02/13/2010 1:00AM

Four stakes to watch, not bet


Let's get this out of the way first: You can't bet on these races.

But that certainly doesn't render meaningless the one day of racing conducted every winter on the spacious grounds of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company in Ocala, Fla. The OBS races have been a tradition since 1990, and thousands of locals gather around the one-mile Safetrack synthetic oval to get a rare glimpse into major-league Thoroughbred racing.

"It's a country-fair atmosphere, a special day for a lot of people from town," said Jay Friedman, the longtime publicity director for OBS. "A lot of good horses and horsemen have passed through here over the years."

The OBS tradition is being renewed Monday with a four-race card offering $300,000 in purses. That's a moderately scaled-down version of what had become custom, owing primarily to Darley Stud declining to renew its role as title sponsor of the two richest races in the series, the OBS Championships for both 3-year-old males and females. The OBS purses peaked in 2008 and 2009, the two years of Darley's sponsorship, when $425,000 was offered on five races each year.

Nonetheless, the 2010 version drew a smattering of 3-year-olds whose collective impact has already been felt in the North American stakes ranks.

Runners of prior years who have ventured to Ocala to win OBS races amid highly successful careers include Forever Together, Traitor, Golden Bri, Meadow Monster, Plenty of Light, Valid Video, and Buffalo Man.

Thank You Phillipe, a decent fourth after contesting a pace of 45.76 seconds and 1:09.66 to deep stretch three weeks ago in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, typifies the classy brand of 3-year-old being vanned from south Florida to Ocala for the races. Based at Calder with trainer Marty Wolfson, Thank You Phillipe likely would be favored in the $100,000 OBS Championship if there was wagering on these races - especially in light of the fact that Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux saw fit to accept the mount.

"He went way too fast in the Holy Bull, dueling through those ridiculous fractions with Homeboy Kris," said Wolfson. "But he's bounced back good, and with Julien back on him, I think we should be fine."

Thank You Phillipe is one of 11 colts and geldings in the OBS Championship male division, the fourth and last race of the program, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. The 1 1/16-mile race also drew a pair of WinStar Farm colts, Soldier Field and Chief Counsel, although the latter is cross-entered in an earlier race, the $50,000 OBS Sprint male division.

"We're still thinking about which race to go in," WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden said early Saturday.

With no parimutuels involved, there really is no set scratch time, said Friedman.

Other viable threats in the male division of the OBS Championship include Quiet All American, Gator Tiger, and Forty Nine Acres.

In the other Monday races:

* $100,000 OBS Championship filly division (race 3): Volare Contare, a 12-length maiden winner at Aqueduct last out for trainer Tony Dutrow, is one of a handful of contenders in this 1 1/16-mile race. Allegation, trained by Mark Casse, also enters off an impressive maiden score at Woodbine, while Miss Afleet Alex, Miss Olivia Rae, and Musical Romance also enter in good form.

* $50,000 OBS Sprint male division (race 2): Aside from Chief Counsel, an odds-on maiden winner last fall at Keeneland, this six-furlong race also drew the stakes-seasoned Mr. Green, trained by Wolfson, in a field of nine. Good Lord and Black Diamond Cat ship from Tampa with a chance.

* $50,000 OBS Sprint filly division (race 1): Aegaen, winner of the Grade 3 Kentucky Juvenile last spring for trainer Wesley Ward, will clash with the Wolfson-trained Dances With Ashley in a field of nine going six furlongs.

The OBS races were devised and continue to exist largely as a financial incentive to breeders and buyers of horses that go through the OBS sales ring. All races are restricted to OBS-sold horses, with owners maintaining eligibility for their horses through futurity-style payments.

OBS hosts year-round simulcasting on its property but is not allowed to accept bets on its one day of live racing due to legal reasons. The track has a modest but practical grandstand, with results and race times posted on an infield board. Calder announcer Bobby Neuman provides the race calls.

There is no television coverage of the OBS races, although streaming video and other useful information and services are available on the website obssales.com.