05/02/2008 8:03PM

Derby Day

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Derby Day Opinions:

Churchill Downs Handicap (Race 5)
Go-Go pulled off an upset with Tizdejavu, and I'll hope for one more with Carnack's Choice.  Yes, I know that he looks like a synthetic wonder, but he did break his maiden at Churchill at two, and he has a solid mud pedigree.  He's a stalker, and can take advantage of a hot pace up front.  Elite Squadron almost scored the shocker in the Commonwealth at Keeneland, and he won over the Churchill slop last year.  He's going to have to fly from the inside post, however, and Spotsgone and Hewitts may both have designs on the lead.  Junior College wouldn't be a surprise at all.  He's been extremely consistent for several months now, and his stalking style should play well here.  Noonmark likes it wet, but has been plagued by layoff lines.  It will be interesting to see how Thousand Words handles wet dirt.
Selection:  Carnack's Choice

La Troienne (Race 6):
Secret Gypsy was a tremendous debut winner at Saratoga last summer, but she has been mired on our Disabled List ever since.  She now returns stretching out a quarter-mile in a tough graded stake, and must deal with the inside post to boot.  There's no telling how good she is, and I won't let her beat me in multi-race wagers, but she's a puzzling proposition if the price is light.  Informed Decision and Alina are both certainly usable.  The former earned a triple-digit Beyer over polytrack at Keeneland, but she's proven on dirt.  Alina gave Eight Belles and Pure Clan all they could handle in the Fantasy at Oaklawn, and is capable of utilizing more patient tactics.  Game Face looked like a star in the making when blowing away the field in the Old Hat, then drifted badly in the Davona Dale.  If she brings her 'A' game to the table for Pletchazquez, she'll be very tough.  Keep the Peace may be the speed of the speed, but could be vulnerable at this distance.
Selections:  Secret Gypsy, Informed Decision, Alina

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Race 7)
I have all the respect in the world for Dreaming of Anna, but she draws outside in this race, and Bayou's Lassie may keep her company in the early stages.  I'm hoping this race sets up nicely for Ventura, who has been soooo impressive in both of her starts in North America.  She was shuffled back to last on the final turn of the Madison, but just inhaled the field once clear in upper stretch.  Bayou's Lassie has compiled an enviable win mark, and has worked well on this surface.  A prolonged battle with Dreaming of Anna would likely take its toll, however.  Sharp Susan beat next-out graded winner Criminologist in a Keeneland allowance, but she enjoyed a good trip that day, and has a tendency to get very headstrong in the early going.  Danzon received an excellent prep at Keeneland, and has run some big races.  She'll be running hard in the stretch.
Selections:  Ventura, Dreaming of Anna

Humana Distaff (Race 8)
There are some very good filly sprinters in this race, but I'm a fan of Graeme Six, and think she can handle the step up in class.  She showed glimpses last year when second in the Grade 1 Prioress behind the fleet Dream Rush, and has really come to hand this winter.  She can rate from just off the expected fast pace, but is unproven over a wet track.  Miraculous Miss has a potent stretch kick, and she finished up her 2007 with a pair of triple-digit Beyers.  Seven furlongs seems right up her alley, and she should make her presence felt with a strong stretch kick  Miss Macy Sue ran well despite trouble in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and she dominated two outclassed rivals in her prep race.  She's won 10 of 19, and is certainly capable of taking this.  Hystericalady, the defending Humana champion, draws a tough inside post, and has missed some time with minor physical problems.  She's logical, but may not offer enough value.  Sugar Swirl dominated the division at Gulfstream over the winter, and is a true seven furlong specialist.  She loves wet tracks.  This should be a barn-burner.
Selection:  Graeme Six

Turf Classic (Race 9)
You don't have to be a genius to pick Einstein, and since I'm no genius, I'm picking Einstein.  I've always believed that if he's right, he's one of the best turf horses in the country.  My only concern is that he may not really like the Churchill course (0-3 here).  Thorn Song hung in gamely in the Makers Mark Mile at Keeneland and, unlike Einstein, has always done well at Churchill Downs.  He may show the early way in a virtually paceless race.  I'm going to give War Monger a mulligan for the Makers Mark Mile as he made this huge wide move before packing it in during the stretch drive.  He's much better than that, and can rebound here at a better price.  Golden Balls may have needed his return in the Arcadia, and has shown strong stretch ability.
Selections:  Einstein, Thorn Song

Kentucky Derby (Race 10)
We may have been spoiled by last year's very good crop of three-year-olds.  Aside from Big Brown, Colonel John, and perhaps, Pyro, this group may be more ordinary than brilliant.  In years past, we've seen horses like War Emblem and Charismatic arrive on the scene late only to go on a roll in the Triple Crown races.  I believe that Recapturetheglory can follow the same route.  Perhaps he was aided by a speed bias at Hawthorne (I don't think it was that bad), but he won the Illinois Derby the right way.  He withstood pace pressure, and ran hard all the way through the wire.  True, the pace should be fast in the Derby, but I don't think he can outrun Bob Black Jack and Big Brown to the front, and may end up in a good spot stalking those two.  If the favorite doesn't fire, don't be surprised if Recapturetheglory is in front when they turn for home.  Big Brown has been utterly brilliant in his short career, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he runs off the screen despite his inexperience and poor post.  While he is a must-use for me in the exotics and multi-race wagers, I just can't play him to win at a short price.  I firmly believe that Colonel John is the real deal.  He's extremely consistent, and will get the proper pace setup.  That fast workout doesn't worry me at all.  Eoin Harty cut his teeth under Bob Baffert, and Baffert worked Real Quiet and Silver Charm fast before their Derby wins.  He'll run late and well.  Gayego has already outrun his pedigree by winning the Arkansas Derby, and he did all the running in that race.  He is another speed horse breaking from a tough post, but I believe he can rate as well.  Bob Black Jack is such a likeable horse that I can't throw him out despite his obvious flaws (distance limitations, pace scenario).  I think he has the best early speed of the group, and he has rated kindly in his two route starts.  He probably can't win this race, but at 50-1, is worth a cheap thrill for a couple of bucks. 
Selections:  Recapturetheglory, Big Brown, Colonel John, Gayego, Bob Black Jack

More importantly, who do you like tomorrow?  I'd like to know.

Best of luck,

Dan