05/24/2012 2:04PM

King: Plenty of positives for Tahoe Lake in Louisville Handicap

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Tahoe Lake (left) is well drawn for the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap.

Usually when a horse comes off a top-level performance and finishes in front of his chief rival, the horse is subsequently favored when the two meet again.

Yet Tahoe Lake likely won’t be the public choice in Saturday’s Grade 3 Louisville Handicap, with that role instead likely to go to morning-line favorite Simmard, whom Tahoe Lake beat in their last start. When one factors in other considerations regarding Tahoe Lake, he takes on even more appeal.

Consider, for example, that Tahoe Lake is favorably drawn in post 2, with the speedier Cease to his inside, likely meaning that Tahoe Lake can save ground into at least the first turn and perhaps over the first two turns of the three-turn grass marathon.
That wasn’t the case in last month’s Elkorn at Keeneland, when he raced three wide for the first two turns of that contest before he was angled toward the inside for the final turn.

He then finished well, closing to be second, three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place Simmard.

Simmard, meanwhile, starts in the Louisville Handicap from post 7, a position from which he figures to lose some ground, particularly with several other speed horses inside of him and just a run of about a furlong to the first turn.

Simmard also is shipping from Canada to Kentucky for the race, a disadvantage on a day when the high temperature in Louisville is expected to be in the mid-90s.

Tahoe Lake, however, is Kentucky-based, perhaps giving him an advantage.

His jockey, Manny Cruz, also knows him, while Simmard gets a new pilot in Gabe Saez. Further edge: Tahoe Lake.

Granted, the Louisville Handicap is more than a two-horse race. Eight horses are entered, and others such as Cease, Harrods Creek, and Joinem appear to have realistic chances.

Tahoe Lake, at 5-2 on the line, is far from a huge price, particularly since he has been prone to second-place finishes over his career. Nevertheless, he deserves to be favored and very well may not be. If he sticks to his morning-line price or drifts higher, he warrants a win play, and given his history of minor awards, he warrants further play in exacta boxes with Joinem and Simmard.

Eclipse: Mister Marti Gras a value

Bettors in search of a bigger price on a stakes contender should examine the Eclipse Stakes on Saturday at Woodbine.

Mister Marti Gras has sneaky good form, coming off a third in the $1 million Charles Town Classic – a race that drew exclusively graded stakes winners. And before that he was fourth in the New Orleans Handicap on a day when the winner, Nates Mineshaft, ran freakishly fast in a dominant score.

Now his connections confidently ship him north from Chicago to Toronto to race on the Polytrack, a surface over which Mister Marti Gras has a win and a third in two starts. He ran third in a slow-paced Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland last spring, and late last summer won the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington.

Tough company and past synthetic success aside, he also has the top last-race Beyer Speed Figure, a 94, a number he matched two starts ago in the Fair Grounds Handicap.

In a deep field of 11, he warrants support, provided he doesn’t get hammered from what seems a surprisingly high morning line. Odds of 5-1 or higher should be considered acceptable.

Matron: Upperline outclasses field

Going with another Polytrack play, Upperline looks too classy for her opponents in the in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron.

A versatile filly who won the Grade 3 Bewitch going 1 1/2 miles on turf at Keeneland on April 23, she is cutting back in distance to 1 1/8 miles for the Arlington Matron and shifting to synthetic – but neither move should be to her detriment.

Although she ran fourth in this race last year, she has typically shown a liking for racing 1 1/8 miles and competing on the Arlington main track. In addition to a win in the Arlington Oaks in 2010, she won a maiden race at Arlington as a juvenile in 2009 and ran second to eventual champion She Be Wild in a stakes race there.

With a short run to the first turn, she is drawn well in post 3, outside two deep closers, leaving her in position to save ground into the first turn.

From there, she ought to be able to carve out a useful stalking trip and pounce on the leaders on the second turn.