by Scott Shapiro

The final weekend of racing before Saratoga and Del Mar kick in to high gear next week is upon us. Most of the top barns and horses are preparing for the spotlight of the summer meets, but there are still opportunities to pad the bankroll before next week.

Click here to find Scott Shapiro’s full card Daily Selections for Indiana Grand and the Southern California circuit

On Saturday, Indiana Grand hosts an outstanding 10-race card highlighted by the $500,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby, while Los Alamitos wraps up their short two-week summer meet with an eight-race slate headlined by the Grade 3, $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby.

Here are a few horses I am interested in building my Saturday afternoon of wagering around.

Indiana Grand

Race 5

If you are looking for a long shot on Saturday perhaps Special Ops (#2) can be the gelding to make your day. The six-year-old son of Big Brown makes his first start off the claim for trainer Mike Maker in the $100,000 Warrior Veterans run at 1 1/16 miles over the lawn.

On paper it appears that this SkyChai Stable runner may be outclassed, but I have seen this move before with Maker. The veteran conditioner is as good as anyone in purchasing high-level claimers on the grass and making them into legitimate stakes caliber horses.

This is one of the more wide-open stakes races on the Indiana Derby Day card, so why not take a chance with a price; 15-1 is enticing.

Race 9: The Indiana Derby

Irap (#2) is the deserving 8-5-morning-line favorite based on his two graded stakes wins over the past few months for Doug O’Neill and Reddam Racing. A repeat of his performance in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, when he just got by Girvin, will likely result in back-to-back victories, but I am not sure he will replicate the effort.

Julien Leparoux has ridden him during both first place efforts, but the connections remain loyal to Mario Gutierrez who is not on the same level as Leparoux. Additionally, Irap has never been able to string two races together. I am concerned he will regress in this spot.

I like the value and chances for Awesome Saturday (#8). The lightly raced colt takes on stakes competition for the initial time after a three-length victory against high-level optional claimers last month. He is a late bloomer according to his connections that has always had superior talent, but is starting to understand the mental portion of the game. He should get the jump on Irap and his other main rivals and has the ability to close the deal late. At anything near his 8-1-morning-line price he is worth a Win wager.

Los Alamitos

The first part of the Los Alamitos Saturday card does not interest me very much, but I will be getting involved later in the card.

Race 6

General Ike (#3 ) looks like a single for me in the horizontal pools and a potential Win bet if he stays at his 5-2-morning-line price.

The son of Quiet American is not the same horse he was when he rattled off three straight wins in 2014 for trainer Larry Jones, but he can still get the job done in this spot.

The gelding makes his third start off a lengthy layoff and should make a clear lead under jockey Joe Talamo. He has failed to finish the deal in both of his tries in 2017, but meets a weaker group and should be at his best with two races under his belt for trainer Ron Ellis.

Race 7: The Los Alamitos Derby

The featured Los Alamitos Derby features 9-5-morning-line favorite West Coast (#5). The son of Flatter comes into the Grade 3 event off of a career best effort at Belmont Park in the Easy Goer and very well could be a horse improving rapidly for the red-hot Bob Baffert barn. However, I have a few slight concerns.

Firstly, he runs at two turns on Saturday, not the one turn configuration he raced over in New York. Considering that three and three-quarter-length victory last time out is the outlier thus far it is possible that he prefers extended one-turn races.

Secondly Drayden Van Dyke will take over for Hall of Famer Mike Smith. Van Dyke is certainly a capable replacement, but no one is as good as Smith in stakes races right now.

It is dangerous business to play against a Bob Baffert stakes runner at this point, so I will tread lightly but I do like the chances of Colonist (#3). This Stonestreet Stables colt won consecutive events routing for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer before he took on older company last time out. He should sit a perfect stalking trip off of Cistron (#2), which will allow him to get the jump on West Coast and hopefully hold him off in the lane.

At 9-2 he is worth a Win wager and playing in the Doubles with General Ike starting in Race 6.

Good luck this weekend!