07/14/2008 12:00AM

Dive into a smorgasbord of stakes

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NEW YORK - There are so many interesting stakes races across the country Saturday that it almost - almost - feels good to be a fan of the game.

* Man o' War (Belmont): Someone at the New York Racing Association either had a crystal ball or struck a deal with the devil when he moved the Man o' War from its traditional autumn slot to the next-to-last weekend of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park. The presence of Curlin makes this a truly fascinating race, because when does a champion with more than $9.3 million in the bank venture into such unknown territory?

No one knows how Curlin will handle turf, but he does have a better-than-average pedigree for turf. His extremely versatile sire Smart Strike also produced 2007 grass champion English Channel; and two Texas-bred siblings, Secret Wedge and Deputy, had limited exposure to turf racing in sprints: Secret Wedge (like Curlin, a grandson of Mr. Prospector) won 3 of 23 dirt starts and was 0 for 2 on turf, but had identical Beyer tops of 81 on both surfaces. Deputy won 3 of 15 dirt starts, and won once from five grass starts - a second-level allowance for Texas-breds at five furlongs.

Despite the presence of two Breeders' Cup Turf winners, this is not an imposing field. Better Talk Now is 9 and hasn't finished in the money in slightly more than a year; Red Rocks edged Better Talk Now in the 2006 BC Turf but is otherwise 0 for 8 at the Grade 1 level; and Grand Couturier is 1 for 7 in graded stakes, the win coming in last year's Sword Dancer with a perfect ground-saving trip off a blistering pace.

* Robert G. Dick Memorial (Delaware Park): If it weren't for Lahudood, who ran her down in last year's Flower Bowl before cementing a title in the BC Filly and Mare Turf, Rosinka would be on a six-race winning streak and getting a lot more ink. She's on virtually the same schedule as last year, when she won the John Rooney Memorial with a 95 Beyer and returned to take this three-turn route with a new Beyer top of 100 over Royal Highness - who upset the Grade 1 Beverly D. four weeks later.

* R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial (Delaware): Won Awesome Dude ran well in his first start over the track when he recorded a new Beyer top but was narrowly beaten by Solar Flare, a South American import who then missed by a half-length in the Suburban Handicap, albeit a weak edition.

Won Awesome Dude projects for a good trip stalking a duel between Kaufy Big Shot and Celtic Innis. Such a scenario also works in favor of Five Steps, a lightly raced 7-year-old who has gotten better with age and comes off a sharp return score.

* Delaware Oaks: It's hard to believe Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell will be rushed back into a Grade 2 race two weeks after a nightmare trip at 1-2 in the Mother Goose, where she stumbled badly at the break, bore out late, and suffered lacerations on her leg, but trainer Larry Jones indicated there's a "good chance" she will run.

African Violet was beaten on dirt for the first time in the recent Susan's Girl when Weathered stole the race at 12-1 through easy fractions. She rates an upset chance with a more honest pace.

Shes All Eltish has been freshened since blowing a clear lead in the Black-Eyed Susan. She hasn't matched Proud Spell's best figures, but you might not get Proud Spell's best in this situation.

* American Derby (Arlington Park): Tizdejavu staved off Sailor's Cap to win his turf debut at 21-1, and subsequent events suggest it wasn't a fluke. Sailor's Cap returned to win the rich Colonial Turf Cup decisively, while Tizdejavu wired the Jefferson Cup.

Tizdejavu looks pounds the best over his challengers from the U.S., but the two Europeans, Blue Exit and Great War Eagle, are hard to gauge off identical Racing Post Ratings (102) in France and Ireland. Blue Exit's win in the listed Matchem was a blanket finish with Celebrissime and In Chambers, an effort that is hard to classify since those two were making their career debuts and have yet to run back. Great War Eagle, whose only win came on Dundalk's Polytrack last fall, is stretching out after setting the pace in two Group 3 sprints, and may test Tizdejavu early.