01/20/2011 8:34PM

Weekend Warrior for Jan. 15, 2011


NEW YORK – Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park step up Saturday with multi-stakes cards. There are three stakes events to be decided at Santa Anita – the Grade 2, $150,000 San Fernando, the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham. Gulfstream, meanwhile, has a pair of Grade 3, $100,000 races – the Mr. Prospector and Sugar Swirl stakes.

Tampa Bay Downs also offers a stakes doubleheader with the Pasco and Gasparilla, which are worth $75,000 each. Also worthy of note is the feature at Golden Gate, the $100,000 California Derby.

San Fernando Stakes

I was taking a shot in this spot with Thiskyhasnolimit even before the scratch of Sidney's Candy, who was certain to be heavily favored. I'm sticking with Thiskyhasnolimit, but the appeal of this race as a betting proposition has diminished for me. That is because with Sidney's Candy out of the picture, Thiskyhasnolimit will now be a significantly lower price.

Thiskyhasnolimit didn’t do much running when sixth most recently in the Malibu, but that was an exceptionally strong race. He also didn’t fire when seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile two starts back, a race that has since taken on a negative look what with one-two finishers Dakota Phone and Morning Line subsequently being an unimpressive 0 for 3. But Thiskyhasnolimit was a very good second three starts back in the Indiana Derby while racing against a speed bias to Lookin At Lucky, 2-year-old male champion of 2009 and likely 3-year-old champ of last year. This will be Thiskyhasnolimit’s first two-turn start since the Indiana Derby, and that is to his benefit.

In the other stakes Saturday at Santa Anita, I like Uncle Sam in the Sham and Zazu in the Santa Ynez. Uncle Sam ran well winning his recent debut, has every license to improve, and is in position to control a slow pace. I also question the field Tapizar humbled in his maiden win (I know the third finisher came back to win at Calder, but the rest of that field is a combined 0 for 5 since), and I think Clubhouse Ride, who ran well in stakes in his last four starts, won’t get a pace to flatter his late run. As for Zazu, she cuts back Saturday to the distance at which she was a game second in the Moccasin two starts back to the highly regarded Turbulent Descent.

Sugar Swirl Stakes

Jessica Is Back has more layoff lines in her recent record than I am usually comfortable with when it comes to horses I like, but I still like her in this spot. Jessica Is Back was a soundly beaten ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in her most recent outing, but she did make a nice middle move in that race, albeit with the grain of the outside runner’s track. In her third two starts back in the Ballerina, Jessica Is Back was compromised by a track on which speed absolutely ruled in sprints. But three starts back in the Princess Rooney, her last attempt at this six- furlong distance, Jessica Is Back won decisively with the kind of stalk-from-close-range trip she will get Saturday. And in the Princess Rooney, Jessica Is Back beat, among others, Dubai Majesty, who came back to win three of her next four, including the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and will likely be last year’s champion female sprinter.

In the Mr Prospector, Big Drama makes his first start since his Breeders’ Cup Sprint win. Big Drama runs well fresh and should handle Custom for Carlos, who, while working brilliantly, still must deal with a nine-month layoff.

California Derby

Positive Response comes into this off two blowout two-turn scores over the track. But he controlled slow paces in both of those wins, and he doesn’t figure to get as comfortable a trip this time.

Dancing At Dark is the play. Dancing At Dark showed sharp improvement winning his last two starts at Hollywood, his second and third starts off the claim, earning Beyer Figures better than what most of Saturday’s opposition has ever earned. Dancing At Dark’s form got a boost when the horse who finished second to him last time out came back to win his next start at Hollywood with an 86 Beyer.

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