Feb 19, 2010
Five Graded Stakes Highlight the Weekend
By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor, Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are five graded three-year-old stakes races this Saturday to get the Kentucky Derby juices flowing.
Leading the way is the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. The $250,000 Grade 2 event features the return of Buddy's Saint, winner of both the Remsen and Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct last November.
The bay colt was disqualified from his maiden win last September but trainer Bruce Levine thought so much of that performance he placed the son of Saint Liam in the Nashua Stakes after one career start. The horse did not disappoint winning by 12 lengths, earning a 101 Beyer number. He followed that effort with an easy 4 3/4-length score in the nine-furlong Remsen.
Buddy's Saint has already garnered over $200,000 in graded earnings so a win here is not imperative, especially since this will be his first race since November. Due to those circumstances, it's best to proceed with caution if he's your top choice in the race.
Three other Future Wager Pool 1 single entrants are also on the bill in the Fountain of Youth, including Jackson Bend and Eskendereya.
Both colts have a race over the track as the former ran a bang-up second to the injured Winslow Homer in the Holy Bull Stakes, while the latter comes off a gate-to-wire victory in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in early January.
Jackson Bend sports just $30,000 in graded earnings so this race is of ultra- importance to trainer Nick Zito, who will be racing the son of Hear No Evil for only the second time. He had to be impressed with the chestnut colt's effort in the Holy Bull despite racing five wide for much of the race. The only question this Saturday is the distance, as Jackson Bend is not bred to go nine panels.
Eskendereya is the "wise-guy" horse, as a lot of racing experts fell in love with his victory last time out. However, the competition that day left a lot to be desired. Second-place finisher Thank U Philippe has been taken off the Derby trail and Middle of the Nite, who ran third by only two lengths, was a well- beaten fifth chasing Rule in the recently run Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.
The key to the race could be Lost Aptitude, who has already been the distance in the Tropical Park Derby, albeit on the turf. The Dale Romans-trained colt will make his dirt debut after six races over the weeds, but he's won three of his last five, including a perfect two-for-two around two turns on firm turf. In addition, he should be able to control the pace from the front end. If he handles the surface, he could be hard to beat at big odds.
The pick is Lost Aptitude over Jackson Bend and Buddy's Saint.
The other graded stakes race for three-year-olds at Gulfstream Park is the seven-furlong Hutcheson, which drew a field of eight.
It's doubtful any of these colts will make it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, but there are two longshots to look out for in Hear Ye Hear Ye and Sum Champ.
CAN RON THE GREEK MAKE IT TWO IN A ROW?
Trailing Maximus Ruler by seven lengths with one furlong remaining, Ron the Greek exploded through the stretch to post a 1 1/4-length win in the LeComte Stakes earlier in the Fair Grounds meet. He'll look for another victory in the $300,000 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes.
Ron the Greek has three wins in four starts, but the stone closer will be overbet this time around after surprising the LeComte field at 7-1. He's certainly not a sure thing, especially with the likes of Drosselmeyer, Tempted to Tapit, Hotep and Stay Put lining up in the starting gate.
Drosselmeyer has already won two straight at two different tracks, breaking his maiden by six at Churchill Downs, then winning as the 4-5 favorite in a non- winners of one allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
Tempted to Tapit wowed the Aqueduct crowd last month with an electrifying 11 1/2-length win over a muddy track earning a 100 Beyer in his first race with blinkers, and the Steve Klesaris-trained gelding should be the controlling speed from post two.
Hotep is another horse that could take home the winner's share of the purse. He's a half-brother to Eye of the Leopard, who won last year's Queen's Plate, Canada's version of the Kentucky Derby. Hotep coasted to an easy victory over the track on February 1 winning as he pleased by 3 1/4-lengths.
Prior to that race, he was fourth to three Risen Star combatants: Stay Put, Worldly and Letsgetitonmon. Of those three, Stay Put has the number one chance of crossing the wire first in the Risen Star.
He's undefeated in Louisiana with two consecutive wins and both were very impressive. His initial victory came over a sloppy track while running close to the pace, and the most recent win was a come-from-behind effort after breaking slowly out of the gate. His versatility should prove beneficial in a very well- matched event.
The pick is Stay Put over Drosselmeyer and Tempted to Tapit.
THE RE-DRAWN SOUTHWEST STAKES
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has Dublin on the Kentucky Derby trail, and last Monday's cancellation was very beneficial to both. Dublin had drawn the dreaded post 10 that day but now moves inside to post three.
After winning the Hopeful at Saratoga, the colt threw in two clunkers as the favorite in the both the Champagne and the Iroquois. He then underwent surgery for an entrapped epiglottis and Lukas now feels the $525,000 purchase should be back to his old form.
One horse that got hammered by the rescheduling is Conveyance, who went from post two to number nine. The expected pacesetter might have to do too much to get to the front end, which could also affect Dryfly, the other speed in the race.
Look for Pleasant Storm, who finished second to Dryfly in the Smarty Jones Stakes, to rally for the victory over longshot Cool Bullet in the Grade 3 Southwest.
The expected fast pace should help Pleasant Storm move past his tired rivals, while Cool Bullet overcame a poorly timed middle move in the LeComte to finish fourth, beaten less than four lengths.
The pick is Pleasant Storm over Cool Bullet and Dublin.
HEADING WEST TO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
The top three finishers from the California Derby collide once again in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
Ranger Heartley won that race by three-quarters of a length over Connemara, who finished a neck ahead of Thomas Baines. The winner had it all his own way on the front end with a two-length lead right off the bat after the other two broke slowly from the gate.
As Ranger Heartley bore out through the stretch, both Connemara and Thomas Baines rallied on the inside part of the track to come within a neck of the tiring leader. However, they were never able to pass the winner, who even pulled away near the finish to take the California Derby by almost a length.
To put it bluntly, the race left a lot to be desired so don't be shocked to see an outsider win on Saturday.
Posse Power wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown but he's on a two-race win streak at Golden Gate. His initial victory came by five lengths at six-furlongs and then the son of Posse stretched out to 1 1/16-miles where he wore down Dream Nettie to win by a head.
He then put in a bullet five-furlong workout over the track and should be poised to take the El Camino Real Derby in his first stakes attempt.
The pick is Posse Power over Connemara.
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