01/17/2013 3:21PM

Weekend Warrior for Jan. 19, 2013: Picks for Lecomte Stakes, Sunshine Millions Sprint, and Silverbulletday


Gulfstream Park plays host again Saturday to the Sunshine Millions and as was the case last year, the main attraction in this six-race event for Florida breds – the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic – came up strong. Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek are important members of the handicap division. They finished one-two in last year’s Sunshine Millions Classic and are back for a rematch.

Fair Grounds also has a multi-stakes card – although not as many stakes as first intended. Two turf stakes originally scheduled for Saturday were postponed. Still, Fair Grounds offers a stakes tripleheader, led by the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes.

Santa Anita has the highest graded stakes Saturday, the Grade 2, $150,000 Palos Verdes.

Lecomte Stakes

Circle Unbroken, Oxbow, and Avie’s Quality seem to be the “name” horses coming into this race, but although each has obvious merit, none is so imposing as to dissuade you from looking elsewhere. Circle Unbroken showed talent as an early-season 2-year-old last year, winning the Bashford Manor and narrowly beaten when second in the Mountaineer Juvenile, far ahead of the rest of the field. He also sports an excellent five-furlong work out of the gate last Sunday. But Circle Unbroken will be going two turns for the first time off a five-month absence, and those are not easy obstacles to overcome, especially since Circle Unbroken doesn’t have an appreciable edge on several others in here.

Oxbow finished fourth in the CashCall Futurity last time out after a wide trip from the outside post, and this is an easier spot. Then again, Oxbow was soundly beaten in California, just as he was in two of the three other races he finished. He must prove his big maiden win two back isn’t the aberration.

Avie’s Quality is dangerous. He improved dramatically with the addition of blinkers two starts ago, and the 91 Beyer Figure he earned for winning the Display most recently is the best in this field. This will be Avie’s Quality’s first start on dirt, however, and I am not inclined to guess he will be as effective on it as he has been on synthetic and turf.

I admit I have a weakness for lightly raced horses with potential who are moving up in class. Golden Soul, my play here, is just such a horse. Golden Soul doesn’t have the class lines or Beyers some others in this field have. But off the raw ability he showed in his first two starts, there is a distinct possibility that Golden Soul is a real racehorse.

Golden Soul should have won his debut at Churchill in November. After being allowed to drop back early, he was ready to roll on the far turn, only to be shuffled back on the rail behind tiring opponents. Golden Soul also had to angle out in the stretch for racing room. Considering all his trouble, he did well to be beaten just a head. Golden Soul had no trouble last time out in his Fair Grounds debut and scored in a blowout. I like that Golden Soul owns a big two-turn win over the track, that he took a step forward in his second start, and that he has tons of room to take an even bigger step forward this time.

Sunshine Millions Sprint

Bahamian Squall and Star Harbour are much improved and come into this off triple-digit Beyer wins in their last starts. The problem for both is their set-ups this time are nowhere near as favorable as they were in their recent scores. Star Harbour wired a solid allowance field last time out at Aqueduct in what was actually his second straight triple-digit Beyer victory. But he was unchallenged on a relatively easy lead, and he does not figure to get an easy lead Saturday if he indeed even makes the front, especially with speed horses firing to his immediate inside and outside out of the gate.

As for Bahamian Squall, his stalking style neatly fits the anticipated pace scenario. But he fell into an easy rail run when he won the Sunshine State Stakes over the track last time out, and it will take some serious magic for him to pull a trip anywhere near as sweet this time.

I like Bernie the Maestro to win his third straight. On paper, it seems as though Bernie the Maestro is taking a huge step up from the group he dispatched winning Claiming Crown Rapid Transit opening day at Gulfstream. But maybe the class jump isn’t as big as it might appear considering that Off the Jak, who was a soundly whipped second to Bernie the Maestro in the Rapid Transit, came back to be a close second in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector. What’s important to me is that Bernie the Maestro is in line for a trip very much like the one that worked so well for him in the Claiming Crown, stalking a hot pace from close range from an outside post.

Silverbulletday Stakes

This is a great betting race with a lot of ways for the public to go. As for me, I’m skeptical of Seaneen Girl and Gal About Town, the first two finishers in the Golden Rod, ostensibly the best last race for anyone in this field. I just question how strong that Golden Rod really was. I’m also in “show-me” mode with Ciao Bella Luna. Beyond the fact that this will be her first attempt on dirt, I can’t make an excuse for her loss at 2-5 last time out in the Golden Gate Debutante.

I’m going with Touch Magic. Touch Magic raised her game in her first start around two turns last time out, finishing a narrowly beaten second at 25-1 in the Delta Downs Princess. Touch Magic was bumped around at the start at Delta, was forced to go five wide around the far turn when making her rally, and was edged by an opponent in Rose to Gold who won her previous two dirt starts by double-digit margins.