If you needed a chance to catch your breath and digest all of the racing that’s been blitzing the past few Saturdays, now is your chance. This final weekend of February, which will hopefully mark the end to the worst winter in recent memory, will bring us only three 3 year old races of great interest, and only one of those is packed with drool-worthy contenders; this race just so happens to be a test against some salty fillies.
The Grade II Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park offers an intriguing mix of fillies, from graded stakes winners to hot-topic horses looking to make a name for themselves. Leading contenders include the red-hot Sassy Image, on a 3-race win streak including the Pocahontas, Golden Rod, and Sweetest Chant Stakes; last year, Sassy Image was the star up-and-coming juvenile filly on dirt, and looks to be in the same form as a 3-year-old. Her lone start of the year came in the Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream this January, where her debut on the turf was serendipitously detoured by a wet track; Sassy Image romped in the slop when the race was moved to the main track, winning by an easy 4 ½ lengths under Robby Albarado. Last time out, Bickersons blew away a talented field in the Grade II Forward Gal at Gulfstream, deftly pulling away to win by a clear seven lengths. Amen Hallelujah, who won her last time out in the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita, has never run on dirt, and has run out of the money only once in her career–her maiden race. Then there’s Christine Daae, the “now horse” that has been touted by some as “the next Rachel.” Christine Daae has only won one race in two career starts, but that 6-furlong test on dirt proved this filly could be something special; the race serving as our crystal ball for Christine’s future took place at Gulfstream in January, and proved no sweat to the daughter of Giant’s Causeway (who also sired Eskendereya, the runaway winner of the Fountain of Youth last Saturday). The Davona Dale, to be run at one mile, will serve as a major prep race for the Kentucky Oaks, and several of these fillies could end up meeting again at Churchill Downs.
Also at Gulfstream this Saturday, an allowance race between some notable 3-year-old colts will be more exciting than some of the other stakes this weekend. The allowance stars Homeboykris, the winner of the Grade I Champagne Stakes as a juvenile, but has yet to produce that winning form in 2010. Group 2 winner Radiohead, who was scratched from last Saturday’s Hutcheson, will be attempting to win his first race in America. But the big buzz is with General Maximus, a promising colt who has won both of his previous starts, his last time out besting my boy Afleet Express in a Gulfstream allowance going 6 furlongs. You have to respect the front-running General Maximus; the betting public certainly does, and they have made him the favorite over the stakes winners. This notable allowance will be the third race on the card and features a field of seven.
The Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita is a pretty wide-open affair, boasting only one stakes winner in a field of ten starters. That being said, the favorite will most likely be Baffert-trainee The Program or Eoin Harty-trained Kettle River; The Program won an allowance going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita last time out on February 3rd. Kettle River is has won 2 of 3 starts, both of his wins coming in California, with one at this track. Honestly, there’s not a lot that stands out in this crowd, which is too bad, since last year’s Sham Stakes was an exciting one with the romp of fan favorite, The Pamplemousse.
The Borderland Derby at Sunland Park is being run as a graded stakes for the first time. Last year, Mine That Bird put the race on the map when he used it to prep for his gigantic upset in the Kentucky Derby; the Borderland Derby is a prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby at the same track next month. The favorite is Tango Tango, a California shipper who doesn’t have much to boast about on paper. In his last time out, Tango Tango finished last in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. I’m opting to go for the second choice, Storming Saint, who broke his maiden at Zia Park going a mile by 13 lengths; in his last time out, Storming Saint reeled back to 6 ½ furlongs and finished 3rd. He should like the extra distance here. New Mexico-bred Chuchuluco is the only entrant to have won a stakes race; in January, Chuchuluco won the Pepsi Cola by 2 ¼ lengths at Sunland. And then there’s Guiltybyassociation. I think some things are coincidental, and some things are meant to be. Guiltybyassociation’s name alone screams “Don’t ignore me!” He is by Birdstone, the sire of Mine That Bird; he broke his maiden fifth time out after finally stepping on conventional dirt here at Sunland. Based purely upon his breeding, Guiltybyassociation is the guilty party who will steal the Borderland Derby.
For race post times and network coverage information, please see the schedule at NTRA.com.