Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend Picks And Analysis

Aristides Stakes
Earlier this month I got burned by Sok Sok as he floundered in the Churchill mud. He was my best bet of the Derby day and it was a little shocking to see him check in 5th. I'm going back to the well for one more shot on him here because all the reasons that I liked him still exist. He's got a great record in dirt sprints and it's even better if you take out his latest effort on a sloppy track. I think 6f is more his game than 7f so the cutback will suit but the biggest thing that is to his advantage here is the step down in class. This is a much easier race. Semaphore Man, Premium Wine, Vicarian and Bold Start are all useful horses but far from brilliant. Sok Sok ought to be able to handle this group unless I've misread him completely.

Sok Sok

Nassau Stakes
This race is being billed as a match race between Callwood Dancer and Rutherienne. Given that they're the only two horses in the race to earn a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure it might be wise to simply stick with the chalk. But I think any handicapper that takes a close look at the favorites can see that they're vulnerable. Rutherienne is winless in her last 7 and Callwood Dancer has just one allowance win in her last 7. I know they had a combined 10 graded stakes placings in those 14 starts but the single win leads me to conclude that each of these fillies are not exactly in the winning habit. It's pretty common for both of them to be well backed but somewhat rare for either of them to win. The problem with this race is that there aren't many logical alternatives. That may wind up being an opportunity because if anyone other than the top two wins it should pay well but coming up with the right horse will be tricky. Points of Grace has a great record and could be an emerging talent that is better than her speed figures. I've often thought that the toughest race for any horse to win is that first step into allowance company after a maiden win. Point of Grace can be forgiven for not winning that one in her second career start. Her only other loss came at the hands of Tizaqueena who, despite lower speed figures, proved herself to be a very capable horse on Derby day. I still suspect that she needs a bit more experience before beating this type but she would not be all that shocking. I think I'm going to settle on Scenery Change as my primary selection though. She doesn't seem fast enough according to Beyer but the other speed measurements I use say that she is good enough. She was a well thought of youngster with the conservative Matz tossing her in stakes company while she was still a maiden but she took a while to come to hand. Matz finally started to coax the best out of her and she was sent to Josie Carroll, likely with the intention of pillaging Woodbine's turf program. She's been okay in two starts this season but she was never going to be well suited to leading a Polytrack race from start to finish. She has perked up in the mornings at Woodbine and I think she's capable of running a big race.

Scenery Change

Gamely Stakes
I think a lot of connections will be praying that Tuscan Evening stays in the race to keep Diamond Diva honest but I think she's going to scratch for the easier spot. The Diva may not get things her own way if Ainamaa is sent like she was in her last two. I respect Diamond Diva a great deal but I'm always inclined to oppose milers that are stretching out. Diamond Diva beats this field at 8f but at 9f she is definitely a question mark on stamina. There are some good closers in this race and I'm going to hope that one of them gets up in time to deny Diamond Diva. Toque de Queda is the horse that interests me most. I think she'll love the shorter distance. It should sharpen her kick a great deal. In Europe she was at her best around a mile or 9f but all her races in North America have been nearer to 10f. I thought Espinoza moved a little too soon on her last time out but with the added experience of having been on her and the shorter distance I think it's a recipe for Frankel's 4th G-1 of the year. I respect Black Mamba because she loves the course and distance but I think she's more likely to run up for third.

Toque de Queda

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