WEEKEND STAKES: WHERE TO WATCH brought to you by KBC Horse Supplies

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

With just two weeks to go before the Kentucky Derby, the only prep race this weekend is the Grade 2 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland. The morning line favorite and overwhelming sentimental favorite is Uptowncharlybrown, whose trainer, Alan Seewald, passed away unexpectedly this week. “Charly” has four career starts, all at Tampa Bay, and most recently, he was fifth in the G3 Tampa Bay Derby. Todd Pletcher has two solid entries in the field of 12, Connemara (last out, third in the G2 Lane's End) and Exhi, who exits out of a win in the Rushaway. Pletcher is going for his third consecutive win in the 1 1/8-mile Lexington.

Santa Anita has a trio of graded turf stakes this weekend, beginning with Saturday's G2 Santa Barbara Handicap, the fourth race on the program. Tuscan Evening will be gunning for her fourth consecutive graded stakes win, and although she will be the obvious betting choice, she has not run at this 1 ¼-mile distance before. Among those facing Tuscan Evening in the six-horse field are Cat by the Tale, Medaglia d'Amour and Éclair de Lune.

Later in the day (the featured ninth race) is the G3 San Simeon, a downhill sprint at the about distance of 6 ½ furlongs. Mr. Gruff is the one to catch here; he has won four out five on this course, including the 2009 edition of the San Simeon. Mr. Gruff comes from the barn of Ron Ellis, who also has Canonize in the entries.

On Sunday, Santa Anita presents its showcase closing-day turf marathon, the G2 San Juan Capistrano, 1 ¾ miles for older horses. Going for a sweep of the distance turf series which also includes the San Luis Rey and San Luis Obispo, is the Neil Drysdale-trained Bourbon Bay. Among the 11 opponents the 4-year-old gelding will face are Unusual Suspect, Stalingrad and Muhannak. Drawing the outside post is Princess Taylor, a filly from Dermot Weld's European stable.

Also on Sunday, Keeneland will feature the G3 Ben Ali for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack surface. The highweight in the field of eight is Jonathan Sheppard's Just As Well, making his 2010 debut. Other contenders are Dubious Miss, Kiss the Kid, Palladio and Giant Oak.

Aqueduct plays host to the G2 Distaff Handicap on Saturday. The small but contentious field for the seven-furlong Distaff includes Tar Heel Mom, Hour Glass and Matchless Orinda. Also in the entries is multiple graded stakes winner Justwhistledixie.

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