With Derby weekend behind us and Preakness weekend on the horizon, graded stakes racing this week is light, but there are interesting contests nonetheless across the country. On Saturday, from East to West, we'll see the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont, The G3 Lone Star Derby in Texas, and the G2 Mervyn LeRoy from Hollywood Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Dwyer could be considered a prep for the Belmont, to be run four weeks hence. WinStar Farm's Drosselmeyer, who comes off a third-place effort in G2 Louisiana Derby, will be favored here, but should Super Saver happen to win the Preakness, would they run their stablemates against each other in the final leg of the Triple Crown? Among those challenging Drosselmeyer will be Remand, Soaring Empire and Fly Down. Remand has only a maiden win to his credit but has been losing to such certified stakes runners as Eskendereya, Eightyfiveinafifty and Hurricane Ike; perhaps he'll find his level here. Trainer Cam Gambolati may have had Derby dreams for Soaring Empire after his two initial wins, but an eighth-place finish in the Florida Derby axed his chances of going to Louisville. This nicely bred colt (Empire Maker out of an A.P. Indy mare) could be a force to be reckoned with down the road.
Pace should play a major role in the Lone Star Derby (1 1/16 miles on the main track), and the question is, will it hold? Henshin Hero, at 8-5 on the morning line, will go out with Wando Redd and the speed duel that ensues may set the win up for either Game On Dude or Crider. Game On Dude finished well back in the Derby Trial, but he may have not liked the muddy conditions at Churchill that day. Crider exits a runner-up finish in an optional claiming allowance where he was heavily favored. The other starters in the six-horse field are longshots Thatlleaveamark and Gilded Woodman.
In California, Rail Trip returns after an eight-month layoff to contest the 1 1/16-mile Mervyn LeRoy. The now 5-year-old gelding from Ron Ellis' barn is six of nine with his biggest win coming in last year's Hollywood Gold Cup. Ellis hopes to have the Mace and Samantha Siegel colorbearer defend his championship in that race with a good performance here and in next month's Californian. The only viable competitor for Rail Trip appears to be Tres Borrachos, runner-up in the '09 Gold Cup.
On Sunday, Hollywood Park will feature the Railbird, a G3 seven-furlong event for 3-year-old fillies. Trainer Dan Hendricks hopes to see his Tanda win her third consecutive start. Proving her versatility, Tanda won on the grass two races back, and most recently, won the G3 Santa Paula over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface. Alex Solis, now a regular rider on the Kentucky circuit, returns to Southern California for the mount on the 121-lb. highweight. Also entered is All Due Respect, who was well-beaten by Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck in the G2 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. Previous to that race, however, All Due Respect finished a neck ahead of Blind Luck in the Santa Anita Oaks. John Sadler has a pair entered in the Railbird—Switch and Stockings.
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