04/06/2006 11:00PM

Weekend stakes preview

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Wood Memorial - Grade 1 - $750,000 - 3-Year-Olds - 1 1/8 Miles

After stretching out around two turns, Deputy Glitters has become a force in the 3-year-old division. He utilized good tactical speed to upend the highly regarded Bluegrass Cat in the Tampa Bay Derby, and projects for a nice stalking trip off of likely pacesetter Keyed Entry in the Wood. Deputy Glitters may gain first run on the leader turning for home, and the extra distance shouldn't pose a problem for this son of Travers winner Deputy Commander.

Keyed Entry looks logical based on his ultra-competitive Beyer Speed Figures, and he may get very brave if allowed to coast on the lead. He likely will be overbet, however, and it's questionable whether nine furlongs is within his scope.

Bob and John ships east for Bob Baffert after failing as the favorite in the San Felipe. Like Deputy Glitters, Bob and John has tactical speed, and shouldn't be too far away from the leaders when the field enters the final bend. A winner at this distance, Bob and John wouldn't be a surprise, but he also figures to take a good share of wagering support.

Value handicappers may look to Greeley's Legacy. He blossomed over Aqueduct's winterized inner dirt surface this winter, and won his maiden over this distance in his final start at 2. He was pinned down inside during the latter stages of the Gotham, and a repeat of that 103 Beyer Speed Figure would put him in the Wood mix. Expect him to be running hard late under Eibar Coa.

Selections:

1.Deputy Glitters

2.Greeley's Legacy

3.Bob and John

Illinois Derby - Grade 2 - $500,000 - 3-Year-Olds - 1 1/8 Miles

Sweetnorthernsaint towers over this field on Beyers, and he worked hard to earn his 104 speed figure in the Gotham. Wide every step of the way after breaking from the far outside post, Sweetnorthernsaint rated for the first time in his career, and was plugging away gamely in the stretch. He galloped out nicely after the race and acts like he'll handle the extra distance. He draws another tough post for the Illinois Derby, but has the tactical speed to secure a good forward placing going into the first turn.

Todd Pletcher has horses in almost every big race this weekend, and My Golden Song may offer some value at Hawthorne. Although the Fountain of Youth came back a painfully slow race, he continued his Beyer ascent with his even fourth-place finish in that race, and is another that should be well placed for the backstretch run. He got within three lengths of undefeated Barbaro two back in the Holy Bull, and may slowly be rounding into form.

Mister Triester will offer value shipping in from Southern California. He has some speed, and may attempt to grab the early advantage right out of the gate. He was no match for Brother Derek in his graded stakes debut last time, but should benefit from that race, and has lots of stamina on the top of his pedigree.

Likely favorite Cause to Believe has yet to finish out of the exacta, but he still has some trouble with his lead changes and he beat a suspect group in the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields last time out. If they go fast up front, he's the most likely to take advantage, but the price won't be there.

Racketeer ran a game race in the San Felipe, and has yet to take a backward step on the Beyer scale. He'll be a square price for excellent connections.

Selections:

1.Sweetnorthernsaint

2.My Golden Song

3.Mister Triester

Santa Anita Derby - Grade 1 - $750,000 - 3-Year-Olds - 1 1/8 Miles

Leading Kentucky Derby contender Brother Derek should be loose on the lead in the Santa Anita Derby, but the field came up pretty deep, and he'll be tested going nine furlongs for the first time. He'll be a huge favorite, so value handicappers will look elsewhere.

Sacred Light gets the nod from this corner. Second to Brother Derek in the Santa Catalina, Sacred Light, a gray son of Holy Bull, rallied nicely in the stretch and galloped out well. He has never finished first in his career, with his only victory coming via disqualification, but he's performed respectably at this distance and should be charging in the stretch.

A. P. Warrior finally lived up to his promise in his first start for John Shirreffs in the San Felipe. He galloped out powerfully after the race, and the stoutly bred son of A.P. Indy should love more distance. A Santa Anita specialist, he looms a major threat here.

Point Determined has been slow to develop, but he has a great deal of natural ability, and is another with stamina breeding. He has some speed, and may take first crack at Brother Derek on the turn.

Selections:

1.Sacred Light

2.Brother Derek

3.A. P. Warrior

Ashland Stakes - Grade 1 - $500,000 - 3-Year-Old fillies - 1 1/16 Miles.

If the track comes up wet at Keeneland on Saturday, then Wait a While is going to be hard to beat. She freaked in the slop to win the Grade 2 Davona Dale by 14 lengths two starts back, and her front-running style fits the Keeneland profile. It doesn't hurt to have John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher calling the shots as well.

Balance is the class of the field and will take a beating at the windows. This will be her first start outside of Southern California, however, and she will have to rally over the usually speed-favoring racetrack. There's no denying her quality, but she offers no value to win.

Saratoga Drive looks like an interesting longshot prospect. The lightly raced daughter of Siphon was closing quickly in the late stages of the Florida Oaks, and may show improved gate speed with the addition of blinkers. She shows a bullet workout for this, and seems very well prepared.

Bushfire just lasted over Saratoga Drive last time, but may not relax on the lead in the Ashland.

Performing Diva's Beyer Speed Figures pale in comparison to those of the top contenders.

Selections:

1.Wait a While

2.Balance

3.Saratoga Drive

Apple Blossom Handicap - Grade 1 - Purse $500,000 - Fillies and mares - 1 1/16 Miles

With the defection of Round Pond, the Apple Blossom may boil down to a two-horse race between Happy Ticket and Star Parade. Happy Ticket has won 11 of 15 starts, and battled Round Pond every step of the way in a gallant losing effort in the Grade 3 Azeri here last month. She has the home court advantage over Star Parade, and rates a slight edge.

Star Parade has been managed beautifully by Darrell Vienna throughout her career, and she looked strong winning the Grade 1 Santa Maria. She's performed admirably over this surface despite trouble in previous Apple Blossoms, and she should be a major factor from the opening bell. She gets two pounds from Happy Ticket as well.

Platinum Ballet will probably never have a better trip than the one she experienced in the Azeri. She sat behind the Happy Ticket-Round Pond speed duel every step of the way, but couldn't make up any late ground. She draws nicely, and will be stalking once again, but may find these a bit too tough.

Spun Sugar is a dangerous invader from Pletcher, and may sit a nice stalking trip while in the clear. She needs Beyer improvement in order to win this Grade 1, however.

Hollywood Story may not get enough pace to attack, while La Reason seems off form.

Selections:

1.Happy Ticket

2.Star Parade

3.Platinum Ballet