Hanson: Stakes spot plays for Feb. 8
One Kentucky Derby (G1) and two Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps highlight this Saturday's stakes action, but our spot plays will primarily focus on the older runners as we go coast-to-coast within the span of a couple hours.
Suncoast -- Tampa Bay Downs Race 9
#7 BLAME DEBBIE (9-2) had little chance to make up appreciable ground in the Demoiselle (G2) against Lake Avenue, an exciting Kentucky Oaks candidate for Bill Mott who was left untouched on the front end. That was Blame Debbie's debut for her present connections following a relatively strong maiden win at Keeneland.
The filly has been based at Tampa all winter and thus has got quite used to this sometimes tricky surface. Graham Motion has won with six of his first 19 starters at the meet, and Johnny V. is enticed to pick up the mount. Better is likely on the way for this daughter of Blame.
Tampa Bay (G3) -- Tampa Bay Downs Race 10
This is an interesting placement for #5 RENAISANCE FROLIC (15-1) since being acquired privately following a a retreating fourth in the off-the-turf Buddy Diliberto Memorial at Fair Grounds in December.
Preceding that run, the Paynter gelding had won three straight at the allowance/optional claiming level, all some of the best races of his career. Whether he's ready to show similar form at this far tougher level remains to be seen, but at potential double-digit odds I'm willing to find out. The 5-year-old appears capable of handling any kind of grass condition fairly well, and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. is on fire throughout Florida winning with 21 of his first 54 starters this year, including five stakes (three graded).
King Cotton -- Oaklawn Park Race 8
#1 SHARE THE UPSIDE (3-1) has flourished the last two Oaklawn meets, winning three of four starts over the track with his only setback being to Whitmore in the Hot Springs S. last March. In that race, the stakes debuting Share the Upside was conceding the multiple graded stakes winner four pounds!
Share the Upside meets Whitmore again here, and preference goes to the Steve Asmussen trainee who enters off a freshening since August and with two bullet five-furlong works in tow. Both carry equal weight this time, and the younger rival could be poised for a breakout season starting in this spot.
Thunder Road (G3) -- Santa Anita Race 7
Owner Kosta Hronis and trainer John Sadler have done an excellent job in recent seasons privately acquiring horses from east of the Mississippi to race in graded stakes in California. The Grade 1-winning older dirt males Gift Box and Higher Power come immediately to mind.
Like Gift Box, the 7-year-old #7 FRONTIER MARKET (4-1) was a former mainstay of the Chad Brown stable. The Lemon Drop Kid gelding did not break his maiden until the fall of his 5-year-old campaign, but went through his allowance conditions quickly enough and was narrowly edged by the highly capable Caribou Club in his stakes debut in the Baltimore-Washington Turf Cup (G3) at Laurel in September. Most recently, he was third behind that rival and the winning Curlin's Honor in the Artie Schiller S. at Aqueduct.
Unplaced just once in a mere 12 outings, this veteran has the talent to be right there at the end of this one-mile grass test.