Overview: There are far too many big stakes races this weekend to preview them all and truth be told in most cases where there is a hot match up the race itself doesn't look like a great betting affair. So to save you some tedious reading about races you probably won't make money off of anyway I'll just shorthand some picks in head to head format.
Street Sense vs Hard Spun - Hard Spun
Lawyer Ron vs Curlin - Curlin
Royal Highness vs Wait A While - Wait A While
Citronnade vs Nashoba's Key - Citronnade
Discreet Cat vs Layoff - Discreet Cat
English Channel vs Dairy Cows - English Channel
In the Daily Racing Form today Jay Privman wrote that Lewis Micheal has a "sneaky upset chance". I don't really agree with that assessment, I think this is his race to lose. As I wrote yesterday I think Lewis Micheal has developed into a very nice horse and he likely ran the best route race on Polytrack ever. This is Cushion track so it's a bit different but he's won on dirt and turf in various places, I really don't think surface is any worry at all. His last two races were sublime and I was especially impressed with his Washington Park Handicap win. He exploded when given his cue and appeared to be a horse of the highest class. That Californian form in here is rather muddled. A lot of the horses are struggling to come to grips with the Polytrack at Del Mar or the Cushion Track at Hollywood. I don't consider Lava Man a likely starter. His connections really seem to prefer to start on the Turf with him. To me that leaves just Tiago, Awesome Gem and maybe Big Booster as legitimate contenders. What stands out though is that all three of those horses like to come from off the pace while Lewis Micheal has excellent tactical speed. Awesome Gem is a solid horse who can usually be counted on to run his best race but for my money he doesn't get there as often as he should. He is often on the losing end of a tight driving finish. Tiago is a horse I'm quite excited about for the future and he might be good enough to win this race right now, if not for Lewis Micheal he'd be my play. But I think his lack of tactical speed will cost him. Big Booster is just a horse I'd take a shot with based on his form over the Hollywood surface which I'm assuming will be similar to this track. Del Mar was totally different and he was not the only horse who failed to adjust successfully. Again he'll be flying in the end and my real hope with him is to liven up the exotic prices behind what I think is a very solid choice.
I'll be up front about this, I don't think Ginger Punch is the best older female in the nation and I don't think 9f against this bunch will prove to be her cup of tea. I know she's been consistent all her career and most see her as a monster in here but I think a number of horses could take her number down. Chief among them is Indian Vale. This horse was a monster and a half as a 3yo and I think she is just now getting back to that kind of form. Her past performances don't necessarily tell the whole story about her. I thought her race last time was a very good one and had it been at 9f she would be the winner. Indian Vale very obviously does not stay a yard past 9f nor does she prefer anything shorter. This distance is what she loves and I like that her last few races may obscure that fact from the public view. She'll be right on the pace and a quick pace is not really a detriment to her. As long as she gets a chance to make her move early. She is not a quick horse so the best way to go with her is to rev her up before the quicker horses plan to set sail. Frankel will likely scratch Sugar Shake since she drew the outside. I'm not a huge Unbridled Belle fan, I think she's good enough to hit the frame but she loves more ground and is certainly most effective at Delaware. Balance is the other horse I'd use against Ginger Punch. Her numbers don't look great and she has not travelled successfully out of California before, but hopefully that was just something that went wrong with her as a 3yo. This year she's been very good and Nashoba's Key and Hystericalady are as tough as you'll find. Her figures aren't great but neither were Hystericalady's when she came east and ran off with the Molly Pitcher. Balance will love the move back to dirt and while she also appreciates two turns I don't this is necessarily a bad setup. She has lots of class and should be coming late.
overall I think the 2yo crop of Californians is has been obscured by the all-weather surfaces. There simply has to be some good 2yo's on the West Coast but because of the way racing is conducted, especially at Del Mar we have not seen the 2yo's for what they are or for what they could be. It might be a guessing game on BC day. But for the Norfolk I have a rather strong fancy in Dixie Chatter. The likely favorite, Salute The Sarge is overrated. He is solid at best but entirely beatable. The outside post won't help him at all. Dixie Chatter comes into this race with a last running line that I love to see with 2yo's. He broke from the outer rail and stayed high on the track all the way around. He was rushed up to the lead prematurely around the turn displaying a very nice turn of foot but was exposed too early and was run down in the lane. He's drilled sharply since on this surface and he handled Hollywood very well which is supposed to be similar to the new Santa Anita. Mandella does not rush his horses along generally but he's not afraid of going for it when he knows he has some talent. Migliore stays on and will likely be more patient this time. I really don't think much of any other horse in the race. In the world of all weather surfaces we know that anything is possible but instead of trying to hedge all the possibilities I'd rather just pick one direction and go with it.