should be the horse to beat.

I will go with Custom for Carlos as my second pick, based on his sharp six-length allowance win at Churchill, and take Beacon Hill Road for third. He probably moved up on the sloppy track last time, but he is improving and he is also a horse for the course, with two wins and a second from four local starts.

Sunday's other Grade 3 race is the $100,000 Locust Grove Handicap, a one-mile turf event at Churchill. Tensas Yucatan has won 8 of 17 races, including her last three. Those numbers are boosted by the fact that she was facing Louisiana-breds most of the time, but she has won against open company, and looks like the mare to beat in this race. A ground-saving trip is likely with tactical speed from her rail post.

Gloria Goodbody has won her last two races on the grass. She fought hard throughout, and was a game half-length winner over third-level optional $80,000 claimers last time. I will make her my second pick. Tizaqueena won five of her first six races, then disappointed when she finished a non-threatening third of six at this class level last time. She will be a prime contender if she rebounds, but she might also be over the top. Consider that possibility if she is overbet.

The lone Grade 2 race on Sunday is the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap, a seven-furlong race at Belmont. Fabulous Strike is the horse to beat. He dueled through an intense pace, pulled away to a three-length lead with a furlong to go, and held on to win the True North by 1 1/4 lengths. If he runs as well today they won't catch him.

But it was a different story in the Carter Handicap two races ago. Driven by Success softened him up early, then faded. Fabulous Strike tired during the last furlong of that seven-furlong race and lost by a head. If he doesn't bring his "A" game, Fabulous Strike could suffer a similar fate Sunday. In that circumstance this race would set up quite nicely for the off-the-pace kick of Munnings, my second selection. The improving Riley Tucker is my third pick.

Both of the Grade 1 races are being run at Hollywood Park. The $700,000 American Oaks Invitational is a 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. The race attracted a field of 14, and two also-eligibles.

Gozzip Girl finished second, beaten by a neck, in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, then took advantage of a very slow pace when she led all the way in a victory on the turf at Belmont in the Grade 2 Sands Point. When dealing with more typical fractions, Gozzip Girl is usually a closer. That isn't the trip I'm looking for when I bet on a horse at low odds in a large field. There are numerous alternatives available, but it won't be easy to find the right one.

Well Monied has won three straight races, including the Grade 2 Honeymoon here last time. But she might also have to rally from midpack or farther behind. The same concern applies to Mrs Kipling, who won the Grade 3 Senorita locally in May, and The Best Day Ever, who rallied from the rear half of the pack to miss by a neck at Churchill in the Grade 3 Regret.

Magical Affair is a possibility as she showed tactical speed on the dirt in her first two starts, but she has been a closer since then.

If their odds are attractive I will be looking at Apple Charlotte and Third Dawn. Apple Charlotte has won 3 of 4 races in Britain. That includes a victory in a listed stakes and a loss by a nose at this distance in another listed stakes in her lone defeat. She showed tactical speed in those races, so a good trip is likely.

Third Dawn is capable of staying in contention early. She missed by a nose to Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Oaks, and finished a solid third in the Hollywood Oaks. She finished a contending second in her lone turf start, so the surface switch should not be a problem.

The Grade 1, $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap rounds out the action. There is a lot of early speed in this seven-furlong race, but Zensational might still be able to prevail as the speed of the speed. He dueled through a 43.60 and 1:08.07 pace, but had no trouble holding off the closers in a 1 1/4-length victory in a first-level optional $80,000 claiming field going 6 1/2 furlongs in his first local start. He's my pick, but if he regresses this race is wide open.

Noble Court, Rush With Thunder, Siren Lure, Star Nicholas, Paul's Hope, and Rebellion are closers who can capitalize if the pace falls apart.