05/19/2010 11:00PM

Shorter distance suits Skipshot


day might be your day as there is a decided slant toward turf racing on the national stakes schedule. Both ends of the stakes doubleheader at Arlington, the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas, and the $100,000 Arlington Classic, are scheduled to be run on grass. The same is true for the main event at Belmont Park, the Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes; the headliner at Churchill Downs, the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap; and one of the two co-features opening day at Monmouth Park, the $100,000 Elkwood Stakes.

As an aside, the Elkwood and the co-featured $100,000 Decathlon Stakes have purses that are only $25,000 larger than a couple of straight maiden races on Monmouth's undercard.

Anyway, the only other graded stakes on the schedule is the Grade 3, $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial, to be run on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track.

Lazaro Barrera Memorial

This race launches Hollywood's road to the Swaps Stakes, which is expected to get Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy, and there are a couple of interesting prospects in here, most notably a pair trained by Bob Baffert, who just won last Saturday's Preakness with Lookin At Lucky. One of Baffert's entrants is Concord Point, who on the basis of a fast maiden win in his debut late last year was at one time considered an intriguing possibility for the Triple Crown races. He wisely took a far more conservative path, however, after being the victim of a big upset in his second start. The other Baffert horse here is Macias, a listed stakes winner on both turf and synthetic footing.

But this is a wide-open race and neither of Baffert's horses has to win. Although Concord Point did rebound to win his most recent start, he is not an attractive betting proposition at low odds, considering this will be his first start in both a stakes race and at a distance as far as seven furlongs. As for Macias, the surface switch and cut back in distance are not concerns. But both like to operate close to the front end, and they could wind up compromising each other's chances.

Skipshot is a good play here. Skipshot was a deceptively good fifth in his last start as a longshot to Sidney's Candy in the Santa Anita Derby after making a middle move into the hottest part of the pace. Skipshot ran his third and fourth quarters of the Santa Anita Derby in 23.75 seconds and 23.65, which is pretty quick for that stage of a nine-furlong main track race. I like the cut back in distance Saturday for Skipshot. After going two turns in his last two starts, he should have a foundation that is often critical in the late stages of seven-furlong races. It should also be noted that prior to the Santa Anita Derby, Skipshot was 3 for 3 after a trainer switch to Jerry Hollendorfer. The last of those was a key race from which the third finisher came back to win the La Puente Stakes.

Arlington Classic

I'm hoping that Call Shot's distant 11th of 12 last time out in the Lexington Stakes throws everyone off the trail because I believe he can rebound in a big way here on the switch back to turf. I've learned to be a little more forgiving of some bad efforts on the Keeneland surface, and Call Shot did run well on Keeneland's Polytrack last fall.

In any event, Call Shot now moves back to turf, the surface on which he ran arguably his best race, a close third in the Dania Beach Stakes three starts back. I liked Call Shot in the Dania Beach on the expectation that he would like turf, and for a moment in the stretch, I thought he was going to pull off a 10-1 upset. But the two who finished just in front of him, Nordic Truce and Bim Bam, subsequently provided a big boost to the form of the Dania Beach. Nordic Truce came back to win the Transylvania Stakes with a 91 Beyer Speed Figure to stretch his undefeated streak to three, while Bim Bam came back to win the Hallandale Beach Stakes with a Beyer of 89.

Louisville Handicap

Brass Hat deserves every racing fan's admiration to be still hitting hard at the age of 9, as he showed when a fast-closing second in the Elkhorn Stakes last time out. But even though Brass Hat ran well in the Elkhorn and won this race last year, I have never felt that he is as good on the turf as he is on dirt. Indeed, Brass Hat's win in the 2009 Louisville was his only win in 13 tries on turf, while he is 7 for 19 on dirt. I just suspect that Brass Hat is being campaigned on turf because it is easier on the old boy.

Eagle Poise is my pick here. Eagle Poise comes into this off three straight appearances in graded stakes at Santa Anita and has been facing better horses. He does move from synthetic to turf, but he notched the second win of his career on turf. What is also appealing about Eagle Poise here is he has a run that can be effective early or late in a race, and that could be a huge edge in a race lacking pace.