06/20/2013 12:28PM

Weekend Warrior for June 22: Picks for Donald LeVine, Debutante, Colonial Turf Cup


The big race of the day Saturday is the Grade 1, $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, which marks the first start for Dreaming of Julia since her rough-trip fourth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks. But the Mother Goose isn’t Saturday’s only important race for 3-year-old fillies. The other is the Grade 2, $150,000 Hollywood Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park. Unfortunately, both the Mother Goose and Hollywood Oaks attracted only five-horse fields.

Otherwise, the focus Saturday will be on the graded stakes doubleheader at Colonial Downs. The two main events on that card are the Grade 2, $300,000 Colonial Turf Cup, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes.

Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap

As one might expect in this feature at Parx Racing, the three in here with the best records – Travelin Man, Pass You Bye Bye, and Luckysdream – are the three morning-line favorites. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their vulnerabilities. If Travelin Man can duplicate his decisive victory in the Sir Shackleton Stakes two starts back, he will be hard to beat. But the Sir Shackleton was at Gulfstream Park, as were as Travelin Man’s other four career wins. He just hasn’t run quite as well elsewhere as he has at that track. Moreover, Travelin Man was decidedly flat when fourth as the even-money favorite in the Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth last time out on a sealed, sloppy surface he should have liked. And I’m not crazy about his rail draw here as far more often than not, the inside is not the place to be at Parx. In fairness, however, jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who is winning at a 24 percent clip at the meet, will know to get Travelin Man to the outside, if he can.

As for Pass You Bye Bye and Luckysdream, both ran well when 1-2 in the Decathlon, and they are improved performers. But the Decathlon was six furlongs, and this race is seven furlongs. I have always believed that there is a far bigger difference between six- and seven-furlong races than a simple eighth of a mile. I think seven-furlong races place an exponentially greater emphasis on stamina than six-furlong races do. Pass You Bye Bye and Luckysdream might prove that they have the requisite ability to get seven furlongs. But going in, they are complete unknowns going that distance.

Ideally in seven-furlong races, I like middle-distance types who either look like they have the potential, or already proven that they can successfully turn back in distance. Private Tale fits the bill here for me. After Private Tale notched his second and third career wins last year in one-mile races at Belmont and Parx, he cut back to seven furlongs in a tough starter handicap at Saratoga, and gave the prolific Saginaw a challenge in finishing second. And Private Tale followed with a seven-furlong win at Laurel.

Over the winter, Private Tale stretched out to routes and ran well, including a win in the Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel from far off the pace. But in his recent return from a four-month break, Private Tale cut back to seven furlongs in a starter event at Belmont, and ran perhaps the best race of his life when dropping a nose decision to Saginaw. Saginaw should need no introduction, but for the record, he came back to win the Affirmed Success Stakes to make it 20 wins in 39 career starts. In any case, although Private Tale pulled eight pounds from Saginaw last time, he had the more difficult trip. Saginaw controlled a pace that was only moderate, while Private Tale was shuffled back and had to go three wide on the turn. And yet, he almost overcame that trip.

Traffic Light is also dangerous here. A middle-distance horse at heart, Traffic Light recently returned from a six-month absence with a fine win at the distance over the track, in which he finished strongly. My one concern with Traffic Light is he will have to deal with a faster pace than he saw in his comeback.

Debutante Stakes

All 11 in this headliner at Churchill Downs were last-out winners, but for me, the most impressive of them were Teardrop and Fiftyshadesofgold. Teardrop made her debut last month at Churchill and had an eventful trip, to say the least. A half-sister to Grade 1 stakes winner Pyro, Teardrop broke about three lengths slow, and then raced five to six wide on the far turn, appearing to try to get out despite being under severe corrective action from jockey Rosie Napravnik. Yet with all of that, Teardrop drew off to score by almost four lengths.

As for Fiftyshadesofgold, she was sent off the 3-5 favorite in a field of 10 Texas-bred fillies at Lone Star Park in her only start. After settling nicely early and racing four wide on the far turn, Fiftyshadesofgold, ran away to win by 10 lengths while well in hand.

Teardrop should only benefit from the experience gained in her debut and might have the higher ceiling, but I’m going with Fiftyshadesofgold. I liked the professionalism Fiftyshadesofgold showed in her first start, and she should get a similar trip this time.

Colonial Turf Cup [Get PPs + Watch Live]

Two of Air Support’s best career performances, a win in the 2011 Virginia Derby and a second in this race last year after a troubled start to the loose-on-the-lead Turbo Compressor, came on the course he will race on Saturday evening. But Air Support’s two losses this year without excuses are a concern, and I’m taking the logical alternative, Atigun.

I liked Atigun last time out in the Louisville Handicap, and he ran well while finishing a close second to Dark Cove, especially considering that Atigun was boxed in on the rail at a critical juncture while Dark Cove enjoyed a clear trip on the outside and got first run. I still think Atigun is capable of better, and I like the rider switch back to Julien Leparoux, for whom Atigun has done some of his best work.