04/23/2003 11:00PM

Melair sets up for a late runner


NEW YORK - There is something for everyone on Saturday's national stakes schedule. There are races for milers in the $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park, and the $150,000 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. There are turf races, such as the $150,000 Calder Breeders' Cup Handicap and the $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct. There is even a race for turf milers: the $200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile at Bay Meadows.

There is also a lucrative opportunity for fillies and mares in the $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne, and top-notch statebred action on the California Gold Rush card at Hollywood Park, which consists of six stakes and four overnight races, all for California-breds. The California Gold Rush stakes alone are worth more than $1 million in purses.

Here are the three stakes I thought were most interesting:


There is a short run to the first turn in 1 1/16-mile races like this at Hollywood Park, and the run to and around the first turn in this race could be interesting. Most of the speed here - Princess V., Run Rebecca Run, and Ela Ela - are stuck in outside posts. Unless there are lots of program scratches, they all are going to have to send early if they hope to save any ground. Consequently, the pace should be fast and contested, and this race should set up for a closer. For that reason, Bartok's Blithe is the selection.

Bartok's Blithe closed almost nine lengths in finishing second to Princess V. most recently, and should love the added distance of this race, her first attempt at two turns. Her Beyer Figures are as good as anyone's in this field, and she is poised to achieve a new best Beyer as she figures to be primed for a peak performance third start off the layoff.

On top of it all, Bartok's Blithe is perfectly drawn. Breaking from the rail, she will be able to save ground around the first turn. And, since it shouldn't take long for this field to become strung out, Bartok's Blithe will have plenty of opportunity to get outside and launch a successful rally.


Native Desert is the best horse in this field, and is attempting to win this race just like he won it last year, which is to say second start off the layoff. But, there is reason to doubt whether he can still fire at the age of 10. Continental Red is also accomplished, but he was eased in February in his last start, and returns at a distance well short of his best. Spinelessjellyfish doesn't win anymore unless it's for Julie Krone, and Krone is sidelined with an injury. Sea to See ran well first start off the claim in his last, but he still hasn't finished first or second since the fall of 2001.

In other words, this is a good spot to take a shot, and I'm going with Yougottawanna. Yougottawanna's two races this year don't look good on paper, but in the first of those he was returning from a one-year absence, and last time he contested the pace, which is not his best style of running.

With a return to a more effective stalking style, and making his third start off a layoff, Yougottawanna is set for a good effort. And, a good effort from Yougottawanna would be good enough for this group. He won the El Camino Real Derby last year, and at 2, one race after he won in a solid field in the Pinjara Stakes in his first attempt on turf, he upset Officer in the California Cup Juvenile.

Texas Mile

The presence of the in-form pair of Private Emblem and Bluesthestandard make this a tough spot, but I'm picking Compendium, the longer-priced half of the uncoupled Steve Asmussen-trained entry that also includes Private Emblem.

Compendium ran his heart out finishing third in this race last year after a costly wide trip. It is interesting to note that he duplicates last year's pattern coming into this race, having again won a prep over the track 22 days ago in his first start of the year. This time, however, Compendium has more speed than the four who break inside of him, and with a clean start, he shouldn't lose any ground.