10/18/2009 11:00PM

Price will be right on Treat Gently


NEW YORK - Although rainy weather in the eastern half of the continent isn't exactly helping matters, turf racing is still very much the focus on Saturday's stakes schedule. Woodbine hosts three important grass races - the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International, the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor, and the Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic Stakes. And on this side of the border, the highest ranked stakes on Saturday is Keeneland's Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

Saturday night is a great time to own a West Virginia-bred as the West Virginia Breeders' Classics program will be renewed at Charles Town with a stakes-filled card, including two $500,000 events. There are also two $400,000 races Saturday at Calder, the final events in the Florida Stallion series.

E.P. Taylor Stakes

This race drew a quality field that includes Rainbow View, Princess Haya, and Salve Germania. Salve Germania was a big surprise when she won the Ballston Spa in her North American debut, managing to get up despite acting up in the post parade and getting no pace to rally into, even accounting for the deep going she encountered. And Princess Haya comes off a surprise win of her own over 2008 female turf champion Forever Together in the Canadian Stakes over the Woodbine turf course. But Salve Germania edged a softer group in the Ballston Spa than she faces Saturday, and Princess Haya, having never before shown anything like what she did in the Canadian, must prove her recent win was not a fluke.

Rainbow View is a different story. Three starts back, she finished only a little more than a length behind Goldikova, who was brilliant last year beating males in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Last time out, Rainbow View won the Group 1 Matron Stakes in Ireland. And now, she comes over for the ever-dangerous John Gosden. The only real problem with Rainbow View here is that she's going to be the favorite, and probably a pretty strong one, at that.

But if Rainbow View is going to be a solid favorite, then I can certainly take a shot with Treat Gently. Treat Gently's Racing Post ratings last year in France were very comparable to the ratings Rainbow View has been given lately, and yet she will be a much better price.

Treat Gently kept heady company of her own in Europe. She was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths by wonder filly Zarkava in last year's Group 1 Prix Vermeille, and she concluded her European career last fall with a fine fourth of 14 in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera. Treat Gently also showed considerable ability winning her U.S. debut at Belmont Park last July. While her winning Beyer Figure of 93 doesn't seem like much, that number was due to a very slow initial pace. What Treat Gently did do at Belmont was succeed at a distance shorter than her best - Saturday's 10 furlongs seems a much better fit for her - and she finished powerfully, getting her last five-sixteenths of a mile in a fast 27.84 seconds.

It is a slight concern that Treat Gently hasn't raced since that win. But the fact that her connections have selected this race for her out of all other possible spots is taken as a sign of confidence. And Treat Gently's connections - she's a Juddmonte homebred and trained by Bobby Frankel - are top notch.

Nearctic Stakes

I'm taking a similar approach in this race as I took in the Taylor. I recognize that accomplished veterans such as Heros Reward and Chamberlain Bridge can be tough here, although I don't think Heros Reward is in top form right now, and I have doubts about Chamberlain Bridge going as far as even just six furlongs. I also agree that Jungle Wave, who has been terrific since the claim last spring, should be one of the favorites on the favorable cut back in distance off a fine fourth in the Woodbine Mile. But if Jungle Wave is going to be around 5-2, why not take a flyer on Field Commission at around 12-1?

Field Commission was a gaining second to Jungle Wave two starts back in the Play the King Stakes, and was only a half-length behind him when sixth in the Woodbine Mile. Field Commission now cuts back to the distance at which he was a fast closing second in his turf debut only four starts ago in the Highlander, a race in which he sped his final quarter in 22.22, and he picks up Julien Leparoux, which could make the difference.

Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap

Sometimes the best course of action is to not be a wise guy, and just take the favorite. That is the case in this event. Gotta Have Her should be the favorite, although the hope is, what with a big field and several of her opponents in sharp form, she won't be too short a price.

Gotta Have Her beat a better field when she won the Palomar Handicap in her last start than she faces in this race. She is switching turf courses and cutting back significantly in distance Saturday, which normally would be cause for pause. Not in this instance, however. Gotta Have Her is 3 for 3 in her career on Santa Anita's hillside course.