04/01/2005 12:00AM

Blues and Royals can do


PHOENIX Ive heard all the facts, seen all the evidence, and my conclusion is this: As much as I respect and admire colleagues such as Andy Beyer and others who believe Blues and Royals cannot win the Kentucky Derby, I have to disagree.

No doubt the statistics are in their favor:

* Since 1937, 20 horses have raced in the Derby with a single prep race at 3, and all have failed.

* Among horses with just two prep races, only one has won since 1948 (Sunnys Halo, 1983).

The lesson is obvious: you need sufficient seasoning to win the Derby.

But horses are being trained differently than they used to be. It used to be that you raced your horse into condition. Citation ran seven times in 1948 leading up to his Derby, and he won the Derby Trial just five days before the race. Fellow Calumet Derby star Whirlaway did the exact same thing seven years earlier. Bold Ruler used five preps for his 1957 Derby. Northern Dancer had six in 1964. Canonero II had eight races in Venezuela before shipping to Churchill to win in 1971.

Today, horses are raced more lightly. The value of the horse has become so immense that many horsemen seem to believe the risk of racing may not be worth the reward. So, instead of using some allowance races to prep for a big run, horsemen now work the horse and then find a race. Trainers are treating their stars here like they do in Europe pick your spots and dont pick too many of them.

But those who think Blues and Royals is too lightly raced to win the Derby are not taking the horse himself into consideration. Godolphin officials admit they have never brought a top-class animal that could get the distance to the Derby. China Visit, Worldly Manner, Essence of Dubai nice horses all, but not top-class, nor could they stay the 1 1/4 miles. Had Street Cry made it to the Derby, all this talk might have ended up in the trash years ago. But he didnt, and it hasnt.

Blues and Royals might be different. His UAE Derby win was dazzling. Even if you doubt the legitimacy of his 110 Beyer Speed Figure, its still a monster fig. And visually it looked as though the horse jumped in at the quarter pole as racecaller Trevor Denman is fond of saying. Those werent slobs behind him way behind him either. Marenostrum is talented. Third finisher Parole Board also might go to the Derby. Durban Thunder is highly regarded, and Shamardal say what you will about his race is still the reigning champion European 2-year-old. Blues and Royals made them look like ponies.

Also, Blues and Royals has some similarity in breeding to several recent Derby winners. His sire, Honour and Glory, was a quality sprinter-miler, just like the sires of War Emblem (Our Emblem), Funny Cide (Distorted Humor), and Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality). These horses didnt win the Derby in spite of their pedigrees; they won it because of them.

The emphasis on speed has brought this type of pedigree to the fore, and anyone who saw Blues and Royalss tour de force in the UAE Derby saw a horse that has speed and athleticism like many of the recent Derby winners.

The assets Blues and Royals brings to the Derby may be enough to offset the factors on the debit side of the ledger, and maybe, finally, make the Godolphin plan go from rust to roses.