06/28/2009 11:00PM

My Pal Charlie seeks better luck


NEW YORK - The two best females in training in North America, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, will both be in action Saturday. That's the good news. That bad news is they will be racing in separate races on opposite ends of the country at a time when the connections of both are taking a bit of heat for their future plans for these top-class individuals.

Zenyatta, last year's champion older female, will be attempting to extend her undefeated streak to 11 when she carries a well-deserved 129 pounds in the Grade 1, $300,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, a race she won last year. That last point hints at the frustration felt by people who want Zenyatta to define her greatness, and her place in racing history, by doing more than basically duplicating her 2008 campaign. Her trainer, John Shirreffs, counters by saying that with the Breeders' Cup in California again this year, Zenyatta shouldn't have to leave the state. That's fair, but Zenyatta could stay in California and still attempt something more daring. Even her lesser stablemate Life Is Sweet will face males in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Rachel Alexandra, who already accomplished something daring when she became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes, will make her first start since in the Grade 1, $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. Rachel Alexandra will be looking to win her seventh straight in the Mother Goose, which comes just days after owner Jess Jackson ruled his filly out of this year's Breeders' Cup because it will be run on Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface. This essentially eliminates any shot of the matchup every racing fans wants to see, Rachel Alexandra versus Zenyatta.

Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap

It's not often you see a 7-year-old run the best race of his life in the 39th start of his career, at least in terms of Beyer Speed Figures. But that's the profile Jonesboro brings into this spot. Jonesboro earned a career-best 107 Beyer last time out when a narrowly beaten second in the Lone Star Park Handicap. And that came just one start after Jonesboro won the Texas Mile with a 103 Beyer, which was the second highest of his career. But as sharp as Jonesboro is right now, he's not invincible in this event. Even though he finished second in the 10-furlong Hawthorne Gold Cup two years ago, that was due to him being able to set a very slow pace, and he's best at distances shorter than the 1 1/8 miles he must go Saturday night. Moreover, Jonesboro would figure to have to be on or with the lead going this far, but there is other speed in this race, namely Shadowbdancing, Red Hot N Gold, and Stonehouse.

My Pal Charlie is a solid play to shed his recent run of bad luck. A good case can be made that My Pal Charlie was the best horse not only in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap last time out, but also in the Churchill Downs Stakes two starts back. In the Met Mile, My Pal Charlie stumbled coming out of the gate, putting him much farther off the early pace than he would have been. Yet, he still finished gamely to end up fourth, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths. My Pal Charlie also had trouble at the start in the Churchill Downs Stakes and was not able to benefit as much from the rail bias as winner Accredit. But My Pal Charlie was still a gaining second.

My Pal Charlie stretches back out to the distance at which he was a much-the-best winner of the Super Derby last September. And like in that Super Derby, My Pal Charlie should get first run at the speed here.

King Edward Handicap

Maybe the one-two-three finishers in last month's Connaught Cup - Sterwins, Rahy's Attorney, and Society Chairman - are simply a decided cut above the other four in this race. Rahy's Attorney, in particular, might be set now in his second start back after his unsuccessful trip to Japan last fall to regain the form that enabled him to upset the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last September. But I'm happy to take a shot to beat them all with the much-improved Baletti.

It took a long time, but Baletti finally started to come to hand last fall, and he comes into this looking for his third straight and having won 3 of his last 4. Baletti's most recent score was the best performance of his career. He beat a solid overnight field at Belmont that included Dancing Forever, who was probably prepping in his first start of the year but is a Grade 1 stakes winner nonetheless. Anyway, Baletti showed a powerful late kick, really taking off in the last 100 yards or so to win going away, earning the same 101 Beyer that Sterwins got for winning the Connaught Cup. It also doesn't hurt that Baletti is backed by a hot barn that recently upset champion Forever Together in the Grade 1 Just a Game with Diamondrella.

Boiling Springs Stakes

Bluegrass Princess has put together an odd record so far. She's 2 for 2 on synthetic tracks and has finished third in all four of her turf starts. I think she'll correct that problem and get her first turf win in this spot.

Part of the reason why Bluegrass Princess hasn't been able to close the deal on turf is that her style seems to be that of a stalker/closer and that she has been too close to the early lead in paceless grass races. That was certainly the case last time out in the Sands Point, in which she wound up third but still earned this field's best Beyer, a 90. This time, Bluegrass Princess stands to get a genuine pace to target, which should allow her to sit back and finish strongly.