04/04/2013 1:48PM

Weekend Warrior for April 6, 2013: Picks for Bay Shore, Potrero Grande, Ashland

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Salutos Amigos has only this maiden sprint win to his credit but has an upset chance in the Bay Shore.

NEW YORK – The long road to the Kentucky Derby is nearing the end as two more major final Derby preps – the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby – will be checked off the list Saturday. The Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial tops a card at Aqueduct that includes four other graded stakes, the biggest being the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap. The Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby heads a card that includes three other graded events, the most notable being the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks. This is also the first Saturday of the Keeneland spring meet, and the feature there is the Grade 1, $500,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes.

Bay Shore Stakes

This is one of the undercard stakes at Aqueduct, and I would think that Clearly Now and Honorable Dillon, winner of the two big 3-year-old sprint stakes over the winter at Gulfstream, will have plenty of support here. Clearly Now was a distant third in the Holy Bull Stakes in his first start this year when Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby ran huge finishing one-two. But when he cut back to this seven-furlong distance last time out in the Swale Stakes, Clearly Now came from off the pace into fractions that look slow on paper but were actually legitimate compared to the other sprints that day, and won going away.

Honorable Dillon comes off an unsuccessful attempt around two turns in the Tampa Bay Derby, in which he was up against Verrazano, odds-on favorite in the Wood Memorial and future-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Honorable Dillon will appreciate the cut back to seven furlongs Saturday, the distance at which he prevailed in the Hutcheson Stakes two starts back.

Gulfstream form must certainly be respected at Aqueduct this time of year, and it would be no surprise if either Clearly Now or Honorable Dillon won this race. That said, I question how strong the Hutcheson and Swale really were, so in this instance I’m leaning against the Florida shippers.

Maleeh is meeting a tougher group than the one he beat in the Fred Capossela Stakes last time out to make it 2 for 2 in his career. Maleeh is dangerous because he obviously has lots of room for improvement, and he projects to sit the same inside pocket trip he got in the Capossela. But I like the California shipper, Salutos Amigos.

Salutos Amigos was an outsider when he ran in the San Felipe most recently, which was understandable considering he was stepping up off only a maiden sprint win, but his performance was actually quite creditable. He sped off early to set a fast opening quarter-mile, stayed close as the pace remained strong through six furlongs, and was still third in mid-stretch before tiring late. Before that, Salutos Amigos competed in a couple of hot maiden races at Santa Anita. In the first of those, he was beaten only a length for second off a seven-month layoff by Govenor Charlie, who came back to win his next two starts, including the Sunland Derby with a 95 Beyer Figure. Salutos Amigos was much the best winning his second Santa Anita start, a performance that was flattered when soundly beaten runner up Zee Bros came back to win his next start with a 102 Beyer. I like the cut back from a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race to a seven-furlong sprint that Salutos Amigos is making, and I expect him to sit a good trip stalking from close range.

[WOOD MEMORIAL: Get Aqueduct PPs, watch video previews]

As for the Wood, Verrazano should win at somewhere around 2-5. It was impossible not to be impressed with how he conceded the early lead and his overall professionalism in the Tampa Bay Derby. But I will be watching Normandy Invasion closely, if only to see if the Remsen he just missed in last fall really was the mirage subsequent form suggests it might have been.

Potrero Grande Stakes

Jimmy Creed and Comma to the Top are obvious win candidates, but it is fair to question what we will get from them Saturday in this undercard event at Santa Anita. This will be Jimmy Creed’s first start in more than three months, whereas Comma to the Top’s recent schedule has been extremely demanding. After engaging in a wicked speed duel in the San Carlos, Comma to the Top shipped across country, ran in the Tom Fool one week later, and came again to narrowly prevail after appearing beaten late. How much can be in his tank right now?

I’m taking a shot with Camp Victory, who is repeating the pattern of a loss in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and then a comeback in the Potrero Grande that he used at this time last year. And though Camp Victory finished third in last year’s Potrero Grande, a repeat of that performance might be good enough this year. That is because last year he finished behind Amazombie, who was the defending male sprint champion and who was still in sharp form then, and Roman Threat, who came back to win the Los Angeles Handicap with a 107 Beyer. In any case, Camp Victory sports an excellent string of recent works for his return.

[SANTA ANITA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

I agonized a long time over the Santa Anita Derby. I was first inclined to go against Hear the Ghost because he got a great setup when he won the San Felipe, and Flashback, because he hasn’t shown any forward Beyer movement. I still don’t have a strong opinion on the race, but I would take Hear the Ghost because he should still get at least a good pace to rally into.

Ashland Stakes

This is a wild betting race. I’m against Emollient. Although the fact she’s running back in a week says we should dismiss her flop in the Gulfstream Oaks, running back in a week is a move that’s worked for trainer Bill Mott only twice in the last five years, and both were with claimers. I also think Private Ensign’s Gulfstream form looks better on paper than it really was, and I’m not taken with the group than ran in the Alcibiades last fall.

I’m going with Kitten’s Point, who has improved since getting Lasix. Yes, Kitten’s Point won the Herecomesthebride most recently after being close to a slow pace. But I believe she’s better as a closer, a style she can revert to here, and she won her debut on a synthetic track.