Updated on 04/07/2011 7:09PM

Weekend Warrior for April 9

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Saturday is the biggest day of racing so far this year in New York, as Aqueduct, along with Santa Anita and Hawthorne, stages its signature Kentucky Derby preps.

With sponsorship that enabled it to boost the purse of the Wood Memorial to $1 million, Aqueduct’s Grade 1 springboard to Louisville attracted undefeated Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo. The Wood tops a card that includes three other graded stakes events – the Grade 1, $250,000 Carter Handicap, the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Comely.

The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, Southern California’s premier stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby, also boasts a purse of $1 million, and heads a card that includes three other stakes. Those undercard stakes are the Grade 2, $150,000 Arcadia, the Grade 2, $150,000 Providencia, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap.

Hawthorne’s Grade 3, $300,000 Illinois Derby is certainly not the only other stakes Saturday worthy of mention. Other races of note include the Grade 1, $400,000 Ashland at Keeneland, and the Grade 2, $350,000 Oaklawn Stakes.

Carter Handicap
There are some very capable horses in this race, including Morning Line, Calibrachoa, and Kensei. I respect those three, but I am willing to bet against them. On the surface, there is little wrong with Morning Line’s form since he prevailed in the Pennsylvania Derby last September, as he was just nailed in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and finished third in the Hal’s Hope and second in the Donn over the winter at Gulfstream. But I’m not sure how good the races Morning Line ran in recently really were. Dakota Phone, who nipped him in the Breeders’ Cup, came back to run poorly in his subsequent starts. And the two who bracketed Morning Line in the Donn, Giant Oak and Rule, both came back to lose as the favorites in their subsequent stakes starts.

As for Calibrachoa, all he has done since being claimed by that well-known claiming trainer Todd Pletcher last November is win three straight sprint stakes on Aqueduct’s inner track. However, Calibrachoa will be facing much tougher company Saturday.

Kensei is tougher for me to go against because he was a game second in his recent return from a four-month layoff in the Santana Mile at Santa Anita to Misremembered, the 2010 Santa Anita Handicap winner who won that race as though he is the best older male in the country. I just think Kensei is at his best with more distance than the seven furlongs he gets in this spot.

Apriority has evolved into an absolute running fool and is the play even if he doesn’t have some of the obvious class lines others in here have. Apriority signaled his emergence with a win at Gulfstream three starts back over an opponent who came back to win with a 105 Beyer Figure. He then shipped across country and just missed in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita to Amazombie, winner of last Sunday’s Grade 2 Potrero Grande with a 102 Beyer. But it was Apriority’s most recent performance that showed what a freak he has become. Despite stumbling at the start, he crushed a couple of solid opponents, and despite winning with something in reserve, he still ran fast enough to earn a Beyer of 113, by far the best in this field.

Ashland

Kathmanblu is the marquee filly in this event, even though this will mark her first career start on a synthetic surface. Kathmanblu has won three straight stakes, and four of her last five, and her strong form on turf, the surface on which I happen to think she is at her best, does bode well for a successful switch to Polytrack. But I have questions about the fillies Kathmanblu has beaten lately. Excited, who finished second to Kathmanblu in the Sweetest Chant Stakes (and who is also entered in this race), came back to lose as the favorite in the Herecomesthebride Stakes, getting a Beyer 10 points lower than the one she got when in with Kathmanblu. Inglorious, who finished second to Kathmanblu most recently in the Rachel Alexandra, came back to be fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the Fair Grounds Oaks, earning a 79 Beyer. And while Grand Lioness did come back to win the Prima Donna Stakes after finishing third in the Rachel Alexandra, she earned a Beyer of only 79 in that score.

I like Wyomia. Wyomia showed a good late kick when she won last month’s Suncoast Stakes on dirt in Tampa, and what was so impressive about it is she did so off a four-month layoff, and from farther off the early pace than she has to be. Wyomia now switches to a synthetic surface similar to the one on which she decisively won the Mazarine Stakes last fall, and she can be more forwardly placed this time.

Santa Anita Derby

I’m taking a flyer on Comma to the Top. Even though Comma to the Top was beaten 9 1/2 lengths in the San Felipe, I actually think he ran okay considering the insane fractions he was a part of, and the fact that the other two pace players, Albergatti and Runflatout, finished next-to-last and last, beaten 33 1/2 and 37 lengths, respectively. Comma to the Top should have a much easier time on the pace Saturday, and let’s not forget, there was a time late last year when he was considered perhaps the best of his generation out West.

As for the Wood Memorial, this will be Uncle Mo’s first start going nine furlongs. But given the opposition, he is supposed to win by many lengths. The Illinois Derby field is not strong, but I will take Sour, who looks like a true two-turn horse, over Watch Me Go, who must show me his 43-1 upset of the Tampa Bay Derby wasn’t a fluke.