Updated on 09/15/2011 1:20PM

Weekend forecast: 'Lady' in Milady


With the Belmont Stakes a week away and the summer handicap racing season just around the corner, this weekend's stakes action is shaping up as the calm before the storm. The biggest races are Saturday's Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs, and Sunday's Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park, which is the only Grade I stake in the country this weekend.

The Mass Cap did not attract the top names in the handicap division, such as Captain Steve, Tiznow, and Albert The Great. However, it will feature perhaps the top up-and-comer in the division, Include, who exits a victory over Albert The Great in the Grade I Pimlico Special.

The win was the fourth in a row for Include, and his Beyer speed figure of 117 was a new career high.

Include will face a field of six challengers including 8-year-old multiple Grade I winner Sir Bear, and Broken Vow winner of six if eight lifetime starts including the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in his last start.

Sunday's Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park is a Grade 1 for fillies and mares and features a field of six horses hopeful of moving into the upper echelon of the distaff division. Likely favorite Lazy Slusan, now 6 years-old, is better than she's ever been in her career, but should face strong challenges from the likes of last winter's Bayokoa winner Feverish, and Sixty Sails runner-up Lady Melesi.

At Belmont, the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap, one of the East's premier distance turf races for distaffers this time of the year, has come up fairly light with a group of just six betting interests. This race is an indication of weakness in the division in the East, with so few horses entered despite the absence of division leader Perfect Sting.


Suffolk Downs, 1 1/8-miles, $500,000, Grade II

1) Include

2) Broken Vow

3) Sir Bear

Include will be a low-priced favorite and will be very tough to beat based on sharp recent wins in the New Orleans Handicap and the Pimlico Special, where he proved he's as game as they come with a late surge to beat Albert The Great. If he gets beaten in the Mass Cap, it will most likely be because Broken Vow gets loose on the lead and coasts wire-to-wire as he did last time out at Keeneland. Broken Vow doesn't need the lead to win, but he has employed that tactic in his most impressive performances and is likely to try it again against a Mass Cap field that lacks another legitimate speed threat. The most likely pace challenger looks like Durmiente, but the pressure from that one shouldn't be enough to knock Broken Vow out of the exacta.

The final serious Mass Cap threat is Sir Bear, winner of this year's Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap over a field that included Broken Vow. Sir Bear finds a way to win one or two of these big races every year, but he comes into this race off a fifth-place finish against a mediocre seven-horse field in the Oaklawn Handicap and will really need to step it up a notch once again in order to beat a horse the caliber of Include.


Hollywood Park, 1 1/16-miles, $250,000, Grade 1

Fillies and mares, 3 yo. & up

1) Lady Melesi

2) Lazy Slusan

3) Feverish

Lady Melesi ships in with two wins in her last three races, with the lone loss coming in a second-place finish behind License Fee in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Sportsman's Park. License Fee returned to win the Gallorette on turf at Pimlico over highly-regarded horses such as Starine, and Colstar. The third-place finisher in the Sixty Sails, Megan's Bluff, also returned to win her next start.

Lady Melesi should get first run on likely pace-setter Feverish, who is always dangerous up front but should get early pressure from La Ronge, a filly with early speed trained by Neil Drysdale.

Lazy Slusan, along with Lady Melesi, shouldn't be far off the pace and should also get a good trip behind the leaders. Lazy Slusan is the one to fear most based on her best recent efforts including a win over Spain three races back in the Santa Margaita.


Belmont Park, 1 3/8-miles on turf, $150,000, Grade 2

Fillies and mares, 3 y o & up

1) Playact

2) Aiglonne

3) Janet

The Sheepshead Bay features a seven-horse race topped by the two-horse Christophe Clement entry of Playact and Aiglonne. Both will be attempting to take advantage of the absence of division leader Perfect Sting, with Playact rating the edge on firm turf and Aiglonne perhaps needing soft going for her best chance to win. The possibility of rain is in the forecast in the New York area for both Friday night and Saturday. Aiglonne disappointed in Florida in two U.S. starts to

date, but did win a Group 3 race in France in her last race on yielding turf. Playact missed by just a head in her U.S. stakes debut last time out at Keeneland in the Bewitch Stakes where she was able to up her Beyer figure to 99 which is tops in this field on turf.

If you're looking to make a case against the Clement duo, the best place to start is with California invader Janet. Trained by Darryl Vienna, Janet exits a win in the Yerba Buena Handicap at Bay Meadows over the likes of Keemoon. Two starts later, Keemoon outbobbed Playact to win the Bewitch Stakes, flattering Janet in the process. The biggest concern for Janet, however, is the possibility of a rain-softened turf course on Saturday.


None of the above races offers much of a betting opportunity. The selection offering the best value looks like Lady Melesi in the Milady Handicap. Bet her to win and key her in exactas over Lazy Slusan and Feverish.