5 Races, 75 Minutes…

Between 5:30 PM EST and 6:45 PM EST this afternoon there will be six meaningful stakes races across the country.  Of course, the highlights are Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra returning in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds and Zenyatta’s 2010 debut in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.  Let’s run down this 75 minute hour (and fifteen minutes) of power:

The fun starts at Tampa Bay Downs with the Tampa Bay Derby as Kentucky Jockey Club winner #6 SUPER SAVER makes his 2010 debut.  He is considered one of Todd Pletcher’s best chances for Kentucky Derby glory as he showed potential at Churchill and clearly handles the Twin Spires oval without issue.  He’s going to be met with a stern challenge from the upstart recent N1X winner #7 ODYSSEUS.  A $250,000 purchase at the OBS March Sale last year, this son of Malibu moon moved forward tremendously off of a maiden win at Gulfstream with the handy win over this quirky Tampa Downs oval.  If you’re looking for an upset, perhaps #5 SCHOOLYARD DREAMS, who made a big middle move in the Sam F. Davis last time out before weakening late.  I’ll go with Odysseus to post another breakthrough performance. 

The Honeybee is the local prep at Oaklawn for the Fantasy, which was a race won in 2009 by eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.  A respectable field has gathered for this year’s running, headed by Martha Washington winner #2 DECELERATOR and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up #5 BEAUTICIAN.  What both of those two lack, in large part, is early speed as there is little to no zip in this race whatsoever.  I’ll go with #8 BELLA DIAMANTE, who had a tough trip in the Martha Washington and seems tractable enough to be kept close in the opening half-mile.

It’s the return of #2 RACHEL ALEXANDRA, who hasn’t run since last year’s Woodward at Saratoga when she held on by a desperate head.  It seems as if we’re getting conflicting reports on whether she is 100% but it seems ridiculous to think that Steve Asmussen would start this gal at anything but ready to go.  Her final workout earlier this week was strong and she’s not exactly facing a very tough group in here.  Expect jockey Calvin Borel to position this gal just off of #3 ZARDANA early and roll clear when ready.

Hey, I thought she was retired…nope, the undefeated super mare #8 ZENYATTA is back for 2010 and she’s making her debut against eight overmatched foes in the Santa Margarita Handicap.  She’ll be saddled with 127 lbs, which really should not pose a problem as nothing has stood in this superstar’s way.  She is headed for an April 9 showdown with Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom next month and this looks like a perfect tune-up.  Expect her to run a typical big race at or around her morning line price of 1/9.  Trying to beat her today?  I wouldn’t, it’s just not happening in this spot.

The most intriguing of these five races in this 75 minute span might be the Rebel at Oaklawn as Eclipse Award winner #2 LOOKIN AT LUCKY makes his return to the races.  He’ll square off with #7 DUBLIN, a Grade I winner from 2009 himself, who ran a game 2nd in the Southwest last time out despite a tough trip.   He was away from the gate poorly and wound up racing terribly wide but still narrowly missed while unable to catch the free running frontrunner Conveyance.  If these two are to be upset, it could be #4 UH OH BANGO, who showed potential last year and is also making his 2010 debut.

Well, it’s clearly going to be an action packed day with Kentucky Derby preps, the queens of racing back at the track, the Magna 5 and terrific racing nationwide.  Who do you like?

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