12/01/2011 1:00PM

Weekend Warrior for Dec. 3

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Many weeks, the Weekend Warrior wishes he could talk about twice as many stakes as the three he is allocated. But that is not the case this week.

Despite the openings of Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, it’s slim pickings on the national stakes schedule, with only one graded race, the Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park. Beyond that, however, many stakes went with small fields. For example, the two richest races Saturday, the $150,000 Zia Park Derby, and the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Fair Grounds, each has a field of only six. But while it wasn’t easy, the Warrior did find three races to discuss.

Native Diver Handicap

There are only seven entered here, but it is at least an interesting race. Certainly, after running in Grade 1 races in his last three starts and winning a Grade 2 stakes before that, Tres Borrachos has been keeping better company lately than anyone else in here. But while he merits respect on that score alone, he doesn’t strike me as being unbeatable.

On the plus side, Tres Borrachos deserves a nod for resurrecting his career, and Martin Jones, who took over his training this year, deserves credit. Tres Borrachos really looked like he was done dealing after failing to even hit the board once in seven starts last season. But for Jones this year, Tres Borrachos came from well back to win the San Diego Handicap, and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Of course, a contrarian could say he beat little in the San Diego, and his Dirt Mile effort most recently was essentially a clunk along special.

But the two things that bother me about Tres Borrachos on Saturday are the pace scenario and the distance. Early in his career, Tres Borrachos was a speed horse, and the fact that he disputed a fast pace before fading to fifth in the Goodwood Stakes two starts back says he still retains some zip. That normally would be an asset with the speed-starved pace scenario we have Saturday. The thing is, however, Tres Borrachos’s performances in the San Diego and Dirt Mile suggest his most effective style at this stage of his career is closing.

As to the 1 1/8-mile distance in this race, Tres Borrachos did win the 2008 Swaps Stakes going nine furlongs. But that seems like a stark exception, because his record otherwise at this trip (one third in seven tries) suggests that he doesn’t want to go quite this far.

Because of the pace setup, I gave a long look to Tweebster, and came thisclose to picking him. Tweebster has positional speed, and his seconds early this year in the Grade 2 Strub and Grade 2 San Fernando say he is capable of winning a race like this. But I decided against Tweebster because I wasn’t thrilled with the way he was drilled as the 6-5 favorite by a longshot in a restricted stakes last time out, even if he was coming off an eight-month layoff. And by taking the blinkers off, Tweebster’s connections are hinting that they want him to relax early, so they might not be interested in him being a pace player.

I’m going with one of the two new faces here, Rescue Squad. Rescue Squad comes into this off a win over an admittedly moderate allowance field at Keeneland, but that score made Rescue Squad 2 for 2 on synthetic surfaces and at nine furlongs on the main track. Rescue Squad now seems primed for a peak performance third start back off an 11-month absence, and if he cycles back to his best Beyer Figures, it would make him competitive with the Beyers most of the others here have been getting lately.

What is also intriguing about Rescue Squad is he is a rare Southern California starter for trainer Shug McGaughey. Daily Racing Form ’s Formulator shows that since the 2008 Breeders Cup, McGaughey has had only seven starters on this circuit, none of them winners. But all of those starters were in Grade 1 or 2 races, and his best finish came just last Sunday when Imagining was a close second in the Hollywood Derby.

Hollywood Park

Native Diver Handicap

3 and up, 6 furlongs

Approximate Post: 4:07 PT, Inglewood, CA., forecast: Sunny, 66°

PP

Horse

Last 3 Beyers

ODDS

1

Kettle Corn

90

85

92

6-1

1

Eldaafer

77

86

95

5-1

1

Tweebster

96

90

94

3-1

1

Rescue Squad

86

83

94

4-1

1

Summer Movie

80

79

76

12-1

1

Tres Borrachos

100

93

90

5-2

1

Massone

97

95

90

6-1

Track Odds

Pick: Rescue Squad

Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes

Baryshnikov goes back to turf here, which seems to be his best game these days, after being completely out of his element last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, and being pace-compromised two starts back in the WinStar Kentucky Cup. Before that, Baryshnikov finished third in the Bernard Baruch behind Turallure, who came back to win the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and miss by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and Get Stormy, winner of two Grade 1 races this year. And that’s not the only imposing class line Baryshnikov can boast. Earlier this year, he was second in a pair of Grade 2 events to Wise Dan and Paddy O’Prado. Baryshnikov will obviously take a ton of beating here. I just prefer Compliance Officer.

I know that when he went on his five-race win streak this year, Compliance Officer was beating only New York-breds. But there were times during that streak, particularly in his wins in the West Point, Ashley T. Cole, and Mohawk, when Compliance Officer looked monstrous in victory. And I can forgive his loss most recently in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and not because of the trouble line he has, because he really wasn’t bothered that much in the stretch incident triggered by Goldikova. Compliance Officer was simply overmatched in that race, it didn’t help that he was caught four to five wide around both turns, and he was wrapped up late when obviously beaten.

Fair Grounds

Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes

3 and up, about 1 1/16 miles, turf

Approximate Post: 3:55 CT, New Orleans La, forecast: Breezy, 70°

PP

Horse

Last 3 Beyers

ODDS

1

Avenstroke

78

75

70

12-1

1

Compliance Officer

77

97

96

3-1

1

Thabazimbi

58

74

91

9-2

1

Live In Joy

70

76

86

8-1

1

Quick Delivery

86

80

85

6-1

1

Baryshnikov

68

77

96

2-1

1

Monzante

78

80

72

12-1

1

Ducduc

86

79

75

12-1

Track Odds

Pick: Compliance Officer


Spectacular Bid Stakes

It’s hard to have great faith in a horse who was beaten nearly 20 and nearly 43 lengths in two of his last three starts like Vexor has, but I still believe he’s the right horse here. Vexor comes out of stronger, faster-paced races such as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint and Hopeful, and his win two back in the Nashua was solid compared to the rest here. Vexor looks like the controlling speed.

Luke of York, who made it 2 for 2 with a stakes win at Keeneland most recently, is a logical alternative. But while it’s anyone’s guess how the Gulfstream main track will play, I’m not inclined to go with the deep closing Luke of York until I see horses with that style are able to win there.

Gulfstream Park

Spectacular Bid Stakes

2-year olds, 6 furlongs

Approximate Post: 4:33 ET, Hallandale Beach, FL., forecast: Windy, 77°

PP

Horse

Last 3 Beyers

ODDS

1

Jordan's Image

66

71

63

8-1

1

Rex'Last Tour

64

60

62

20-1

1

Vexor

45

80

-0

3-1

1

Blings Express

68

66

66

10-1

1

Luke of York

80

79

 

5-2

1

For Oby

77

48

69

6-1

1

Ancient Rome

80

60

 

4-1

1

Town Prize

69

67

76

6-1

Track Odds

Pick: Vexor