05/02/2007 11:00PM

Aegon Turf Sprint preview


Friday, May 4, 2007
Churchill Downs - Race 7
5 Furlongs (Turf)
Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes
3-year-olds and upward
Purse $150,000.

SGT. BERT is 0-7 over the Churchill lawn, but he set a course record for 5 1/2 furlongs in winning the Woodford at Keeneland last fall, and he may have been just a bit short making his seasonal debut in the Shakertown on April 15. He was stuck in behind horses in the upper stretch that day before angling sharply to the two path to split horses. He moved into contention only to flatten out in the final sixteenth of a mile. Sgt. Bert earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the 2005 Woodford in his second start following a layoff, and will attempt to duplicate that winning pattern on Friday. The outside post is a concern, but he has some tactical speed, and may not be forced that wide going into the turn. At 10-1 on the morning line, he looks like a value play.
UNBRIDLED SIDNEY hasn't raced since last November when she whipped males over this course and distance, but the clockers at Keeneland noted that she "went very well, and looks ready for her return" after zipping a half-mile out of the gate in 45.40. She'll likely be on the lead once again, but may face pace pressure from California invaders ROI CHARMANT and ELLWOOD AND JAKE. THE NTH DEGREE finished ahead of the top pick in the Shakertown, but like Sgt. Bert, hasn't had much success at Churchill. There's no denying his current form, however, and he'll get plenty of pace to attack in the final furlong. CONGO KING may have finally found his niche as a turf sprinter as he rallied nicely in the Shakertown to kick off his 4-year-old campaign. He's riding a nine-race losing streak, however, and will have to hustle early to avoid a hedge shuffle.
GAFF looked good winning the Taylor's Special Handicap on grass at Fair Grounds two back, then lacked the needed finish on dirt in his most recent race. He switches to John Velazquez, and will make the important third start of the form cycle for a very dangerous barn. Roi Charmant failed to last on the lead going down the hill at Santa Anita, but should relish turning back in distance, and he consistently puts up competitive Beyer Speed Figures. He'll likely battle for the early lead.

1. Sgt. Bert
2. Unbridled Sidney
3. The Nth Degree