With the Sunshine Millions series taking place on Saturday at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, graded stakes racing is light this weekend, but there are still a couple of interesting contests in the works.
On Saturday, Sam Houston Race Park will host the G3 John B. Connally Turf Handicap. The only graded stakes on the Sam Houston calendar for 2010, the 1 1/8-mile event has attracted a contentious field of 14 starters. The tepid favorite at 4-1 on the morning line is Orientate Express who exits the Zia Park Distance Championship with a runner-up performance. Going Ballistic would appear to be a formidable opponent here; he also last ran in the Zia Park Championship, finishing fourth, about seven lengths behind Orientate Express. His race previous to that, however, he put in a strong rally from the back of the pack to finish third in the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. And what would a stakes race in Texas be without an entry from the Steve Asmussen barn? He has a coupled entry here—Ablaze with Spirit and Red Rock Creek.
America's first Grade 1 race of 2010 takes place on Sunday at Santa Anita when older fillies and mares will be going seven furlongs in the Santa Monica Handicap. Evita Argentina will be tough in this spot. The 4-year-old daughter of Candy Ride won three stakes races in 2009 at this distance, the G2 A Gleam Handicap, the G2 San Vicente, and most recently, the G1 La Brea on Santa Anita's opening day. Also entered is Proviso, making her 2010 debut for Bill Mott. She was previously trained by Bobby Frankel and ended her 2009 campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. If she handles the Pro-Ride surface, Tuscan Evening could be a factor; all of her previous 22 starts have been on turf.
Also on Sunday, the G2 Forward Gal, for 3-year-old fillies, will be run at Gulfstream Park. Eclipse Champion She Be Wild will take on a dozen rivals in the seven furlong race. Trained by Wayne Catalano, She Be Wild will test the dirt track for the first time in her career. Her 5-race juvenile campaign took place on synthetic surfaces, with one defeat which was in the G1 Alcibiades. Undefeated Richiegirlgonewild will see what she's made of. The Wildcat Heir daughter is three-for-three, including the Old Hat on Jan. 9 where she made every pole a winning one over this same strip. Other entries include Sister Resistor, from Ken McPeek's barn, and Ailalea, entered by Todd Pletcher.
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