04/19/2012 11:27AM

Weekend Warrior for April 21: Monument Hill can overcome post 12 in Miami Mile


The major Kentucky Derby preps might be over, and it might be two weeks until Derby Day, but that doesn’t mean that the 3-year-olds have temporarily relinquished the stakes spotlight, because they haven’t. Two of the biggest stakes on Saturday’s schedule – the Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome at Aqueduct and the Grade 3, $200,000 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland – are for 3-year-olds.

Elsewhere, Santa Anita has a graded stakes doubleheader consisting of the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap and the Grade 3, $100,000 San Simeon Handicap; Hawthorne offers the Grade 3, $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap; and Calder Race Course has the Grade 3, $125,000 Miami Mile Handicap.

Miami Mile Handicap

This promises to be a terrific betting race because it attracted a big, eclectic field that includes a contender in Yummy With Butter, who drops in class out of a decent fourth in a Grade 1 event; a horse in Mutual Trust, who was a Group 1 winner last year in France and will be attempting to make amends for two disappointing efforts at Gulfstream, and a colt in Decisive Moment, who actually started in last year’s Kentucky Derby and is now trying to forge a new path on turf.

I like Monument Hill, who was terrific in all four of his starts this year at Gulfstream, but certainly doesn’t need to carry his course around with him as he has finished third or better in all 16 of his career starts. Monument Hill won his first two starts this year in Hallandale Beach, and then followed with a game second to last year’s champion 3-year-old and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom when that one made his 4-year-old bow. But it is Monument Hill’s third in the Appleton Stakes most recently that wins me over.

Monument Hill was very unlucky in the Appleton. He was moving like a potential winner on the far turn, going every bit as well at that point as Corporate Jungle, who eventually did win. But while Corporate Jungle had a clear run on the outside, Monument Hill was forced to check late on the far turn and into the stretch when blocked on the rail behind horses. When Monument Hill tried to angle out for racing room in upper stretch, an opponent to his outside kept him boxed in, forcing him to weave his way though traffic, losing momentum at a critical stage yet again. Considering his trip, Monument Hill did well to be beaten only a little more than two lengths for it all. And while his 12 post Saturday isn’t a good one, Monument Hill is capable of dropping back, tucking in, and saving some ground before reaching the first turn.

Za Approval is also dangerous despite the fact he will be making his stakes debut Saturday. Za Approval turned in his two best performances yet at this distance in his two starts at Gulfstream. He first finished second to Corporate Jungle in his return from a five-month layoff, and then won most recently, suggesting he is ready for better.

[MIAMI MILE: Download PPs for Saturday's full Calder race card]

Coolmore Lexington

Castaway is the only one entered in either this race or the Jerome who is in a position to crack the Kentucky Derby field with a victory Saturday. He is in that position because, before getting involved in a senseless early speed duel as the 8-5 favorite in the rich Sunland Derby last time out, he won a division of the Southwest Stakes. But the division of the Southwest that Castaway won was the slower one by almost a full second. And while Castaway doesn’t have to get involved in costly speed duels, he does want to be on the pace, and he might be compromised early here by Johannesbourbon and Hammers Terror.

I liked Morgan’s Guerilla last time out in the Illinois Derby, and he ran well finishing a sharp second after getting caught five to six wide on the first turn and three wide on the far turn. Morgan’s Guerilla loses his blinkers Saturday, a big move for the barn albeit from a small sample, in an attempt to relax a bit more early. I think Morgan’s Guerilla will run well again, but I’m thrown off him because the last furlong of the Illinois Derby took forever to complete, and he couldn’t hold on.

Summer Front is my play. Yes, Summer Front has never raced on anything but turf, and he has been away four months. But he has been working very well, and we all know how turf ability often translates to synthetic track success. And Summer Front is quite able on turf, having won all three of his starts on it.

Summer Front was especially good winning the Dania Beach in his most recent appearance. He stumbled a stride out of the gate, was caught four wide around the first turn, three wide around the far turn, and was floated five wide into the stretch. But he still inhaled his field to win decisively, and it was a quality field. The second, third, and fourth place finishers were all coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

[COOLMORE LEXINGTON: Download PPs and wager on Saturday's Keeneland race card]


The pace of this race has the potential to be pretty hot. The Lumber Guy, who I prefer amongst the speed horses, showed good zip winning his first two career starts and now suitably cuts back to one turn and drops in class after setting the pace in the Wood Memorial. Brigand showed positional speed in California and now adds blinkers, which should only enhance his early foot. Right to Vote has been close early in every start, including a hot-paced narrow win at Gulfstream last time, and Term Loan is a speed horse.

I want a closer, and I’m going with Adirondack King. Adirondack King lost the Rebel Stakes last time out at the post position draw when he pulled the 12 hole. Sure enough, he was caught four to five wide on the first turn and four wide on the second turn, so he really didn’t do too badly when he was beaten slightly more than five lengths. Adirondack King stepped it up Beyer Figure-wise when he was third in the faster division of the Southwest two starts back, and I like the cut-back to one turn for him right now.

[JEROME: Download PPs and wager on the full Saturday Aqueduct card]