09/13/2009 11:00PM

Diamondrella suited to surface


NEW YORK - The predictable hangover from a terrific Labor Day weekend of major stakes racing is apparent this weekend in a comparatively light stakes schedule. But that doesn't mean there isn't any quality racing to be found.

Belmont Park, for example, hosts a Grade 1 stakes doubleheader Saturday with the Ruffian Handicap and the Garden City Stakes, each worth $300,000. Unfortunately, rain threatens to have an impact on the proceedings. And the Grade 3 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes, the richest race of the weekend with a $400,000 purse, attracted a strong field of female sprinters.

The other two graded stakes on Saturday's schedule are a pair of Grade 3 events, the $150,000 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park, also for female sprinters, and the $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes,

Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes

In Informed Decision and Game Face, this field lured two of the nation's four most accomplished female sprinters, the others being Ventura, winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last fall and who has not raced since April, and Indian Blessing, second in the Ballerina two weeks ago. Between Informed Decision and Game Face, it's hard to tell who the betting favorite will be Saturday evening, because both are deserving. Informed Decision won five straight stakes, including two Grade 1's, before finishing third in the Ballerina. Game Face scored as the favorite in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney and Grade 2 Honorable Miss in her last two starts. But just because the betting public will be focusing most of their attention on Informed Decision and Game Face, it doesn't mean only one or the other has to win.

That Informed Decision is wheeling back so quickly after the Ballerina is probably a good sign for her, as her distant third in that race over a sloppy track she should have loved was not one of her best efforts. So even though Informed Decision is now moving to a synthetic surface, on which she is 4 for 4, and even though the quick turnaround suggests her people seemed to have dismissed her Ballerina, I just can't take a horse coming off such a meek effort. As for Game Face, her profile is the opposite of Informed Decision's. There's certainly nothing wrong with Game Face's current form, but she will be making her first start Saturday on a synthetic track, and her probable odds do not make her a very appealing risk on a surface she is an unknown on.

I like Diamondrella. Now, Diamondrella, after making 14 starts on turf and her other start on fast dirt, will also be trying a synthetic track for the first time, but there are a couple of stark differences that distinguish her situation from Game Face's. For one, Diamondrella boasts excellent turf form. She's won six straight races on the grass since moving into trainer Angel Penna Jr.'s barn seven starts ago, including a going-away score most recently in the Grade 1 Just a Game over Forever Together, last year's champion turf mare who came back after that loss to win the Grade 1 Diana. We all know that turf horses adapt well to synthetic surfaces, and this sort of surface switch has been a very good move for Penna, albeit from a small sample. And unlike Game Face, Diamondrella should be a decent enough price to make the synthetic track issue a risk worth taking.

Endine Stakes

If this year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint was on dirt instead of Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride, then this dirt event might have attracted a field more comparable to the Presque Isle Masters, even with a purse lighter by a quarter of a million bucks. But this is still an interesting race. It's loaded with horses who operate either on or right with the pace, and then has two deep closers who I don't trust - Iron Butterfly, who doesn't look fast enough to win, and Pious Ashley, who lost a race last time at odds-on that she shouldn't have lost.

In these situations, I go with who I think is the speed of the speed, and I think off her last two races, the speed of the speed is Bold Union. Bold Union set a blistering pace when she romped in a stakes at Penn National two starts back. And last time out, Bold Union outran a good group of fillies to the front in Saratoga's Victory Ride Stakes, and held them all off except for Sara Louise, one of the many Godolphin horses who ran lights-out at Saratoga, and who is well known for being the last to beat the mighty Rachel Alexandra.

Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes

At first glance, it might appear that Dominican, my play here, was in better form last year when he finished third in this race than he is right now. But I believe a closer look will show he is just as sharp now.

One of the reasons why Dominican showed superficially better form going into this race last year is that he was running against allowance company. This year, he has been facing stakes horses, and though the results haven't been quite as successful, the Beyer Speed Figures he's earning say he's pretty much the same horse. That's important to me, because I think the two horses Dominican finished behind in this race last year, Delightful Kiss and Star Plus, were better at that time than the two horses Dominican figures to have to beat to get the money Saturday, Gangbuster and Nite Light.