US Stakes Racing Preview

It’s a fairly quiet weekend of stakes racing with Louisiana’s Fair Grounds providing the bulk of the quality action with six stakes races.

Fair Grounds (Weather – dry 70F, going – turf is firm and dirt is fast)

The Risen Star Stakes, a Grade 2 event for 3 year olds over a mile and a sixteenth, is at $400k by some way the richest race of the day. The race, which is worth 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, has attracted a big field of 12 runners (Laoban is a non-runner). The two ML favorites, Airoforce and Mo Tom renew hostilities after meeting each other in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Airoforce won that race but Mo Tom had a bad trip and didn’t stride out on the sloppy surface but there will be no chance of that going today.

Mo Tom is improving all the time as he grows into his frame and i take him to gain revenge over his Kentucky conqueror. He is nicely drawn in 2 so he should be able to gain a good position behind what looks like a fast pace. He is a stalker and a strong finisher so should get an ideal trip.

Moving on to the Rachel Alexandra, a Grade 2 contest over a mile and a sixteenth worth $200k, looks to be Stageplay’s race to lose. She has recorded a better Beyer in every race she has run than that of any other horse in the race. The race will also be run to suit as she likes to come off a fast pace, which appears guaranteed. The likely contested pace is a negative for Midnight on Oconee. She is an interesting front running contender and is on the improve but it does appear that she will be taken on.

A maximum of 5 runners will face the starter in the valuable Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap and this may well be reduced further as Jessica’s Star is a likely non-runner. The ML favorite International Star is back at his optimum racecourse as he is 4 from 4 at the Louisiana track. His main opposition is likely to be from Eagle. Eagle was beaten by international Star last month but he is 7 pounds better off and trainer Neil Howard is confident of a good run.

Santa Anita (Weather – sunny and dry – 75F, turf is likely to be firm)

The feature on Santa Anita’s card is the Buena Vista Stakes, a Grade 2 race for fillies and mares over the turf mile. The race will have a maximum field of 12 runners, of which Stormy Lucy is the Morning Line favorite at 7/2 in what looks a very open race. She is a very consistent horse but she is a notoriously slow starter and, over a trip that is short of her best, she will need luck in running and all Kent Desormeaux’s skill to get home in front.

Prize Exhibit (drawn 6) is where I would be looking in terms of the likely winner. She ran a shocker last time but the race can be forgotten as it was on dirt. Las time out on turf she won the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes, recording a Beyer of 97. The one significant negative is that prize Exhibit’s trainer has a zero strike rate when switching horses from dirt to turf. However, these statistics are based on horses of significantly inferior ability to Prize Exhibit.

Our final race for review is Aqueduct’s Franklin Square Stakes. It’s a disappointing turnout for this $125k race for 3 year old state-bred fillies with just 6 horses facing the starter. On known form, this looks to be a straight duel between Clipthecouponannie and Frosty Margarita.

Both will have their supporters with Clipthecouponannie being undefeated in all starts while Frosty margarita has never lost a stakes race. It’s one of those always interesting clashes between potential and proven performance and i’m going to stay firmly on the fence here.

Finally, on the news front, it looks like Sunland park will be back in action on 26th February as officials are confident that the outbreak of equine herpesvirus is now under control.

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