02/14/2013 3:24PM

Byron King: Capo Bastone may be vulnerable in return

Michael Burns
Sky Commander wins his maiden on turf at Woodbine.

There are richer races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday than the ninth, a $54,500 first-level allowance, such as the Grade 3, $100,000 The Very One and the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida.

Neither stakes race, a pair of turf marathons, holds the appeal of the ninth, however – with the ninth race being for 3-year-olds, potential Kentucky Derby prospects, and because the 8-5 morning-line favorite, Capo Bastone, appears vulnerable in his first start in more than three months.

Although Capo Bastone is accomplished – having twice recorded a pair of thirds in Grade 1 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – he lacks early speed, and his speed figures suggest he is not as good as one would think for a horse with his r é sum é .

Yet coming out of the Juvenile and now being trained by Todd Pletcher, the public will likely expect this horse to win this allowance and back him to a short price.

To be clear, he certainly could win. Horses dropping from graded races into allowances often do just that.

But my belief is he has less of a chance than most under such circumstances would, and betting him would simply be betting the obvious.

My alternative play is Sky Commander, a colt who first flashed his potential last year with a maiden win on turf at Woodbine over eventual stakes winner Avie’s Quality before jumping up with his best race when second to stablemate Dynamic Sky in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa on Jan. 12.

That performance earned him an 87 Beyer Speed Figure, easily best in the field and 9 points better than Capo Bastone’s top figure of 78.

Also of note, Sky Commander ran that well and that quickly despite being bumped at the start and losing ground on the turn with a three- to four-wide trip – a result of his outside post.

Drawn better Saturday in post 4 going 1 1/16 miles with three speed horses to his inside, he ought to get a better journey, probably settling in right behind the leaders on the rail or in the two path.

From there, he’ll have the chance to get first run on Capo Bastone and perhaps pull an upset.

Laurel: Price may be right on Nicole H

One morning-line favorite I’m willing to back, provided she goes off at 2-1 or higher, is Nicole H in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel on Saturday.

Long a dominant force in the Northeast in sprints, she is getting her stamina tested in the seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie, being a mare that has been most effective at six furlongs.

Last year, she was heavily favored to win this race, only to blow a three-length lead in the final furlong and end up second, beaten a neck.

What makes this year different? Her form and the company she’s facing Saturday.

She’s the class of the race and running the best speed figures in the race, having recorded five straight Beyers in the 90s.

If she remains 8-5 on the line, she’s a pass, but if enough horseplayers try to beat her due to the distance to where she drifts up to 2-1 or higher, she warrants a wager.

Santa Anita: Lady of Fifty may set pace

Out West, I’m looking for an anticipated change in tactics to elevate the performance of Lady of Fifty in the Santa Maria.

Rated off horses and rank in her last two starts, she seems likely to be encouraged to revert to the front-running style she utilized with success earlier in her career in a race void of pace.

Most in the Santa Maria would rather close or stalk the leaders, and one of the few who has shown that she can be prominent early, Snow Fall, is an uncoupled stablemate of Lady of Fifty, and it would be counterproductive for her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, to have both fillies duel early. That would leave them vulnerable to the late-running Book Review.

Since Lady of Fifty, drawn inside of Snow Fall, has won on the lead, and Snow Fall has not, the most likely scenario is for the Lady of Fifty to go to the front under new rider Joe Talamo, with Snow Fall laying right behind.

Under that scenario, Lady of Fifty could very well outrun her odds, boosted by the confidence that often comes with racing comfortably in front.

Still, she’ll likely need Snow Fall to regress off a smashing recent victory in the Paseana Stakes to win, but given Snow Fall’s inconsistency over her career, that is a distinct possibility.