05/06/2009 11:00PM

Back on dirt, Charitable Man should run better


LOUISVILLE, KY. - Having raced twice raced against I Want Revenge at Aqueduct this spring, Imperial Council is the morning-line favorite in Saturday's Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

He is not the most likely winner, however. That horse is Charitable Man, who returns to his preferred surface, dirt, after a troubled seventh-place finish racing on Polytrack in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland last month.

The past performances for Charitable Man note in his last-race comment line that he was "seven wide early," and that was an accurate assessment. He broke with the field, but jockey Alan Garcia found himself hung out entering the first turn, and while he tucked in somewhat around the turn, it forced Charitable Man to fall back to eighth - not the position from which he wants to run.

As those who saw him win a maiden race at Saratoga last year and the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont know, this is a horse blessed with speed. And the way the Blue Grass unfolded, he simply wasn't able to showcase his strength.

When not on the lead, he runs best in the clear, pressing the pace, as he did in winning the Futurity with a five-wide trip over Flying Pegasus and Friesan Fire. That race, like the Peter Pan, was run at Belmont.

His trip was not as fortunate in the Blue Grass. Granted, he was in the clear early - way in the clear on the outside - but down the backstretch, Garcia decided to drop in behind horses and save ground with him.

Not a bad move with an experienced horse - but for Charitable Man, it wasn't the recipe for success.

Toss out his Blue Grass. View it as a fitness- and experience-gaining experience, and anticipate a return to the peak form from his juvenile campaign, when he was one of the top dirt horses of 2008.

A son of Lemon Drop Kid, Charitable Man is also bred to improve as he ages. He isn't by some precocious, win-early sire. Lemon Drop Kid's runners are typically much better at age 3 than 2, and I'm betting that is true of Charitable Man.

As third choice on the morning line at 3-1 odds, he is a solid play in the Peter Pan.

Uno Mas finds good spot

The other big 3-year-old race this Saturday if the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby, a race that lacks a big-name runner

That's just what Uno Mas needs. Last winter at Fair Grounds, he had the misfortune of facing Friesan Fire, the eventual Kentucky Derby favorite, and while outrun, he was not disgraced in his two matchups vs. that rival on fast tracks.

Since then, he ran second at Oaklawn in the Northern Spur Stakes, a race that is better than it looks on paper. He was hammered at the start, forcing him farther off the pace than he prefers, and he showed determination to rally through traffic.

Against a less-than-stellar field in the Lone Star Derby, he should get a smooth inside stalking trip under Cliff Berry and close to victory.

Tiger Woodman gets good setup

As noted, Charitable Man had a wide trip in the Blue Grass, but it was nothing compared with the "parking lot" trip of Tiger Woodman in winning a third-level allowance at Keeneland on April 11.

A late runner caught in a slow-paced race, he was hung six wide under Javier Castellano into the second turn, and yet managed to run down a stakes-winning colt in Why Tonto, who had enjoyed a favorable pace-pressing trip two to three paths off the inside.

Entered Saturday in the $50,000 Chester House Stakes at Arlington, Tiger Woodman has a strong chance to repeat if jockey James Graham can save more ground with him.

Adjusted for ground loss, his last-race performance - by my speed figure measurements - is best in the field, and the makeup of the race appears to suit him. Drawn in post 3, he should be no more than two wide into the first turn, and with two turf sprinters in the field, the pace should be legitimate in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, resulting in a strung-out field.

That helps a late runner like Tiger Woodman, who shouldn't have to circle a wide, bunched field, as he did in his latest.

At 9-2 on the morning line, he should be a good wager.