05/26/2011 5:29PM

Weekend Warrior for May 28


NEW YORK – Memorial Day weekend begins Saturday with three of the four graded stakes on the national schedule slated to be run on turf. Those stakes are the Grade 2, $150,000 American Handicap at Hollywood Park, which marks the return to turf by Sidney’s Candy; the Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont Park; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap. The other graded stakes Saturday is the Grade 3, $100,000 Arlington Matron Stakes at Arlington Park, and the co-feature there, the $100,000 Arlington Classic, will be run on grass.

Notably, the richest race in the nation Saturday is not a graded event. That is the $250,000 My Juliet Stakes at Parx Racing.

Arlington Matron

Upperline and Pachattack are two perfectly logical contenders in this race. Of these two, Upperline is the one I most fear. She turned in the best performance of her career when she romped in the Bayou Handicap two starts back. Her most recent outing, a ninth in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile, can be forgiven, as she was simply overmatched. She is now back in with more appropriate company Saturday. Upperline is going from turf to Polytrack, but the surface switch should be no problem, as she aired in the Arlington Park Oaks over this track last summer. Upperline is effective from just about any running position, and she is backed by the strong Michael Stidham barn. There is just very little wrong with her except for her price. Upperline won’t offer much betting value, so I’m looking elsewhere.

Despite a dominating, front-running score with blinkers on in the Maple Leaf Stakes on Woodbine’s Polytrack last fall in her last North American appearance, I’m less sold on Pachattack. Pachattack got away with a very easy lead that day, and I doubt she will be as fortunate this time. Pachattack might still make the front, but opponents with positional speed such as Santina Dond, She’s All In, and even Upperline, are expected to make sure she works harder for it.

Satans Quick Chick is one of four horses in here coming out of Keeneland’s Doubledogdare Stakes, and she’s my pick even if in that race she finished behind two of her opponents Saturday. I’m not going to get hung up on precisely where Satans Quick Chick finished in the Doubledogdare, because that was her first start in two months (the other three had the edge in recency), and after being caught four wide on the first turn, she had a bit of traffic when going well in the very late stages, which might have prevented her from finishing a spot or two closer.

Of more interest to me is Satans Quick Chick’s prior form, which suggests she is good enough to win this. She ran well in her first two starts this year at Oaklawn Park, winning the Pippin Stakes and finishing second in the Bayakoa to Absinthe Minded, who subsequently finished third twice to top older female Havre de Grace, and who last Saturday in the Shuvee Handicap gave fits to another top older female, Awesome Maria. Last fall, Satans Quick Chick finished third in two stakes outings, but she was completely compromised by Pachattack’s slow pace in the Maple Leaf, and she had the unenviable task of facing Horse of the Year Zenyatta and Switch in the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret off an eight-month layoff. Satans Quick Chick did, however, win the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes in the fall of her 3-year-old campaign, and she is the only member of this field to have earned a triple digit Beyer Figure on a synthetic surface.

Louisville Handicap

Musketier, who is in as good form as ever this year at age 9, and Keertana, who is surprisingly facing makes here when she could have raced for more purse money and a higher stakes grade against females in the Sheepshead Bay, look solid. But again, their odds aren’t going to be anything to get excited about.

I find Bearpath intriguing at what should be a square price. Bearpath was a soundly beaten sixth behind Musketier last time out in the Elkhorn Stakes, but that race was at Keeneland. If you look at Bearpath’s most recent past performance cut, you’ll see that his three worst races, beside a ninth in last fall’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic that was run in a knee-deep bog, were on Keeneland’s turf course. If you allow for the possibility that Bearpath just doesn’t like that turf course, then his form is quite competitive against these. He was a good, fast-closing fourth in the Tampa Bay Stakes two starts back in his 2011 debut, and four starts back, he was second in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer to Saratoga specialist Telling, finishing ahead of Al Khali, who won the Bowling Green over Grade 1 turf horse Winchester.

I also think Memorial Maniac might be able to get a piece of this at a huge price. He wasn’t badly beaten in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day despite being totally up against it pace-wise. He now takes a significant class drop while stretching out to a distance close to the one he went when he won the Stars N Stripes Stakes last summer.

Sheepshead Bay Stakes

Hibaayeb, who will appreciate the added distance she gets in this race over the middle distance she went when she ran third in her first start this year, is one of a small group of Godolphin horses who wintered in Florida with assistant trainer Rick Mettee. Given the way Regal Ransom has run in narrow stakes defeats this year, most recently in the Alysheba, this particular group of Godolphin runners merits extra respect. But Hibaayeb’s main calling card is still her win in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes in her U.S. debut last fall, and I don’t think that edition of the Yellow Ribbon was a strong one, even if third place finisher Gypsy’s Warning came back to win the Matriarch.

I’m going with Cheetah. Cheetah impressed winning at Keeneland in her U.S. debut, trouncing Dyna Waltz, who came back to be a sharp dead-heat second in last Saturday’s Gallorette Handicap on the Preakness undercard, and her Racing Post Ratings earned in England suggests she fits in this spot.