Saturday Stakes Round-Up

When perusing the stakes schedule for this weekend it becomes readily apparent- winter is here.  With Calder having to cancel a couple of graded stakes races because of issues with Equine Herpes, the richest events on the entire afternoon come at Zia Park in Hobbes, NM, Woodbine, and Hollywood.  Let’s take a look at some of the stakes races from around the country, small and large, far and wide.

GARLAND OF ROSES

#6 AWESOME ASHLEY is making her third start off a 90+ day layoff for trainer Todd Pletcher and comes off of a terrific effort in an overnight stake in early November.  She was the only horse to make a meaningful off the pace move in the aforementioned In Her Glory and was clearly at a disadvantage given the horribly slow pace set by the eventual winner.  She should move forward significantly off that race and will be a huge late threat.  #4 BY THE LIGHT is a hard-knocking filly who’s earned her owners a terrific amount of money in a three-year career that has taken her all over the country.  She hasn’t been out since the summer when she looked to be off form but her trainer(s) have long done very well with fresh horses and the pace scenario would seem to be in her favor.  #9 ALL OF HER TWIST is back to dirt after a very dull effort in the Raven Run at Keeneland run over the Polytrack.  She has been a much better horse on dirt, just worked sharply over the Monmouth oval and is another who should be moving in the right direction late.

PAGO HOP

There seems to be a great deal of pace in this affair, even if #6 BUBBLER and #7 GOING TO THE SUN opt to run at Sam Houston tonight.  That should set things up well for#2 AKILINA, who’s shipping into New Orleans for trainer Christophe Clement, one of the most skilled turf trainers in the country.  This gal got really good once Clement turned her into a turf horse and she’s coming off of a strong 3rd place finish in an overnight stake at Aqueduct where the early pace was a complete dawdle.  #8 CHARTREUX is going 2nd off a short layoff for the very capable barn of Richie Scherer and her last start was the tale of a slow pace.  The wire-to-wire winner was able to absolutely crawl on the lead and that ended up leaving most of the positions unchanged through the entire event.  This gal weakened late after being somewhat close early but Scherer now takes the blinkers off, which should enable her to lay back and make one run under a rider who has done well over the years on the FG weeds.

BAYAKOA

The Cushion Track at Hollywood Park has been very kind to speed over the last few weeks and that sets up quite a quandary in this affair as there’s a terrific amount of early speed.  #1 CZECHERS, #10 BRIECAT and #11 LUCKY COPY all know only one way of going about their respective business and that could easily set things up for a late runner.  #7 TEAMGEIST is coming off a 6th place finish in the Las Palmas where she was well back and made a good late run.  The turf course at Santa Anita was tough on late runners toward the end of the Oak Tree meet and the pace in the Las Palmas was relatively ordinary, which made things much tougher for this daughter of Mutakddim.  You can expect things to go much better for her in terms of race flow in here and that will make her tough in the waning stages.  One other horse worth mentioning who’s going to be a bit of a price but deserves a look is #9 MADE FOR MAGIC, who comes off a narrow miss going a mile on the weeds here at Hollywood.  She comes from a barn that has done very well over the years with horses going turf to synthetics and this gal may get the right kind of trip from just off the early running.

STAR OF TEXAS

It’s the richest night of racing in Houston, TX as Sam Houston Race Park will offer eight stakes races worth over $500,000 total, including the Star of Texas presented by Emirates Airlines.  A contentious group of TX breds has been assembled and #9 ABLAZE WITH SPIRIT looks to be one of the top contenders as he’s coming off a sharp win on the turf at Remington Park.  He showed a bit more life in the early stages of his last outing but it is his ability to finish that makes him a serious win candidate in here.  He has run well over this track in the past and seems to be in career best form for a trainer who’s accumulated a large number of wins at this racetrack over the years.  #1 GOOSEY MOOSE hasn’t been out since early October at Retama when he closed late to narrowly miss in a rich allowance race on the weeds.  He is more of a dirt horse and particularly likes Sam Houston, as his 8-9 lifetime record in the money indicates clearly.  He won the Assault at Lone Star on Stars of Texas Day up in Grand Prairie and his record against TX breds on the dirt is solid.

Good luck with your plays on Saturday and for those of you who may be opting to take a weekend off for Christmas shopping, do note that there are a full slate of interesting happenings in the next two weeks.  Next Saturday Fair Grounds serves up La Champions Day as 11 stakes races will be run.  The same day one of the most attractive winter signals has their opening day as the Oldsmar oval, Tampa Bay Downs kicks off another racing season.  A week later Fair Grounds has another big day with five sprint stakes races and the final Grade I races of the year at Hollywood Park are run with the CashCall Futurity on December 19 and the Hollywood Starlet on December 20.

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