05/03/2006 11:00PM

Byron King's Kentucky Derby analysis

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Sweetnorthernsaint was spectacular in winning the Illinois Derby, relaxing comfortably for jockey Kent Desormeaux and exploding once he was turned loose in the stretch. Unlike some of the other front-runners, he is capable of relaxing without the rider having to restrain him off the pace, a key in what should be a fast-paced Kentucky Derby. He also rated kindly in the Gotham earlier this year when he finished a wide third. Beyond having the right temperament, he is simply fast. He has earned four consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, something only Brother Derek has accomplished in this field. Sweetnorthern-saint, under two-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux, looms an attractive wager at his 10-1 track morning-line odds. Point Determined is an even-paced runner who should be at his best in a Derby that figures to unfold with fast fractions. He ran second to Brother Derek when that one was loose on the lead in the Santa Anita Derby, a quality performance on his part. He has shown steady improvement in recent months and appears ready for another leap forward. Barbaro, perfect in six starts, has trained well in recent weeks over the Churchill strip. With some bettors hesitant to support him off a five-week layoff and with just one race in 13 weeks, he could drift up from his 4-1 morning-line odds. A former turf horse, he figures to run well if he is able to get a clean trip, but he could get discouraged if he falls behind early and gets dirt in his face. Front-running Brother Derek, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, has been dominant since late last year, but faces a daunting task because of the abundance of speed in the 20-horse lineup. He has twice earned Beyers of 108 when racing on the lead, but has never posted a Beyer above 102 when off the pace. He tugged at jockey Alex Solis when he was taken back just off the leaders in winning the Santa Catalina Stakes on March 4, which hints that he may have trouble settling in the early stages of a hotly contested Derby.

Selections

Sweetnorthernsaint
Point Determined
Barbaro
Brother Derek