Something for everyone in these Saturday Stakes

It could be considered the weekend that embodies the “calm before the storm” as the next seven weekends after this will feature racing at Del Mar or Saratoga.  There are still some interesting events across the country today, highlighted by the $750,000 Virginia Derby on the weeds at Colonial Downs.  There seems to be something for everyone as well with graded stakes races on turf, dirt, and synthetics.

VIRGINIA DERBY

The scratch of Nicanor definitely hurt the popularity of this event from a nationwide perspective, but the nine runners still slated to go form a competitive lineup.  #10 LIME RICKEY sent off at 4-1 in the Colonial Turf Cup and he finished willingly to grab the show dough after racing well back of a hot pace.  He should appreciate the added ground they’ll go today and more importantly he’ll benefit from the expected hot pace.  #6 STRAIGHT STORY was put at a huge disadvantage when carried to the 8 path turning for home in the aforementioned Colonial Turf Cup.  He fell over two lengths behind the leader in mid-stretch but fought on and came back to lose by a head.  He proved he belongs in graded stakes company and it now seems reasonable to think he could be effective coming from just off the pace.  #8 EL CRESPO couldn’t catch #2 FLORENTINO in the Jefferson Cup despite being sent off a heavy 19-10 favorite.  The latter set a very slow pace and that definitely enabled him to get the 9 furlongs and finish with some gusto.  El Crespo should get a much better trip today with the pace scenario in this affair.
PICKS: 10-6-8

DELAWARE OAKS

The Oaks features the rubber match between #2 BON JOVI GIRL and #7 PAYTON D’ORO as the former just scored in the Susan’s Girl here at Delaware while the latter took the Black Eyed Susan (G2) field wire-to-wire in mid-May.  The sloppy track they all tried last time out probably favored Bon Jovi Girl given her pedigree and appreciation for slop.  Payton d’Oro should be very close to the early pace in here and you’d have to expect her to improve on a dry track after the sluggish effort on the goo. 

The other question that will be answered, even before they reach the paddock, will be whether #3 LIVIN LOVIN goes here or in the Delaware Cap tomorrow.  If she opts to go here she should be set for a stronger effort in her 2nd off a long layoff and she is proven at 8.5 furlongs having run 2nd in a stakes race at Woodbine last fall.  Given the large amount of speed in here which increases the likelihood of a pace meltdown, it’s easy to like Bon Jovi Girl, who should post a good late kick.
PICKS: 2-7-3

JAIPUR

#7 LE GRAND CRU will benefit the most from the scratch of #2 TRUE QUALITY as it will allow the former to do the majority of the early running in this spot.  He is exiting a terrific victory against N1X optional claimers and while there has to be some concern about whether he can handle the class increase, he has a pace advantage and should be tough in the stretch drive.  #3 HEROS REWARD is a proven stakes competitor sprinting on the grass and he is coming out of a tough stakes event in Canada, the Hilander.  He has enough tactical speed to stay close to the top pick, which will make him a tough customer in the last two furlongs.  #5 SILVER TIMBER hasn’t been out since mid-May and his last start was a very strong victory against N2X NY bred optional sellers.  His trainer, Chad Brown, has a very good record with horses starting on turf and off of mid-range layoffs in particular. 
PICKS: 7-3-5

SWAPS

If you’d like to see a horse waltz along on an easy lead then this is your spot as #8 GRAZEN is clearly the fastest horse in this event early and he proved last time out in the Affirmed that he’s pretty quick late.  He has blossomed quickly since racing shifted to Hollywood Park with three consecutive wins and it doesn’t seem like the added ground will hinder his ability to stay the course.  #6 ADVICE is back on synthetics after consecutive dull efforts on dirt and turf.  He has a big late kick and as the Lexington proved, his preferred trip is to lay back and make one run into a collapsing pace.  That trip won’t be made available today but he should benefit from the move into softer company.
PICKS: 8-6-2

A GLEAM

#2 COCO BELLE is quite clearly the one to beat in this spot as she has the most early foot and is in career-best form right now.  She out-sprinted the fleet footed filly Indian Blessing last time out and stayed on nicely through the lane.  There is a bit of speed in here with #7 CRY AND CATCH ME serving as a potential nuisance for ‘Belle in the early stages.  If things get hot up front the race could fall into the lap of #9 EVITA ARGENTINA, a graded stakes winning daughter of Candy Ride who’s cutting back in distance today for trainer John Sadler.  She is [robably not a two-turn animal and it didn’t help her cause that the Hollywood Oaks pace was pitifully slow in her last outing.  She’s come back to work well and her jockey is on the verge of winning his first riding title in Southern California.  #4 SILVER SWALLOW closed well to grab the place dough in the Desert Stormer, which was won by Coco Belle.  She has been on the improve of late and now goes 2nd off a layoff for a sharp trainer-jockey combination.  Look for her to throw her hat in the ring late.
PICKS: 9-2-4

Good luck with Saturday’s stakes races as it seems safe to say there’s a little something for everyone!

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