03/08/2007 1:00AM

Act like a genius, select Einstein


NEW YORK - Saturday's card at Fair Grounds is the richest in Louisiana racing history, with the $600,000 Louisiana Derby topping a program that also includes a pair of $500,000 stakes - the New Orleans Handicap and the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap - as well as the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap

This race drew an interesting field that includes three dangerous shippers from Southern California - King's Drama, Hendrix, and Sweet Return - as well as a highly capable mare in Naissance Royale. But in an attempt at being a smart guy, I'm going with Einstein. And trust me, Einstein is a lot better than that terrible pun.

Einstein will be making his third start off a long layoff Saturday after finishing a close third most recently in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf in a performance that was much better than it looks on paper. In that race, Einstein was caught three wide around the first turn, four wide around the second turn, and five wide around the far turn. Ground loss like that is especially costly in turf races, so it is to Einstein's credit that he was still battling for the lead in deep stretch and was beaten less than a length for it all.

Although Einstein drew another outside post Saturday, there is a long enough run to the first turn to afford him the opportunity to get over and save some ground. He does cut back significantly in distance, from 1 3/8 miles to about 1 1/8 miles. But Einstein made a similar cut back in distance when he competed in last year's Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and was beaten only a little more than a length by the top-class English Channel while earning the highest Beyer Speed Figure of his career.

Louisiana Derby

Circular Quay will be the favorite in this race, as the whole world knows he lost all chance when he had to avoid a fallen rider at the top of the stretch in last month's Risen Star Stakes. His stock also got a bit of a boost last weekend when Great Hunter was a stylish winner of the Robert Lewis, as Circular Quay and Great Hunter were pretty much equal in ability last year. But even though Circular Quay should get better racing luck in this smaller field, deep closers like him aren't my kind of horse. That is especially true when the early pace figures to only be moderate, which is the case Saturday.

I like Liquidity, who found himself after getting blinkers two starts ago. Two starts back, Liquidity was narrowly beaten in the Hollywood Futurity by Stormello, who came back with a courageous effort last weekend when nosed in the Fountain of Youth. When Liquidity returned to action early last month in the Sham Stakes, he was run down only late by Ravel, who on the strength of that performance has emerged as a top candidate for the Kentucky Derby. Aside from exiting tough races, Liquidity has something else going for him - the ability to be a major pace presence in a race lacking much early zip.


Summer Doldrums has won both of his starts on the inner track by as far as you can throw a rock, and the 106 Beyer he earned in winning the Whirlaway last time out was the highest two-turn figure earned this year by any of the 25 Kentucky Derby aspirants listed in this week's Derby Watch. But he is going to be the favorite, so I'm taking Cowtown Cat, who, for a Todd Pletcher-trained Florida shipper, might in this instance actually represent betting value.

Cowtown Cat was a soundly beaten third in the strongly run Swale Stakes last time out, but was a solid allowance winner two starts back. He should love the stretch-out to two turns, and breaking from the rail on the inner track is an ideal scenario to attempt that.