04/19/2010 11:00PM

Krypton's last a good omen


NEW YORK - The Charles Town Races, once home to some of the humblest racing in the country, hosts the $1 million Charles Town Classic Saturday night on a card that also includes the $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes and three other stakes.

Elsewhere, there are stakes doubleheaders at Keeneland and Santa Anita. At Keeneland, the featured Grade 2, $300,000 Coolmore Lexington is supported by the $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes. At Santa Anita, the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap is the main event, backed up by the Grade 3, $100,000 San Simeon Handicap.

Coolmore Lexington

The only horse in this race who has enough graded earnings to turn the $180,000 available to the winner here into a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby is Connemara. Beyond that, angles abound with Connemara. He is owned by the Lexington's sponsors, and he is by Giant's Causeway, the Coolmore horse for whom Keeneland's supporting feature on Saturday is named. But while these things are interesting little tidbits, they mean nothing when it comes to handicapping. And in handicapping this race, it's a big concern that Connemara simply hasn't run fast yet. After five career starts, his best Beyer Figure is only 83. That means eight other horses in this race have at least once run faster in terms of Beyers than Connemara, and that makes him vulnerable as one of the favorites.

Uptowncharlybrown might be the favorite here since he wasn't that badly beaten in the tougher Tampa Bay Derby and Sam Davis Stakes in his last two starts, and for sentimental reasons since his trainer Alan Seewald, died unexpectedly early this week. But this will be Uptowncharlybrown's first start on a synthetic surface, so we don't even know if he will handle it. Moreover, given the way he ran going two turns in his last two starts, it could be that Uptowncharlybrown's best game, at least at this point in his career, is as a closing sprinter.

I like Krypton, and not only because he won off over the track most recently in his first attempt on a synthetic track. Krypton's prior form hinted at real potential if you looked hard enough. After stopping badly on dirt in his first two career starts, Krypton got his maiden win on turf at Belmont last fall, a performance that got a huge boost when the three who finished immediately behind him all came back to win their next starts. After that, Krypton stopped again in the Vision Stakes, but that could have been attributed to a bog-like turf course.

Krypton just missed on the turf at Gulfstream in his first start this year, a race in which he checked going into both the first and far turns. He did, however, show a newfound ability to close. He didn't have the best of trips in his next start at Gulfstream either, an unusually strong entry-level allowance race in which last week's Blue Grass upsetter, Stately Victor, finished eighth. Krypton was three to four wide around both turns and had no pace to rally into, making his fourth-place finish a better effort than it might first appear. But Krypton showed what he could do with a good trip when he galloped on Polytrack last time out, and without a tremendous amount of speed lined up Saturday, he should get another good trip from the rail as a pace factor.

Charles Town Classic

Researcher's fantastic career record at Charles Town of 9 wins and 3 seconds from 13 starts, including a score in this race last year when it was worth a mere $615,000, should not be underestimated. Researcher clearly handles the sharp turns at this bullring, the likes of which many of his opponents have never before seen. But even though Researcher comes into this race the same way he did last year - off an easy win over the track and a 106 Beyer - he is meeting an arguably tougher group.

I respect Understatement, whose last two wins with blinkers on were lights out. But Understatement likes to be close early, and there is other speed in here. I want a closer, and I'm going with Awesome Gem.

I have knocked Awesome Gem in this space before because he likes to finish second as much as win. But he's on dirt here, and that's his best game. Awesome Gem is 4 for 10 lifetime in dirt, but just 2 for 23 lifetime on turf and synthetic. He was an improved third back on dirt last time in the New Orleans Handicap, the best race anyone in here comes out of, and in his prior start on dirt, he won the Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Giant's Causeway Stakes

West Ocean figures to be the favorite here off a big win last time at Fair Grounds, but I still wonder how good she really is. West Ocean didn't finish all that far ahead of Life Lesson when second two starts back, and Life Lesson, who is also in this race, doesn't look like she's that special.

Linda Rice, the so-called "Queen of the Turf Sprints," has two in here making their 2010 debuts - Canadian Ballet and Ahvee's Destiny. Canadian Ballet is slightly better, but she is also speed, and with the rapid Libor Lady in here, I prefer Ahvee's Destiny. Ahvee's Destiny can be effective coming from a little off the pace, as she showed in her first two starts off the bench last year.