Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, and Remington Park have all carded several stakes this weekend, culminating with the $400,000 Springboard Mile set for Sunday evening. It's now an official prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby worth 10 points to the winner.
Here's what else to watch for...
Small stakes at Fair Grounds attract some big names.
None of the stakes races on Fair Grounds Race Course’s Saturday card carry a purse bigger than $75,000, but that didn't stop the New Orleans track from attracting some big names. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Valadorna returns to stakes company in the Blushing K. D. S., carded for 1 1/16-mile on the turf for fillies and mares 3 years old and upward.
Last year’s Queen’s Plate winner, Sir Dudley Digges, likewise takes on eight in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward going 1 1/16-mile on the turf. Among those he will face in 2013 Queen’s Plate runner-up
The Tenacious Stakes for 3-year olds and upward drew graded stakes winners Far Right,
Girls Know Best steps up in class in Grade 3 Sugar Swirl.
Now I Know looked well on her way to making an undefeated attempt at the Kentucky Oaks in 2012. However, she exited a second-place finish in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn injured and was subsequently retired. Now her half-sister, Girls Know Best, will attempt to become the second graded winner for dam Now U Know when she steps up in class in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sugar Swirl Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Girls Know Best will face last year’s Sugar Swirl winner, Dearest, graded stakes placed More Than a Party and True Romance, stakes winners Miss Hollywood and Pretty Perfection, and stakes placed Bodacious Babe. It’s a solid field, but Girls Know Best has been in good form recently, albeit at the lower levels.
Page McKenney back in South Florida.
A fan favorite, Maryland-based Page McKenney returns to Gulfstream for the first time in three years in order to contest the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. Pegasus World Cup probable Gunnevera will skip this spot, but last year’s Belmont Stakes runner-up Destin will be a part of the field. Those two are the ones to beat, but if you’re looking for some value, try Mr. Jordan or Fear the Cowboy (who is cross-entered in the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds). Though he’s never won at Gulfstream Park, he’s been on the board 4-of-8 times there, and is 4-of-8 at the Harlan’s Holiday distance. Should Fear the Cowboy run, he’ll likely be the greater threat. He’s never been off the board in five races at Gulfstream and is in nice form.
Code West headlines the Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial
Code West may not be the best of his crop, but he’s been a solid runner throughout his career. A graded stakes winner at 3, the ridgling has not quite lived up to the potential many thought he had. Since winning the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes 3 ½-years ago, he has taken some listed and black type stakes but has not graced the winner’s circle in graded stakes company. Despite this, he has kept good form and does well when running at Remington Park.
However, Shotgun Kowboy stands a better chance of winning the Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial, in my opinion. You can put a line through his last race, as the River City Handicap is contested on the turf. Now back on the dirt, Shotgun Kowboy is as good as any in this field. Also liable to have a say in the outcome are Net Gain and Dazzling Gem, should he run here instead of at Fair Grounds.
Kentucky Derby aspirations arrive to Remington.
In recent years, Remington Park's Springboard Mile has been a useful move forward for horses wanting to try the Kentucky Derby trail in Arkansas. Now, for the first time, it's an official step to a much larger goal, a trip to Churchill Downs.
This will be a rematch for many in the full field of 12. Combatant and undefeated Redatory look to be the strongest of the local contingent, while Greyvitos and Believe in Royalty, son of Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, should take most of the money. Greyvitos broke his maiden in the Grade 3 Bob Hope after two previous unsuccessful attempts in maiden company. Believe in Royalty has also made three career starts and won his last two. Any of those four could be the winner.