01/25/2010 12:00AM

Maximus Ruler should get trip

Email

NEW YORK - Thanks to sheer numbers, Fair Grounds commands the spotlight Saturday when it comes to stakes action. Six of that track's 13 races are stakes events, topped by the Grade 3, $100,000 pair of the Lecomte for 3-year-olds, and the Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on the turf.

Gulfstream Park's headliner Saturday is an intriguing renewal of the Grade 3, $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes for 3-year-olds. And if the deluge ever subsides in California, Dancing in Silks, upset winner of last fall's Breeders' Cup Sprint, will make his seasonal debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap.

Lecomte Stakes

One thing I knew when I took my first pass at this race is that I would try to beat Cool Bullet. Even though Cool Bullet earned the best Beyer Figure in this field - an 89 - when he won the Sugar Bowl Stakes over the track last time out, the field he beat in that race was suspect, and the six furlongs he went that day was his first attempt at even going that far, let alone the middle distance he'll have to negotiate Saturday.

I did give Worldly a long look here because I questioned the strategy that had him being hard held off slow fractions when he finished a sharp second last time out. But then I noticed that Stay Put, who beat Worldly in that race, and Letsgetitonmon, who finished third, came from last and next to last despite the pokey pace. So Worldly might not have been as compromised by the strategy as first thought.

In the end, I saw no reason to go against the one who might be the biggest pure talent in this field, Maximus Ruler. This will be Maximus Ruler's first start in a stakes race and first outing around two turns, but neither should stop him here.

Maximus Ruler either nearly brought off the biggest betting coup in years or was a total surprise to his connections when he was an unlucky loser of his career debut at 52-1 at Churchill Downs last November. Despite steadying at the start and again between horses on the far turn, Maximus Ruler still finished strongly, only to come out on the short end of a three-way photo. Emboldened by that performance and the solid 80 Beyer Figure he earned for it, Maximus Ruler's people ran him back last time out in an allowance race at Churchill, and their colt delivered with a determined victory good for an 85 Beyer, with a big gap behind the runner-up.

Maximus Ruler should fall into a good trip here. Cool Bullet figures to go to the lead, but with his rail draw, Maximus Ruler figures to fall into a sweet stalking trip just behind a second tier that is likely to include Worldly, Depaul, and Citrus Kid.

Tiffany Lass Stakes

This is the filly equivalent of the Lecomte on the Fair Grounds card, and it finds Quiet Temper the probable favorite off victories in the Delta Princess two starts back and in an allowance springboard to this race at the distance over the track. Quiet Temper was an easy winner of that recent allowance event over Bella Medaglia, but the situation is different enough this time to wager that Bella Medaglia can turn the tables.

For one, Quiet Temper will not get the kind of unchallenged lead Saturday that she enjoyed last time, not with a handful of stretch-out sprinters in here, some with a bit of sprint speed. Admittedly, Quiet Temper is not a need-the-lead type - in fact, she came from off the pace when she won the Delta Princess, although that was in the slop over a questionable bunch - but she is marooned in the outside post here with a short run to the first turn. That means if Quiet Temper tries to secure a spot from reasonable stalking range, she could be caught very wide around the far turn. If not, she could find herself farther back early than she is accustomed to.

It is true that Quiet Temper did far less than her best beating Bella Medaglia, but it wasn't like Bella Medaglia was all-out finishing just over a length behind. Bella Medaglia already has two races at this distance over this track (the other was a decisive maiden win), and showed the ability to relax early in both of them. Bella Medaglia has a much better post than Quiet Temper here, and that should result in her getting a much better trip.

Holy Bull Stakes

This early stop on the long road to the Kentucky Derby drew a salty field that includes Homeboy Kris, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne; Piscitelli, who finished close behind champion 2-year-old Lookin At Lucky when a surprising fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; and Aikenite, who narrowly missed in a Grade 1 last year. But last year's Champagne was not a strong race, Piscitelli's best efforts have been on synthetic surfaces, and Aikenite looks like he wants one more turn than he gets in this one-turn mile. Besides, I think Jackson Bend is a special talent.

Jackson Bend couldn't have been more impressive than he was last time out winning his fifth straight and completing his sweep of the Florida Stallion Series. He stumbled badly leaving the gate, then rushed up earlier than he had to, getting caught three wide on the first turn. But despite many lengths of trouble, Jackson Bend still won going away, earning a 100 Beyer, the highest by any 2-year-old around two turns in 2009.