05/03/2005 11:00PM

Bellamy Road ideally drawn

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Bellamy Road, galloping Wednesday with Carlos Correa, is the 5-2 choice on DRF's odds line.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bellamy Road, the runaway winner of the Wood Memorial, landed post 16 and was installed as the morning-line favorite when the expected full field of 20 horses was entered Wednesday night for the on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Bellamy Road the 5-2 choice. He has Afleet Alex, the Arkansas Derby winner, next at 6-1, with Bandini, the Blue Grass Stakes winner, at 8-1. Mike Battaglia, the linemaker at Churchill Downs, also has Bellamy Road at 5-2, with Afleet Alex at 9-2 and Bandini at 6-1.

The draw for post positions at the Derby is a two-step process. In the morning, a blind draw was held in the Churchill racing office to determine the selection order for the 20 runners. Then, during a national telecast on ESPN that emanated from the Triple Crown Room of the Jockey Club Suites at Churchill, a representative from each 3-year-old picked their respective post position.

There was intrigue surrounding this draw, because of the presence of the speedy Spanish Chestnut. He is owned by Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, who also own Bandini. In the Blue Grass, Spanish Chestnut set a rapid pace that aided Bandini, and it is assumed he will have a similar mission in the Derby - ensure a quick pace while compromising the chances of some prominent front-runners, most notably Bellamy Road.

Bellamy Road had the 10th choice, and his trainer, Nick Zito, selected post 16. Spanish Chestnut had the 12th choice, and his trainer, Patrick Biancone, took post 13, surprisingly putting him inside of Bellamy Road, even though post 17 was available.

"I'm not racing against Bellamy Road," Biancone said. "I thought 13 is a good number."

Zito was seemingly relieved by that development, which should allow Bellamy Road to stalk Spanish Chestnut, though there will be pace pressure from Going Wild.

"I wanted Bellamy Road outside. I think we got everything we wanted," said Zito, who has five runners in the Derby, including Andromeda's Hero, High Fly, Noble Causeway, and Sun King.

Bandini had the first pick. Tabor took post 15, the first spot in the auxiliary gate.

"We wanted to be toward the outside," said his trainer, Todd Pletcher, who also will send out Coin Silver and Flower Alley. "We felt like we had more options" from that spot, Pletcher said.

Afleet Alex had the second pick. His trainer, Tim Ritchey, took post 12. The field is double loaded, beginning with posts 1 and 11, so Afleet Alex will be the third or fourth horse loaded into the gate.

"I would have taken 15 if we had the first choice," Ritchey said. "I thought about 16, but 12 is a good spot."

The final two picks belonged to the longshot Going Wild, who ended up in post 19, and Santa Anita Derby winner Buzzards Bay, who had to settle for post 20.

Of the other highly regarded runners, Louisiana Derby winner High Limit ended up in post 6, Florida Derby winner High Fly got post 11, Florida Derby runner-up Noble Causeway will break from post 4, and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko wound up in post 14.

The Derby's purse was doubled this year to $2 million, and was further enhanced by the $200,000 that owner B. Wayne Hughes paid to supplement Greeley's Galaxy to the race. The overall Derby purse, which includes entry and starting fees, is $2,399,600. The winner's share, provided there are no late scratches, will be $1,639,600.

Greeley's Galaxy, the Illinois Derby winner, was not an original nominee to the Triple Crown, and only was able to get into the Derby field because fewer than 20 original nominees entered the race. Hughes also owns Don't Get Mad, the winner of the Derby Trial.

"I'm glad to have it behind me," said Hughes, who had to hope no last-minute entries spoiled his plans. "I thought we would get them both in."

Asked if he was nervous writing the $200,000 check, Hughes smiled and said, "My secretary did it."

"I think you get it back if you win, and that's what I'm planning to do," Hughes said.

Hughes believed his colt deserved to be in the race based on merit, and he also was desirous of seeing Warren Stute, the 83-year-old trainer of Greeley's Galaxy, have a starter.

"I think it's the highlight of his training career, even though he won that million-dollar race in Dubai," Hughes said. Stute won the 2002 Godolphin Mile with Grey Memo.

"I've been to quite a few big races," said Stute, who has been training for 60 years. "I'm kind of over the nervousness."

Wednesday morning, both Greeley's Galaxy and High Limit recorded their final workouts for the Derby.

Greeley's Galaxy, under exercise rider Mikki Fincher, traveled five furlongs in 1:01.60. He seemed to tire late in his second straight disappointing work over this surface.

"I was hoping to work him faster, but that's all right, he went good enough," Stute said. "He finished his last half-mile good. He just went off a little slow."

High Limit, by contrast, completed his sharp series of preps with an easy half-mile breeze in 48.20 seconds with exercise rider Jose Cuevas.

"He did it himself. Real easy," Cuevas said. "I was just a passenger."

* It was clear and cool Wednesday, with a high in the low-60's, but it is expected to warm considerably by the weekend. The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 74 degrees on Friday and 80 on Saturday. There also is a "slight chance of a thunderstorm" Saturday, according to the weather service.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch