Even though Gulfstream Park is giving out $1.3 million in purse money on Saturday for the half-dozen Florida Sunshine Millions races, those races are restricted to Florida-breds, and therefore not granted graded status. So, while there will be some high-caliber racing in South Florida, the weekend's graded stakes will be run at Fair Grounds and Santa Anita.
The Grade 3 Lecomte, scheduled as the 10th race on the Fair Grounds Saturday card, has attracted some sophomores who could raise their profile with a strong performance here. Avie's Quality, a stakes winner over the synthetic track at Woodbine, will try to prove himself over dirt, while Circle Unbroken, coming off a narrow loss in the Mountaineer Juvenile, attempts to go two turns for the first time. Golden Soul won his maiden convincingly over the track on Dec. 30, and Malibu High, unbeaten in two starts, makes his stakes debut.
Santa Anita is host to the other three graded stakes over the weekend—Saturday's Palos Verdes, Sunday's La Canada, and the Santa Ynez on Monday's holiday card. They are all Grade 2 tests. Private Zone has been knocking at the door in his previous three races, finishing second to such notable sprinters as Smiling Tiger and Jimmy Creed. A win in the Palos Verdes would elevate his status as one the premier West Coast sprinters. A win won't come easy, though, as he faces the likes of Drill, Canonize, and Comma to the Top, fresh off his victory in the G3 Daytona. Also entered is Justin Phillip, who was competing against the best sprinters in the East before his fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint here at Santa Anita.
Book Review and Lady of Fifty face off against four others in the 1 1/16-mile La Canada. Both 4-year-old fillies are exiting wins in their respective last races, the G2 Bayakoa Handicap for Lady of Fifty, and the G1 La Brea for Book Review, who had moved from Chad Brown's to Bob Baffert's barn prior to that race. Other expected starters include Open Water, runner-up to Lady of Fifty in the Bayakoa, and Willa B Awesome, winner of the G1 Santa Anita Oaks last March.
All eyes will be on Beholder, as she makes her 2013 debut in the Santa Ynez, the Monday feature on Santa Anita's holiday card. The 3-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes is the leading candidate for outstanding 2012 Juvenile Filly, and with the Eclipse Awards taking place on Saturday night, she could go to the post as the newly-crowned champ. Trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder won three of five starts as a 2-year-old, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and has earnings of $1,215,000.
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