Updated on 09/15/2011 12:25PM

Michaels's analysis: Salute the 'Captain'


The $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, matching Captain Steve against seven rivals, tops the Saturday card at Churchill Downs which features four stakes worth a total of $1.3 million.

While Churchill Downs may be the center of the stakes racing universe this weekend, it's certainly not the only place where top-caliber racing is taking place.

At Belmont Park, Dream Supreme will be favored over Finder's Fee and Dat You Miss Blue in the Grade 3 $100,000 Vagrancy Handicap, which attracted only five starters.

One race earlier in the card, Proud Man will be favored against a loaded field of 3-year-old turfers in the Grade 3 $100,000 Hill Prince. Top contenders include undefeated Navesink, and graded stakes winner Volponi.

On the West Coast, Saturday's feature at Hollywood Park is the Princess for 3-year-old fillies. Golden Ballet, who suffered a career-ending injury last week, loomed a low-priced favorite in

the Grade 2 stakes. Without her the Princess is a wide-open, six-horse race topped by Bob Baffert's Love At Noon, and Ron McAnally's Affluent. Affluent had been bullied by Golden Ballet

earlier this year, and could be the one to beat now that Golden Ballet is sidelined.

The $300,000 Dallas Turf Cup is this weekend's featured race at Lone Star. The race has set up as a showdown between Eastern shipper Del Mar Show and Western shipper Kerrygold. Kerrygold has run with some California toughies including Bienamado. However, Del Mar Show should prove too tough to beat here after going 4-for-4 so far this year for trainer Bill Mott.

The perfect record includes two stakes wins at Hialeah and one at Woodbine. Kerrygold's chances of an upset could be hurt by the presence of speed horses Vergennes and Dignitas Dancer.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, the opening weekend feature at Arlington Park is the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup. Hidden Assets will be the one to beat, with The Happy Hopper the most likely upsetter.

Monmouth Park will host the Grade 3 Vinery Matchmaker with a field featuring Gaviola, and Pimlico will be the site of the very competitive Baltimore Ravens Breeders' Cup that has attracted Cat's At Home, Milwaukee Brew, and Windrush, among others.

Even with all that going on, Churchill Downs will be the place to be Saturday thanks to the Grade 2 Stephen Foster and three more quality undercard stakes - the Regret, the Fleur de Lis, and the Northern Dancer.

Meetyouathebrig seems a likely favorite in the Northern Dancer at a mile for 3-year-olds, thanks to his 2-for-2 record at this track and distance. However, he may get caught behind the pace in a race with several speedy horses but nobody who really appears to want the lead. Percy Hope looks like the one to beat despite his ninth-place Preakness finish last time out. A repeat

of his winning efforts in the Lone Star Derby and Rushaway Stakes should be enough to beat these.

The ninth race is the Fleur De Lis which features a loaded field of distaffers headed by Saudi Poetry, On a Soapbox, Dreams Galore, and Secret Status. Saudi Poetry beat many of these same horses last time in the Louisville Breeders' Cup, and should be able to repeat with a perfect trip here behind the speedy Asher and Maltese Superb. The others may have to come from too far off the pace, and may not catch Saudi Poetry who is in top form for Bob Baffert and seems to run her best at Churchill Downs.

The horse to beat in the Regret, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, is La Vida Loca, trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Jerry Bailey. Despite the horrible name, La Vida Loca has won all three races, including the Edgewood Stakes, since coming to America from Europe. If La Vida Loca can't get the distance, Amaretta is perhaps the most likely upsetter.

Amaretta, trained by Ken McPeek, is 2-for-2 on Churchill turf, loves the distance, and will be the one to catch.

Stephen Foster analysis

Grade 2, $750,000, 1 1/8 miles

1) Captain Steve

2) Brahms

3) Guided Tour

Captain Steve makes his first appearance since winning the Dubai World Cup on March 24, and may be vulnerable here if that trip halfway around the world and back took something out of him. However, without the likes of Albert The Great, Include, or Tiznow, on hand, Captain Steve is a stand-out.

Perhaps the way to make money in the race is by betting exactas leaving out second-favorite Unshaded. Unshaded is making his second start since a tendon injury took him out of training

following last year's Travers win. He won his return race, but could bounce here after running that 104 Beyer off the bench. Even without a bounce, Unshaded is probably not in the same league as Captain Steve, anyway. He is a grinder who hasn't made a legitimate winning move in a race since last year's Lexington,

and was life-and-death to win the Travers despite a perfect bias-aided trip. Several of these may be better than Unshaded at this stage of their careers.

In exactas, take a shot with Brahms, who is switching to dirt after many quality turf starts for Elliott Walden, and the hard-knocking Guided Tour, trained by Niall O'Callaghan. Graeme Hall is also dangerous at this distance.

The wild-card of the race is Duckhorn, who ran a 116 Beyer and beat Guided Tour last time out in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. The problem with Duckhorn is that every good race he's run has been followed by a bad race in a pattern that has become so obvious, even a blind man could see it.

Play of the day

Churchill Downs is offering a special pick four on its four stakes races on Saturday. Here is a suggested play:

Race 8 (leg one): #1 Meetyouathebrig, #2 Son Of Rocket, #9 Percy Hope.

Race 9 (leg two): #1 Dreams Galore/On a Soapbox, #4 Saudi Poetri, #8 Secret Status

Race 10 (leg three): #6 Amaretta, #7 La Vida Loca

Race 11 (leg four): #1 Captain Steve

Pick four ticket: 3 x 3 x 2 x 1 x $2 = $36