What is usually a quiet stakes weekend between Memorial Day and the Belmont Stakes has gotten a lift with a new, big money race for 3-year-olds on the turf. Saturday marks the debut of the $500,000 Penn Mile at Hollywood Casino at Penn National. While the race isn't eligible for graded stakes status yet, it has attracted a competitive field of stakes and graded stakes winners including Noble Tune, Rydilluc, and Charming Kitten. The inaugural running of the Penn Mile should be an excellent betting race.
The Memorial Day holiday was not a weekend to remember for our Xpressbet Weekend Bankroll players as HRRN's Jude Feld got shut out on his three Team Xpressbet wagers and Paulick Report's Scott Jagow got only a minor award when Atigun finished second in the Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. That $10 win/place bet on Atigun returned $18, enough to emerge victorious in the head-to-head competition.
Let's see where our handicappers choose to put their money this weekend. Play along with us and let us know who you like!
Xpressbet Handicapper: Dustin Fabian, Xpressbet.com
Californian Stakes, Grade 2, Hollywood Park, 1 1/8 Miles
Three of these met in last month's Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, with LIAISON getting the best of KETTLE CORN (2nd) and BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS (4th). Racehorses aren't machines, though, and what happened last time isn't necessarily a cinch to happen again this time. KETTLE CORN's setup in the LeRoy didn't do him any favors, while LIAISON couldn't have asked for a better trip. KETTLE CORN was far back and took too long to get rolling off a five-month layoff, while LIAISON comfortably tracked the pace. KETTLE CORN gets an extra sixteenth to work with and should be a tad sharper in his second back. I'm going with him on top. CLUBHOUSE RIDE nearly upset Game On Dude last out in the Charles Town Classic, but at just 3-for-27 lifetime, he appears a bit more content letting others have the glory.
The Play: $10 Exacta #3 Kettle Corn / #1 Clubhouse Ride, #5 Liaison ($20)
Penn Mile Stakes, Penn National, 1 Mile Turf
The inaugural running of the $500K Penn Mile Stakes attracted a high-quality and competitive bunch, and I've landed on RYDILLUC as my top choice. He holds a strong tactical edge in being this field's only legitimate frontrunner, and his close-up fourth last out in the Blue Grass is better than it looks on paper. He was running against a pretty significant bias over Keeneland's tiring main track, yet still managed to stay on well and finish within two lengths of the winner. He is a perfect 3-for-3 on the lawn and a perfect 2-for-2 at this distance. Todd Pletcher's JACK MILTON beat a pair of next-out stakes winners in taking Keeneland's Transylvania, and Chad Brown's NOBLE TUNE looked powerful in winning last month's American Turf, albeit with a perfect trip. Any of the three could win here, while the others appear nothing more than potential Trifecta fillers.
The Play: $2 Trifecta Key #7 Rydilluc / #1 Noble Tune, #4 Are You Kidding Me, #6 Jack Milton, #8 Charming Kitten ($24); $5 Exacta Box #1 Noble Tune, #6 Jack Milton, #7 Rydilluc ($30)
Affirmed Handicap, Grade 3, Hollywood Park, 1 1/16 Miles
Bob Baffert's MANANDO appears to be a potential standout in Hollywood Park's Sunday feature, boasting the sharpest recent form on the heels of a blow-out allowance victory over this strip last month. He's now 2-for-3 at Hollywood Park and is quick enough that he could just go to the front and never look back. DEN'S LEGACY has the most class of any of these, but his 2-for-12 lifetime mark doesn't instill confidence. He has been holding his own against much tougher all year, so I wouldn't put it past him to overpower this crew. BROADWAY'S EMPIRE ran into a buzzsaw sprinter last out and has a pedigree that could stretch out. It'd be a mistake to ignore him.
The Play: $10 Win #8 Manando; $4 Exacta Key Box #8 Manando / #1 Broadway's Empire, #5 Den's Legacy ($16)
Team Paulick Handicapper: Ray Paulick, Publisher
Penn National has put together a really solid field of 3-year-old turfers for the inaugural Penn Mile, a $500,000 event that anchors a $1-million card. With no lights on the turf course, the race is scheduled early on the program, with a 7:26 p.m. post time.
It's really hard to fault NOBLE TUNE, the Chad Brown-trained son of Unbridled's Song that Javier Castellano is coming over from New York to ride. Four wins and a second to George Vancouver in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf makes him the obvious favorite. But Gary Contessa-trained RYDILLUC is unbeaten on turf and was the favorite in the G1 Blue Grass on synthetics, a surface he apparently didn't like as well, finishing fourth after setting most of the pace. Hall of Famer Edgar Prado rides the son of Medaglia d'Oro.
When you're talking turf these days, though, you almost always seem to have something from the Ken Ramsey collection of Kitten's Joy offspring, and CHARMING KITTEN is a good one. I think the Todd Pletcher-trained colt will make the last run a winning one under Joel Rosario.
The Play: $40 to win, #8 Charming Kitten ($40)
ROTHKO is a top-class sprinter by Arch whose best efforts saw him winning this race in 2012 and finishing second to freaky-fast The Factor in the 2011 G1 Malibu. He obviously needed his last race, a fourth to tough allowance company May 1 at Churchill, and should move up in his second start of the year for Steve Asmussen. The move to jockey Ricardo Santana shouldn't hurt, and if he can overcome the rail post with a good break, he should repeat the 2012 triumph.
The Play: $10 to win/place on #1 Rothko ($20)
Three of the runners in the G2 Californian exit the Mervyn LeRoy at Betfair Hollywood Park, including perfect-trip winner LIAISON and closing runner-up KETTLE CORN. The horse that is something of a mystery to these is CLUBHOUSE RIDE, sent by Craig Lewis to Charles Town in April to go after the $1.5 million purse in the Charles Town Classic. The son of Candy Ride came up a half-length short of catching Game On Dude, a gelding he'd chased twice previously at Santa Anita this past winter. If you assume Game On Dude would toy with this field, you've got to think Clubhouse Ride's best will be good enough to win. His way-back form shows solid results as a 2-year-old in 2010 (third to Comma To the Top in the G1 CashCall Futurity), and early in his 3-year-old season, he was second to Tapizar in the G3 Sham. He's working well at Santa Anita and, though winless in six starts on the Hollywood Park surface, has run well enough on the Cushion Track in the past.
The Play: $40 to win on #1 Clubhouse Ride ($40)
A rundown of this weekend's key races:
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