05/30/2007 11:00PM

Borel chooses Lady Joanne in Dogwood


Street Sense wasn't the only Calvin Borel winner who clung close to the Churchill Downs inner rail during Kentucky Derby week. Borel also took the shortest way home when Lady Joanne made a successful comeback in a May 1 allowance, and he was scraping paint when Silverinyourpocket rallied from far back to capture the La Troienne Stakes on the May 5 Derby undercard.

Borel and his agent, Jerry Hissam, were presented with a tough but enviable decision as Saturday's Grade 3 Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes approached, as both Lady Joanne and Silverinyourpocket wound up in a field of nine 3-year-old fillies in the one-mile race.

Lady Joanne, who had not raced since capturing the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes last November when she returned to action Derby week, hails from the stable of Carl Nafzger, trainer of Street Sense.

"The connections were probably the biggest reason for us to pick Lady Joanne," Hissam said. "She also won the Golden Rod pretty convincingly, and her comeback race was good, too."

Still, Silverinyourpocket, trained by Helen Pitts, is a "very, very nice filly," Hissam said.

Churchill horseplayers surely will agree that the $150,000 Dogwood could boil down to those two. Each filly has won 3 of 5 starts, with one graded stakes triumph apiece.

Pitts named Ramon Dominguez to ride Silverinyourpocket, a Silver Deputy filly who overcame a sluggish start in the 7 1/2-furlong La Troienne.

If neither of the favorites runs back to one of their top races, then the mild upset could fall to Upcoming Story, a Patrick Biancone-trained filly who tracked the pace in the La Troienne before settling for third, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Upcoming Story, by Tale of the Cat, will be treated with the diuretic Lasix for the first time Saturday.

The rest of the Dogwood field is Moonee Ponds, Suaveness, Looky Yonder, High Again, Girls Pearls, and Gatorize. Of those, maybe High Again is most dangerous, considering she won the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream Park three starts back.

Opening Verse: Free Thinking set to stalk

Making his first start of the year in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile on April 13 at Keeneland, Free Thinking was overeager and tired to seventh after setting the pace.

Returned in an allowance race at Churchill on May 12, he experienced an opposite type of trip. Rated in sixth, 4 1/2 lengths off a dawdling early pace, he closed ground but ended up third,

1 1/2 lengths behind Junior College.

Saturday when he starts in the $100,000 Opening Verse Stakes over the Churchill Downs turf course, Free Thinking "needs that happy medium," trainer Doug Danner said, meaning an up-close, stalking position behind a reasonable pace.

He seems likely to get it. At least three of the eight entrants in the 1o1/16-mile Opening Verse are regular front-runners, and if they show speed, jockey Julien Leparoux should be able to place Free Thinking just behind them.

Whether Free Thinking is good enough to beat the likes of Icy Atlantic and Go Between in the Opening Verse remains to be seen. But he is capable of a powerful effort on grass.

He ran third behind Rush Bay and Purim in this race last year, and followed that race with a runner-up finish behind champion turf horse Miesque's Approval in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill.

As good as that race was, Danner said Free Thinking's best race came last fall in the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park, when he was beaten a head by Ashkal Way.

Despite the two losses this year and an 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile - a race that he exited with an injured eye - Free Thinking, Danner believes, can return to the form he showed last year.

"I think he is just as good," he said.

Icy Atlantic and Go Between - who ran eighth and ninth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on Derby Day - are the likely favorites. Icy Atlantic won the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap in April at Santa Anita. Go Between won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby last year and has made nearly $1 million.

- additional reporting by Byron King