Young fillies will be in the spotlight during this weekend of racing.
The top draw on the East Coast is the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, featuring Dreaming of Julia, a sophomore who's shown a ton of promise and looks to rebound from a bad-trip performance in the Kentucky Oaks.
West Coasters will have their eye on the 68th and final running of the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park, which is slated to close at the end of the year. The race matches a pair of talented 3-year-old fillies in Iotapa and Doinghardtimeagain. Meanwhile, at Churchill Downs, juvenile fillies will be the draw in the Debutante Stakes.
Last week, Xpressbet handicapper Mike Penna turned his bankroll into a profit with a pair of scores. His $6 exacta of Dance to Bristol and Fantasy Flight in the Bed o' Roses Handicap produced a $54 return, while his $24 win bet on Code West in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs came back $74.40.
We'll see if Team Paulick can rebound this week. Play along with us, and let us know who you like!
Xpressbet Handicapper: Jude T. Feld, Horse Racing Radio Network (http://horseracingradio.net/)
J J's Dream Stakes, Calder Race Course, 5 1/2 Furlongs
The J J's Dream is the first real test for Florida's precocious freshman fillies, and this race flashed its importance just a few years ago when champion Awesome Feather used it as a stepping-stone en route to a Breeders' Cup victory. Having an eye for talent and maturity in young horses can put you at a huge advantage playing the races, and I think I've found one in here that has a bunch of ability. SCANDALOUS ACT broke her maiden here on May 18, defeating next out winners PROVERBS THIRTYONE and LIBERTY FUZE. She'll need to defeat both of them again here, but I'm a huge proponent of backing horses that step out of key races, and that May 18 maiden race has certainly proven to be a good one thus far. She has posted two excellent workouts in preparation for this and is eligible to improve at second asking. I'm standing against likely favorite, SWEETMARYS SUCCESS, who is conditioned by baby trainer extraordinaire, Wesley Ward. She has done all of her racing and recent training in Kentucky, and may find the Florida heat and humidity a bit taxing after her trip south. I'm banking on the ‘home team' here.
The Play: $20 Win, #8 Scandalous Act ($20)
Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes, Calder Race Course, 5 1/2 Furlongs
Sometimes when handicapping a race you get the feeling that something chaotic might happen, and that's exactly how this one feels to me. Five of these entrants are making their debut here, which is a bit abnormal for a $100,000 stakes race, and only four of these have actually won a race. Simply put, there are far more questions than answers. Kathleen O'Connell's RIGHT ON COURSE showed excellent speed in his debut here over a sloppy track, and while he tired to finish fourth that day, I like him on the rebound. The son of sneaky-good sire Circular Quay should be tighter from that effort and adds blinkers and probably should move forward on a fast track. With so much uncertainty and parity in this field, he looks like an excellent price play.
The Play: $10 Win, $20 Place, #5 Right On Course ($30)
Debutante Stakes, Churchill Downs, 6 Furlongs
Churchill Downs' Debutante Stakes attracted a field of eleven juvenile fillies, and with a crew that large you're nearly certain to find value wherever you land. The Brothers Borel – jockey Calvin and trainer Cecil – are represented by MORE THAN BEAUTY, who popped first time out in winning by more than five lengths over this strip, earning a solid speed figure in the process. The daughter of More Than Ready fired a bullet workout here in preparation of her stakes debut and should be fit and ready for another top effort. She's my best bet of the day, especially at anything near the 7/2 morning line.
The Play: $50 Win #7, More Than Beauty ($50)
Team Paulick Handicapper: Scott Jagow, editor-in-chief
Colonial Turf Cup, Grade 2, Colonial Downs, 1 3/16 Miles, Turf
No shortage of experience in this one, where the 8-horse field has logged a combined 139 starts. The morning line favorite is AIR SUPPORT, who finished 2nd in this race last year. No doubt he'll be in the mix as usual but I find him hard to support at a shortish price. He's only won 3 of his last 13, and the total margin of victory in those starts – head, neck, and nose. ATIGUN seems another logical choice coming off of two good turf performances, but he's not exactly trustworthy either, and he's yet to get the job done in graded stakes company. I'm backing SWIFT WARRIOR, who has shown consistent form at this level since landing in the barn of John Terranova two years ago. He's won 4 of 10 for Terranova, and here the son of First Samurai is reunited with jockey Jose Espinoza, who is 3 for 5 aboard the 5-year-old.
The Play: $25 to win, $10 to place #5 Swift Warrior ($35)
Mother Goose, Grade 1, Belmont Park, 1 1/16 Miles
Guess we'll find out whether DREAMING OF JULIA's freakish performance in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in March was aberration or a sign of things to come. I believe it's the latter. Her trip in the Kentucky Oaks was horrific, and she still rallied to finish 4th. At 1-2 morning line, she isn't a win bet, but I believe the longest shot in this short field might spice up the exotics. On speed figures, SISTER STATE (20-1) has a ton of lengths to make up. In fact, her last race Beyer was a 33 (compare that to Dreaming of Julia's 114 at Gulfstream, and she wouldn't be in the same zip code). But I believe Sister State's last race is a complete toss, and in her two-back victory, she set crisp fractions and won by two. She gets Lasix first-time, a move with which trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has a 33% strike rate in his last 49 starts. Maybe jockey Irad Ortiz can pull another Questing and have this one on the lead for a long time.
The Play: $10 to win, #5 Sister State
$10 exacta Dreaming of Julia/Sister State
$5 trifecta Dreaming of Julia/ALL/Sister State ($15)
Hollywood Oaks, Grade 2, Betfair Hollywood Park, 1 1/16 Miles
Despite being the second choice on the morning line, Doinghardtimeagain looks a standout in this one. While she's been handling state-bred company, she is seasoned for a 3-year-old, working lights out, and appears to be coming into her own for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Narrow morning line favorite Iotapa looks the main threat, but I'll hope for another exacta partner.
The Play: $10 exactas, $1 Doinghardtimeagain/#2 Ciao Bella Luna, #3 Iotapa, #5 Ondine ($30)
A rundown of this weekend's graded stakes action:
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