09/06/2009 11:00PM

At 10-1, It's a Bird offers good value


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The banners are up around downtown Saratoga Springs in celebration of Saturday being declared by the mayor as "Rachel Alexandra Day." The track itself has also contributed to the hype, with 25,000 Rachel Alexandra buttons ready to be handed out. And on horse racing websites and message boards, the praise is almost universal - that Rachel Alexandra is a filly for the ages and likely to jog over her older male rivals in Saturday's Woodward Stakes.

I beg to differ - not with her greatness, which is unmistakable, but with the widespread thinking that a Woodward victory is a forgone conclusion.

Although she is the most probable winner, there are no givens in horse racing. A heavy favorite can lose from a bad ride or poor racing luck, have the misfortune of injuring herself during the race, or simply just get outrun.

With Rachel Alexandra at 1-2 on the morning line and likely to drift lower come post time, there is little financial incentive to bet her.

But there is incentive to back It's a Bird, who has a fighting chance, and sits at an overlaid 10-1 on the morning line.

Admittedly, his last race - a seventh-place finish in the Suburban - was lackluster, but that race was not a true reflection of his talent. And by shipping It's a Bird to Saratoga from Calder for such a demanding test as the Woodward, trainer Marty Wolfson is all but telling horseplayers to toss the race out.

If he has the confidence to try Rachel Alexandra off such a poor performance, I have the confidence to bet It's a Bird.

This is a quality horse. He won the Sunshine Millions in January, the Lone Star Park Handicap in May, and also crossed the wire six lengths in front in the Oaklawn Handicap before his post-race test showed traces of naproxen, the generic name for Aleve, resulting in a disqualification. It's a Bird's connections have appealed that ruling.

Adding to his wagering appeal is the return of jockey Julien Leparoux, who has been aboard It's a Bird for his best races.

Piscitelli has upset potential

Beating a Wayne Catalano-trained favorite at Arlington Park is almost as tough as trying to beat a 1-2 shot.

Yet I see one such upset potentially brewing Saturday in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. I believe 6-1 outsider Piscitelli can outrun the Catalano-trained Dixie Band, the 9-5 favorite.

Dixie Band seems the faster, more accomplished horse - on paper. But dig deeper and watch the last-race replays of Piscitelli and Dixie Band.

In winning a maiden race at Monmouth on July 30, Piscitelli overcame a troubled trip that is not reflected in his past performance line or the race chart.

Stumbling at the start from post 8, Piscitelli quickly recovered to be sitting fourth past the stands for the first time. But jockey Elvis Trujillo had to take him back to avoid going extremely wide into the first turn. Even so, the horse was hung three wide on both turns of the race - the kind of ground loss that often beats a horse.

Dixie Band, on the other hand, had a dream trip in winning the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid at Arlington on Aug. 8. He settled just behind two dueling leaders and easily surged to the lead coming into the stretch.

Upon taking command, he looked ready to win by five. Instead, he only gradually inched away for a 1 1/2-length victory under heavy urging.

Granted, Dixie Band is proven on the Polytrack, while Piscitelli is not. That is the disadvantage to supporting Piscitelli, but at 6-1 odds, there is plenty of upside to him if he proves to like the synthetic surface under regular Arlington rider Junior Alvarado.

Dubious Miss has license to improve

Just as It's a Bird's presence in the Woodward is a positive sign that he is ready to rebound from a poor effort, so is the presence of Dubious Miss in Saturday's Washington Park Handicap at Arlington.

Seventh at Mountaineer in the Aug. 1 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, beaten more than 22 lengths, Dubious Miss is being shipped to Arlington by trainer Paul McGee.

Although he ran like a wheel came off at Mountaineer, Dubious Miss came back to work five furlongs 13 days after the race, and has breezed every eight days since, capped by a bullet five furlong work at Arlington on Aug. 30. These works are positive signals.

Having posted his best Beyer Speed Figure, a 105, over Keeneland's Polytrack in April 2008, this is a horse that has every right to move up over synthetic ground.

He is an overlay at 6-1 on the morning line.