07/21/2011 12:58PM

Weekend Warrior for July 23


This is the first Saturday of the two big summer race meets at Del Mar and Saratoga, and that is always a special thing. With the exception of Del Mar, however, North America’s stakes horses seem to have gone missing in action Saturday.

Del Mar’s featured Grade 1, $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes drew a field of eight, and the supporting feature there, the $85,000 Osunitas Stakes, attracted 10. But Arlington’s Grade 3, $100,000 Stars and Stripes, the $100,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap, and Woodbine’s $125,000 Passing Mood Stakes each attracted fields of only seven. Calder’s $75,000 Nancy’s Glitter Handicap drew only six. And Saratoga’s Grade 1, $250,000 Coaching Club American Oaks lured only five, although in fairness, that is about as strong a five-horse field as you could ask to see. The CCA Oaks at least did better than the $70,000 Desert Vixen Stakes. That was supposed to be the feature at Monmouth, but it wasn’t even carded.

Osunitas Stakes

I would have liked to have used both this race and the Eddie Read in this week’s Warrior, purely because of field size, but I couldn’t come up with a clever pick in the Read. I like Caracortado in the Read off his near-miss to the high-class Courageous Cat in the Shoemaker Mile last time out, a race in which Caracortado ran his last half-mile in an excellent 45.42 seconds. As hot as he is right now, I’m against Acclamation because I think he’s better suited to the slower paces found in races at extended distances. And as sharp as the mare Celtic Princess and Smart Bid are at the moment, they are meeting much tougher company Saturday. But I’m sure a lot of other folks will see the Read the way I do, meaning Caracortado will be a short price.

So it’s the Osunitas for the Warrior, and this race is appealing because Turning Top, who is sure to be well backed at the windows because of the massive class drop she’s taking, is vulnerable. Turning Top made her last seven starts in Grade 1 and 2 events, and is now going in a restricted stakes here. But Turning Top was actually in a position to win a couple of those graded stakes, and disappointed when she didn’t. Moreover, she turned in an alarmingly dull performance most recently in the Gamely, finishing a distant seventh, and that was two months ago. Maybe class will prove the decisive factor for Turning Top. But the questions I have about her are too much to ignore considering her probable short price.

I like City to City. City to City showed real ability last year, winning a Grade 2 event and finishing close up in two others behind Grade 1 winner Evening Jewel when that one was at the top of her game. One of those placings to Evening Jewel was a sharp second in the San Clemente over the Del Mar turf course, which is a plus for her here. And City to City looks like she’s primed for a peak performance making her third start off a 10-month layoff while moving from dirt to her preferred turf.

Coaching Club American Oaks

As noted, this race attracted a terrific field. Here they are:

Buster’s Ready – Vastly improved and was much the best winning the Mother Goose last time out.

Plum Pretty – Won the Kentucky Oaks, and the form of that race has since been strongly validated. Was upset in the Hollywood Oaks last time, but was just getting over an illness and probably wasn’t at her best.

Joyful Victory – Fourth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Mother Goose at less than even money, and she’s probably the outsider.

Royal Delta – Broke through with a strong win in the Black-Eyed Susan, beating Buster’s Ready, but has not raced since because of a foot issue.

It’s Tricky – Dominated the Acorn last time out, earning a Beyer Figure of 104 that is the best in this field, and the distant third finisher in the Acorn, Her Smile, came back to win the Grade 1 Prioress with a 96 Beyer.

As big as It’s Tricky ran in the Acorn, and her performance was huge, the Acorn was run in the mud. It’s Tricky had never run that big or that fast before, and I’m always skeptical of breakthrough performances on wet tracks until they are confirmed with a similar effort on a dry track. I’m also leaning against Royal Delta, because she had a perfect trip in the Black-Eyed Susan (and Buster’s Ready did not), and she would have to be really special to win a race like this off a layoff, although she might be. And Joyful Victory doesn’t seem quite good enough.

I expect Plum Pretty to be better second start off the illness and perform Saturday much like she did in the Kentucky Oaks, which makes her formidable. But I liked Buster’s Ready in the Mother Goose, and I’m taking her to win right back. Buster’s Ready stalked a strong early pace and raced three wide around both turns when second in the Black-Eyed Susan, but battled all the way to the finish. In the Mother Goose, she contested the early pace. Buster’s Ready’s versatility and rail draw puts her in line to work out an ideal trip here, whether it’s right with or stalking the pace.

Prairie Meadows Handicap

Stachys and Kate’s Main Man are the first two favorites on the morning line here, presumably because if you discount their recent attempts at the graded stakes level, both sport solid form. But this race is at 1 1/4 miles. Kate’s Main Man has made 45 starts in his career, and not one of them has been beyond 1 1/16 miles. And he’s not even automatic at that trip. And while Stachys did win last year’s Manitoba Derby going nine furlongs, he remains an unknown at this distance.

Worldly is also a question at this trip, and there are times when his will to win has also been in question. But he is the pick because he just might simply be the best horse here. Worldly had no shot in the Stephen Foster last time out, but he did beat the highly regarded Bind two starts back, and last year, he narrowly missed in the Ohio Derby and Northern Dancer stakes. And being a son of A.P. Indy, he should like the added distance.