Just a smattering of graded stakes action will take place this weekend. Saturday's Santa Anita card features the Grade 3 Sham for 3-year-olds and though the field has no graded stakes winners in it, an outstanding showing at the 1 1/8-mile distance could put the winner in the Derby picture. Bob Baffert's The Program, a son of Harlan's Holiday, won an allowance race by a nose on Feb. 3 and hopes to improve off that. Also in the entries is Kettle River, from Eoin Harty's barn; due to illness, Kettle River missed a week of training but Harty thinks he up to this task.
Fillies and mares will be in the spotlight on Saturday at Gulfstream Park when three graded stakes will be presented—the G2 Davona Dale, G3 The Very One and G3 Sabin. The Davona Dale, for 3-year-olds at a mile on the dirt, has attracted a contentious field of eight, including Bickersons, who recently ran away in the Forward Gal, defeating Eclipse Award champ She Be Wild. Also entered is Amen Hallelujah, off a winning performance in the G2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita, and Sassy Image, who brings a three-race win streak into the Davona Dale.
None of the starters in The Very One have won a turf race at the 1 3/8-mile distance, but that didn't seem to be a discouragement, as an overflow field of 14 was entered. Among the starters are Lady Shakespeare, runner-up in the Marshua's River, Long Approach, second in the G2 La Prevoyante last spring, and Glen Hill Farm's homebred Closeout, who most recently finished fourth in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
Jessica Is Back is entered for the main track only in The Very One, but she will likely start in the one-mile Sabin, a contest on the dirt for older females. The 6-year-old daughter of Put It Back will have to face Justwhistledixie, 2009 winner of the Davona Dale and Bonnie Miss, whose last out was a fourth-place finish over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface in the G2 El Encino.
On Sunday at Gulfstream Park, older males will take to the turf in the G2 Mac Diarmida. Like The Very One, the Mac Diarmida is also run at 1 3/8 miles, and has drawn a field of eight with one also-eligible if the race is taken off the turf. Presious Passion hopes to use this race as a springboard to the Dubai Sheema Classic, to be run in a month from now. The 7-year-old gelding will attempt to defend his 2009 Mac Diarmida title; he was runner-up to Conduit in the Breeders' Cup Turf and finished fifth in his 2010 debut while trying for his third straight W.L. McKnight victory at Calder.
Due to wind and rain, live racing is cancelled at Aqueduct Friday, Feb. 26 and Saturday, the 27th.
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