07/07/2008 12:00AM

Raw Silk will be difficult to catch


NEW YORK - There will be fireworks aplenty Saturday at Hollywood Park with a program that includes five graded stakes races. Three of them are Grade 1 events - the American Oaks Invitational, the Vanity, and the Triple Bend Invitational. The East Coast counters with two Grade 1 races - the $750,000 United Nations at Monmouth Park, and the $250,000 Prioress at Belmont Park.

American Oaks Invitational

The connections of My Baby Baby, a runway winner in good time most recently at Churchill Downs, were not pleased when their filly drew the widest of 12. But since this race starts at the top of the infield turf chute, My Baby Baby will have ample time to get over and save some ground before the field reaches the clubhouse turn. What My Baby Baby, as well as everyone else in this race, might have trouble with is the loose front-runner Raw Silk. Barring a bad start, Raw Silk is absolutely the controlling speed, and is the play to go wire to wire.

Raw Silk showed what she can do with an uncontested lead last time out when she toyed with a good field in the Sands Point Stakes. Raw Silk went right to the front and allowed her closest pursuers to come up to her on a couple of occasions, only to re-break each time. She then drew away with authority late, looking very much like a filly who will have no trouble with the additional furlong she gets in Saturday's 1 1/4-mile race. The Sands Point was a breakthrough performance for Raw Silk - her 97 Beyer Figure was easily a career-best.

Raw Silk had a sharp five-furlong work just a couple of days ago, mirroring the sharp five-furlong move she had a few days before the Sands Point.

United Nations

Here's hoping that the betting public falls in love with the Bobby Frankel-trained uncoupled entry of Southern California shippers Champs Elysees and Sudan. While Champs Elysees in particular is certainly good enough to win - he won the San Marcos early this year, followed by a good third in the Santa Anita Handicap - I have doubts as to how much Champs Elysees really wants to win. Sudan's role might be as a pace prompter for Champs Elysees, as he was when they finished second and third in the Jim Murray Memorial in May.

I like Strike a Deal, a good 3-year-old turfer last year who suggested with his close fourth in the Manhattan Handicap most recently that he might be a good turfer at 4. Granted, Better Talk Now had terrible luck when he finished just behind Strike a Deal in the Manhattan. But Strike a Deal was in position to win, and was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths while facing a field better than Frankel's horses have been meeting on turf.

Triple Bend Invitational

Street Boss might be a freak. He will be going for his fourth straight win, and has turned in bullet moves in four of his last five workouts. But in his one attempt at this seven-furlong distance, Street Boss turned in the worst finish of his career. And I don't think Street Boss will get the same kind of speed duel that set up his off-the-pace score in the Los Angeles Handicap last time out. So I will to try and beat him. But not with High Standards, who finished third in the Los Angeles after dueling for the lead, because I believe he is more effective at shorter distances. Instead, I'm taking a shot with Desert Code.

Desert Code was a surprisingly sharp second to Surf Cat two starts back in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap, and followed with a respectable second in the Berkeley Stakes. But most intriguing, Desert Code has foundation after going middle distances in his last two starts, which could prove key late as it often does in the last furlong of seven-furlong sprints. Moreover, such distance cutbacks seem to agree with Desert Code. The last two times he made such a move, he ran well in narrow defeats in the Laz Barrera Memorial and the Hollywood Turf Express.