06/06/2013 11:34AM

Northlands Park: L. A. Weekend the one to catch in Journal Handicap

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L. A. Weekend wins the Coyote Handicap at Turf Paradise on March 23.

L. A. Weekend will put his considerable speed on display when he tackles a star-studded field in the $50,000 Journal Handicap at Northlands Park on Saturday. The six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up drew eight horses, including Commander, who hasn’t lost at Northlands and was voted the champion older horse in Alberta last year.

The one they will have to catch and beat is L. A. Weekend, who is trained by Robertino Diodoro. As strong as the field in the Journal is, L. A. Weekend will be facing substantially easier company after being dueled into defeat by Comma to the Top in the $70,000 Cool Frenchy at Betfair Hollywood Park on May 4. A Grade 1 winner with $1.2 million in earnings, Comma to the Top followed his win in the Cool Frenchy with a front-running score in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 27.

Prior to the sixth-place finish behind Comma to the Top, L. A. Weekend was given a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his 6 1/4-length romp in the $35,000 Coyote Handicap at Turf Paradise on March 23. It was his third win in a row and came on the heels of his sharp win in the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup.

If L. A. Weekend breaks on top with Quincy Welch aboard, he could be gone.

Commander won the Journal in 2012, but he really doesn’t want to sprint and this is a much tougher field than he beat last year. He is coming off a fourth-place finish for trainer Troy Taylor in the $50,000 John Longden 6000 at Hastings on May 20 and will be reunited with trainer Dennis Terry, who oversaw his last three wins at Northlands last year.

Commander will be ridden by Aaron Gryder, who will be arriving from New York after riding Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Calidoscopio in the Grade 2, $200,000 Brooklyn at Belmont Park on Friday.

Undefeated in five sprints at Tampa Bay, Wild About Chrome is facing the sternest test of his short career. Acting on behalf of himself and Nanette McCullough, trainer James McCullough claimed Wild About Chrome out of his third win in a $16,000 conditional claiming race March 8. It was a shrewd purchase. Wild About Chrome came back to win a first-level allowance race for the McCulloughs on March 24 and then scored an upset in the $75,000 Sprint for Florida-breds on Florida Cup Day.

Dougs Buddy has never lost sprinting and will make good use of his speed breaking from the rail.

Last year’s local sprint champion Ready Racer could do some damage if the speed gets carried away up front.