12/08/2005 12:00AM

Christmas Stocking has just the stuff

Email

NEW YORK - The only two graded events on the docket are a pair of Grade 3, $100,000 handicap events, the Queens County at Aqueduct and the Native Diver at Hollywood Park. But that will not stop the Weekend Warrior from finding a few races to wager on.

Cherokee Frolic Stakes

The first of two 2-year-old turf stakes on Calder's Saturday card, the Cherokee Frolic, is an interesting race because three fillies who promise to be well bet - Good Intentions, Survicat, and Categorize - might be vulnerable. Good Intentions and Survicat dead-heated for second in last month's John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes at the distance over the course, and were both placed first through disqualification. But both ran so well in that race partly because both benefited from fast early fractions. Categorize was visually impressive closing a huge gap to win her only start at Belmont Park, but like Good Intentions and Survicat, she, too, was aided by a fast early pace.

The pace scenario in this race is completely different. There is not a lot of early speed, so unless someone goes crazy early, the fractions don't figure to be all that quick. With that in mind, I'm taking the filly who looks best of the pace players, Christmas Stocking.

Christmas Stocking was still a maiden when she was claimed three starts back by trainer Tony Dutrow, and predictably, she demonstrated marked improvement. Last time out, Christmas Stocking broke through with the first win of her career, and she did it with style. She was right on top of the early pace in a straight maiden race on the turf at Laurel at this distance, and then pulled the rug out from her 13 opponents in the stretch, drawing away to score by just over six lengths. Christmas Stocking earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 73 for that performance, which is certainly competitive with the Beyers that Good Intentions, Survicat, and Categorize earned in their last starts, and is a number she can improve on.

Larkspur Stakes

Wilko, upset winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and third in such races as the Hollywood Futurity and Santa Anita Derby, does enjoy a huge class edge over his opponents on Saturday. He will, however, be making his first start since surgery for an injury he sustained in the Preakness. He is using this race as a springboard to the Dec. 26 Malibu Stakes and the longer events in Santa Anita's Strub Series, which are his real goals, so he won't be emptying the tank this time. Moreover, the six furlongs of this race seems well short of his best distance. So, I'm going to try and beat Wilko with Seattles Best Joe.

Seattles Best Joe regained top form last time out in his third start back off a long layoff, posting a big win in the Sausalito Stakes at the distance over the track. He earned a Beyer Figure of 98 that day, which matches the Beyer that Wilko got for winning the Juvenile as the best in this field, and his closing style fits well in a projected pace set up that may see Wind Water and Loyalton hook up in a speed duel.

Inaugural Stakes

This is the opening-day feature for Tampa Bay Downs, an increasingly popular track for simulcast players, and R Loyal Man is the bet.

R Loyal Man's two career fast-track sprints were an unlucky and narrowly beaten second in the Bashford Manor Stakes last July and a blowout score in an allowance race at Calder late last month. In other words, he is good enough to win with a fair shake of racing luck, but he actually figures to get a sweet trip. The two breaking inside of him are speedballs, and there is plenty of other speed to his outside. R Loyal Man should be able to tuck in, save ground, and stalk from close range.

Saturday

Calder Race Course: Cherokee Frolic Stakes
Fillies, 2-years-old, 1 1/16 miles, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-3:25 p.m., Central-2:25 p.m., Mountain-1:25 p.m., Pacific-12:25 p.m.
Miami, Fl., forecast: Slight chance of showers, 79¦

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Warrior Girl--656230-1
2Survicat7752476-1
3Sprightly5943--10-1
4Meadow Skippin61666120-1
5Musical Charm7043616-1
6Categorize74----5-1
7Christmas Stocking7363245-1
8Good Intentions7768509-2
9Interpretation25586615-1
10Home Befor Midnite4660--30-1
11Ocean Beauty68355115-1
12Frozen Treat71----4-1
Also Eligible:
13Bond Queen44694415-1

Odds by Paul Malecki

Tampa bay downs: inaugural stakes
2-year-olds, 6 furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-4:38 p.m., Central-3:38 p.m., Mountain-2:38 p.m., Pacific-1:38 p.m.
Tampa, Fl., forecast: Partly cloudy, 70¦

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Forest Danz8299745-2
2Zephyr Charlie5584015-1
3R Loyal Man8462645-1
4Liquoreux8779--4-1
5Forestry Prince4755--20-1
6Dinner Choice71714410-1
7Neverbeendancin'56515820-1
8I Am Trouble70705710-1
9Perfect Image44574520-1
10Right Flanker32404530-1
11Eyed the Enemy2716-050-1
12High Chateau7081518-1
13Hitthesnooze61507120-1
14Saint Jules69697515-1

DRF odds

Golden Gate Fields: Larkspur stakes
3-year-olds, 6 furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-7:20 p.m., Central-6:20 p.m., Mountain-5:20 p.m., Pacific-4:20 p.m.
Albany, Ca., forecast: Sunny, 65¦

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Seattles Best Joe9886795-1
2Wind Water9576738-1
3Funny Flyer63848012-1
4Loyalton7486866-1
5Wilko5790973-5
6Power Wave78736712-1
7Stellar Magic53958715-1

Odds by Michael Hammersly