- It's pretty slim pickings for graded stakes races on Saturday. The Palos Verdes is a Grade 2 sprint, but it drew just four entries. The Pletcher barn has Friendly Island, making his first start since his second in the Sprint. After a slow start, surrogate trainer Michael McCarthy has two wins, a second and two thirds in as many starts. And none of them were less than 2.30 to 1.
But Friendly Island is listed at 6-5. It's an opportunity for those convinced that the inside was the Path to Glory on Breeders Cup day to take a stand; the horse had the rail into the stretch, and then angled out to the 3-4 path before rallying for second at 58-1. He's been pretty consistent at this distance, has run well off similar layoffs, and shows some nice works on the Cushion Track.
Frankel starts To Sender on the dirt for the first time, but he seems an unlikely candidate for this surface with his pedigree, despite some nice works on the Cushion Track. He's by Irish stud King's Best (Kingmambo), who stands for €35,000 for Darley; he's out of a Sadler's Wells half sister to Epsom Derby winner Commander in Chief, and his distaff family is filled with European stakes winners. If he fails to fire on dirt, that would likely leave Limited Creole on the lead alone, and a tough task for the favorite and closer Harvard Avenue.
Gulfstream has the Grade 3 First Lady, also a six furlong sprint. Malibu Mint is listed as the 8-5 favorite. She had those two huge races last summer - her upset of Dubai Escapade at Calder, and her subsequent second to Stormy Kiss in the Honorable Miss at Saratoga. Since then, the only races in which she's crossed the wire first have been on Polytrack; and she's failed to Beyer over 91. She was smacked in the snout in her last at
Gulfstream Aqueduct and placed first, but she looked beaten before the incident.
Contrast (Unbridled) makes her first start for Alan Goldberg since taking the Candy Eclair at Monmouth by five in June. Contrast is a daughter of the BC Sprint winner Safely Kept, and would the latter have run in that race if there was a F&M Sprint at that time? Contrast took her debut, and has won off a longer layoff than this. She's lost just once in five starts, but has to be considered a question mark given her erratic campaign.
Any Limit has been working insane for Allan Jerkins - two recent bullets over the track in 45.2 and 57.3! She's only had a few days to recover from the latter one, but seems to be quite happy at Gulfstream, where she disappointed in her first two career starts last year. She seems a cut below graded stakes company, but her Moss Pace Figures, in beta mode for the Form, suggest that at this distance, she could make a winning move to the lead on the turn. While I'm not at liberty to disclose the details, I can assure you that if nothing else, Moss's figures will be the result of an absolutely exhaustive effort to factor in any and every possible factor.
The Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap may be the most interesting betting stakes of the day, and perhaps I'll be able to get to that in the morning for my intimate weekend audience.
- Brad Free, writing in the subscription DRF Plus section of the Form, tells of a three-year old he likes:
A colt by Point Given making his second start Jan. 12, Air Commander raced greenly in the mile race, pulled himself up after making the lead late, then re-rallied to miss by a head. Point Given offspring often are slow learners; Air Commander, who earned an 83 Beyer, could be the real deal.He's a Bob Baffert-trainee who's out of a Star De Naskra mare, and he's a half-brother to the Dwyer winner Medallist.