06/11/2010 12:00AM

Return to turf bodes well for It's Tea Time


NEW YORK - If you thought that after Memorial Day weekend and Belmont Stakes weekend there wouldn't be anything left for this weekend, well, think again. For sheer volume of quality, this weekend might even surpass the last two.

Saturday is a big day at Churchill Downs, with a solid edition of the Grade 1, $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap heading a program that also includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, in which 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra will seek her first victory of 2010, as well as three other graded stakes. Monmouth Park also has a strong card, highlighted by the Grade 3, $250,000 Monmouth Stakes, which marks the U.S. return of Presious Passion, and the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes.

Other stakes of note on Saturday's schedule include the Grade 1, $250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, the Grade 2, $150,000 Californian at Hollywood Park, the Grade 3, $150,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park, and the $200,000 Jostle Stakes at Philadelphia Park.

And on Sunday, champion Zenyatta attempts to remain undefeated in the Grade 1, $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood.

Regret Stakes

The combination of a big field and many directions for the betting public to go means that betting value will be easily obtained here, even if you like one of the six or so who will be the most supported at the windows, and might only be two to three points within each other on the tote board. I happen to like one of those six, It's Tea Time.

I thought It's Tea Time was a strong contender last time out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. But even though it didn't work out -- It's Tea Time finished ninth -- that was her first attempt on dirt, and I can certainly go back to her in this softer spot off the switch back to a turf surface she has already proven to like.

It's Tea Time began her career on turf early this year at Gulfstream, and after a promising second in her debut, she earned her maiden win there in going-away fashion. But it was It's Tea Time's third start that showed what a good filly she might be. Despite having all her allowance conditions available to her, It's Tea Time competed in the Grade 1 Ashland, and fell only one jump short of winning it. She missed by a diminishing neck to Evening Jewel, who just before and just after the Ashland lost nose decisions to 3-year-old filly divisional leader Blind Luck in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes and the Kentucky Oaks. Notably, Evening Jewel has since won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap.

Of the other prominent entrants in the Regret, I am less enamored with Beautician, Dynazaper, and Joharmony. Beautician has already competed in six Grade 1 races, and one was a second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But the fact remains that she is now 0 for 8 in stakes, and has not yet raced on turf. Dynazaper does sport a win in the Edgewood Stakes over the course most recently, but she benefited from an easy trip in a small field that day. And Joharmony didn't beat a strong group in what was left of the Hilltop Stakes she won last time out.

Jefferson Cup

I'm surprised that Lost Aptitude is as low as he is on the morning line considering he lost his last two races by 12 1/4 and 46 lengths, and was soundly beaten in his most recent appearance by two opponents he faces again Saturday. I think Lost Aptitude is going to be an okay price. I hope so, anyway, because he's my play.

I can make excuses for Lost Aptitude's poor efforts in his last two. Two starts back, when he was virtually distanced in the Fountain of Youth, he was trying dirt for the first time, and was up against the mighty Eskendereya. When he stopped last time out back on grass in the American Turf, Lost Aptitude was, for all intents and purposes, making his first start since New Year's Day since he couldn't have gotten anything out of the Fountain of Youth. Lost Aptitude showed too much ability winning twice on turf at Churchill last fall and narrowly missing in the Tropical Park Derby to write off at this point. More importantly, he should be able to control an easy pace this time.

Obeah Stakes

Miss Singhsix, who has shown marked improvement since moving into Marty Wolfson's barn, finally gets the set-up she has been looking for in this prep for the Delaware Handicap.

Miss Singhsix finished third in the Sixty Sails and Rampart in her last two outings, and earned a series of Beyer Figures that are unrivaled in this field. It is interesting, however, that Miss Singhsix has managed to do this without really getting a suitable early pace to set up her late run. I think that changes Saturday. Between Stage Trick and Platinum, Miss Singhsix should get an honest pace to rally into, and is taken to capitalize.