05/01/2009 11:46PM

Derby Day Pick-6 Analysis


Pick-6 players are accustomed to sequences where the final leg is the worst race of the day, often a bottom-level maiden claimer. On Saturday at Churchill Downs, if you make it through the first five legs, you'll be alive into the 135th Kentucky Derby.

My goal is to get alive to my top two horses, I Want Revenge and Dunkirk, and to a few others if I make some correct hairline decisions in the earlier races. The Saturday sequence has two of my favorite things going for it: all the races are graded stakes, and there's a carryover. The pool will start with $137,891 after no one went 6-for-6 on Oaks Day.

On the downside, it's a very tough sequence that could really tax one's bankroll, and there are plenty of other places to try to capitalize on one's opinions, including the pick-4's with their fewer permutations and lower minimums. I'll be putting only about 20 percent of my action for the day into the Pick-6. I don't want my day ruined by a horse or two I may be forced to lean on more heavily than I'd like, especially on a day when the track and turf conditions may well be changing and compromised by expected thunderstorms.

Here's the lineup, with ML odds and my preliminary A-B-C-X designations -- I've still got some winnowing to do -- followed by some thoughts on each race:

Race 6 (G2 Churchill Downs S.): Kodiak Kowboy can win this as the 6-5 favorite but I'm casting a wide net because I think he'll be overbet off a G1 Carter victory that didn't wow me. He was life and death to get up over Fabulous Strike, who had been softened up in a brutal pace duel while racing a furlong beyond his best distance. Two alternatives,in addition to obvious second choice Sok Sok (who gets extra emphasis if the track comes up sloppy): My Pal Charlie, who got a rare bad ride from Leparoux in the Commonwealth Apr. 11, gunning up a dead rail to duel; and The Roundhouse, who still has upside in just his seventh career start and third off an 18-month layoff. I'm hoping six-furlong specialists Accredit and Hewitts, both scratched from the Aegon Turf Sprint Friday for this, will set the table for a closer.

Race 7 (G3 Eight Belles S.): Formerly run as the La Troienne, this G3 race for 3-year-old fillies is a skullbuster. Eight of the nine runners have a career-best Beyer in the 88-to-93 range, at a variety of tracks, distances and surfaces, and a few have taken turns beating one another. Add in three poly-to-dirt moves, uncoupled entries from Asmussen and Jones, and you've got a recipe for chaos. Having said all that, I'll probably end up leaning towards narrow favorites Just Jenda and Four Gifts, but I'll use a bunch of them in the pick-6 and a bigger bunch in the more affordable pick-4.

Race 8 (G2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile): In a sequence this tough you have to narrow somewhere, and I may have to lean heavily on Visit in here. I know, I know, she's 2 for 11 and has some bad habits and has burned a lot of money but she's been right there with some of country's best grass fillies and meets no one of that caliber here. Ballymore Lady and Lemon Chiffon seem to have a slight edge over the others.

Race 9 (G1 Humana Distaff): Informed Decision was a little bit lucky to beat Ventura in the Madison, but Ventura's not here and Informed Decision is an excellent filly sprinter and may just be a little better than these. Game Face figures close and Secret Gypsy is a threat to wire a field a bit short on early speed. They're the three favorites for a reason.

Race 10 (G1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic): Einstein and Court Vision are perfectly solid favorites, but I'll use 10-1 Zambezi Sun in equal strength. You can draw lines through his first two U.S. starts -- he was rank in the SL Obispo, and was running on synth in the Big 'Cap -- but now he gets softer footing and he'd win this with a return to his top European form.

Race 11 (G1 Kentucky Derby):  I really liked both of I Want Revenge's New York victories and Dunkirk is the one horse in the field with enough upside and potential to make me think he might be just as good. I respect Friesan Fire, think General Quarters and Papa Clem have run well enough on the dirt to be threats if the top ones don't fire, and will use synth specialists Pioneerof the Nile and Hold Me Back as purely defensive backups.

First post at Churchill is 10:30 a.m. ET again Saturday and I'll be blogging the day from here. If you're still looking for those Oaks-Derby double will-pays and how they might translate to Derby odds, check out the bottom of the previous post.

David Letterman just did two Derby jokes in his "Late Show" monologue:

1. "The Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports. That, and an Alex Rodriguez blood test."

2. "The winner of the race, at the end of the season, usually gets put out to stud. Kind of like being elected Governor of New York."