05/01/2007 11:00PM

For a change, several can go the distance

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LAS VEGAS - It comes down to who should be most effective at 1 1/4 miles. After a few years of bizarre results, the Kentucky Derby returned to normalcy last year with Barbaro, a son of stamina influence Dynaformer, dazzling the world with his 6 1/2-length tour de force.

Unlike recent years, where there were only a few Derby runners who were bred to relish 1 1/4 miles, there is an unusually large number of colts this year who should handle the Derby distance. After eliminating 10 horses by pedigree, the following colts have the best pedigrees for 1 1/4 miles and are listed alphabetically:

Any Given Saturday: His sire, Distorted Humor, got a Derby winner in his first crop with Funny Cide and has become one of racing's elite stallions. Any Given Saturday's stamina is given a boost by the damsires in his pedigree: A.P. Indy, Spectacular Bid, and Hillary. His dam is a half-sister to the brilliant but brittle Second of June, so the class is there. He was supposed to race in the Blue Grass but was a last-minute Wood replacement a week earlier when Circular Quay scratched. His subpar effort is easily explained by his gut-wrenching nose decision to Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby. Expect the real Any Given Saturday to show up in the Derby.

Cowtown Cat: Ignored by the media, Cowtown Cat is an example of a Thoroughbred who blossoms quickly during the spring of his 3-year-old season. While he may not have hard-core stamina influences in his female family (Storm Cat, Meadowlake, Chieftain, and Royal Union are all sources of speed), he has the Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female through different individuals within five generations,) as he is inbred to stakes winner Pocahontas, who became a treasured broodmare for owner Raymond Guest of Powhatan Stables. Two of her sons, Chieftain and Tom Rolfe, catapulted her to 1965 Broodmare of the Year. Ignore him at your own risk - he'll be on all my exotic tickets.

Circular Quay: Damn that eight-week layoff and the fact he has never even run nine furlongs. Everything seemed to point to Circular Quay as one of the top three Derby threats until these puzzling turn of events. Unlike Barbaro, whose five weeks between the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby last year was planned, the eight weeks between Circular Quay's victory in the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby was unplanned and is the reason for concern. Yet it is difficult to toss Circular Quay from the equation for a combination of reasons. He is by Thunder Gulch, winner of the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and who has become a solid source of stamina (Point Given, Spain, Tweedside, etc.). He gets high class from his Grade 1-winning dam, Circle of Life, who captured the Spinaway Stakes, and he absolutely loves Churchill Downs, as evidenced by his 2 victories and 1 second from 3 starts over the surface. He also has great athleticism, which is paramount for a stone-cold closer who will have to negotiate his way through heavy traffic. Nearly 20 lengths behind the front-runners after a poor start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he rallied past 12 other 2-year-olds to finish strongly to be second despite adversity.

Curlin: While the offspring of his sire, Smart Strike, win on dirt, they are more effective going longer on turf, like English Channel. Damsires Deputy Minister and Bates Motel add stamina.

Dominican: He is from the second crop of El Corredor, who won the Cigar Mile. While his sire line (El Corredor-Mr. Greeley-Gone West) is known for its speed, Dominican's female family is replete with champions. His fourth dam is Chris Evert, and descending from this line are Chief's Crown and the 1988 Derby winner, Winning Colors.

Great Hunter: His sire, Aptitude, was second in the 2000 Derby and sired Steppenwolfer, who was third in last year's Derby. Damsires in Great Hunter's pedigree include stamina influences Roy, Northern Fashion, and Gleaming.

Hard Spun: If karma has anything to do with the Derby, this is the winner. Racing had not seen a stallion like Bold Ruler, the 1957 Horse of the Year, since Exterminator, but Bold Ruler never sired a Derby winner until one of his last crops, when Secretariat broke the mold in 1973. Likewise, Mr. Prospector sired a Preakness (Tank's Prospect) and Belmont (Conquistador Cielo) winner, but was near the end of his spectacular career as a stallion and had not sired a Derby winner until Fusaichi Pegasus won in 2000 to right that wrong. Now it is Danzig's turn. Danzig died in 2006, and Hard Spun is from his next-to-last crop. Danzig also sired the winners of the Preakness (Pine Bluff) and Belmont (Danzig Connection), and it would be fitting for Danzig finally to sire a Derby winner.

In addition, you would be hard-pressed to find a better Derby pedigree. His Darby Dan pedigree is full of Triple Crown lore, and his first two damsires are powerful stamina influences Turkoman and Roberto. His second dam is a half-sister to Little Current, the 1974 3-year-old champion who won the Preakness and Belmont. His third dam is a half-sister to the 1963 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner, Chateaugay, and his full sister the champion Primonetta became a Broodmare of the Year.

Danzig could score a phenomenal double on Saturday with Hard Spun in the Derby and the exciting US Ranger in the 2000 Guineas in England. US Ranger is out of a half-sister to Dynaformer.

Nobiz Like Shobiz: It would be the crowning achievement of Leon Rasmussen's great career if Nobiz Like Shobiz wins the Derby. The late pedigree columnist was such a devout advocate of female family inbreeding that Jack Werk of Owner-Breeder magazine dubbed his theory of inbreeding the Rasmussen Factor. There will be special significance if Nobiz Like Shobiz is victorious, since it was Rasmussen who actually planned the mating between Nightstorm and Albert the Great, creating inbreeding to Swoon's Tune. From the Ribot sire line (renowned for stamina), Nobiz Like Shobiz should excel at 1 1/4 miles.

Street Sense: From the first crop of Street Cry, who won the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster, Street Sense has everything it takes to win the Kentucky Derby. Like his sire, Street Sense should get only better with maturity and distance. His pedigree is strengthened by his first two damsires (Dixieland Band and His Majesty), who add more stamina. His second dam is a half-sister to Mr. Greeley, and he is also inbred 5x4 to Natalma. Three great stallions descend from Natalma - Northern Dancer, Danehill and Machiavellian - as well as hundreds of stakes winners. Getting a double dose of Natalma has proven to be a very good thing, and Street Sense is a prime example.

Tiago: Another colt from the Ribot sire line, Tiago (by Pleasant Tap) is even better bred for 1 1/4 miles than his Derby-winning half-brother, Giacomo (Holy Bull).