09/18/2002 11:00PM

Color weekend green all over

Email

They've got $1 million up for grabs at Pimlico, where it's Maryland Million Day. There is $700,000 on the table spread among four stakes races at Kentucky Downs, where the turf version of the Kentucky Cup races will be run. Louisiana Downs put up $550,000 in stakes money, topped by the $500,000 Super Derby. Belmont Park has $475,000 worth of stakes, headed by the $300,000 Vosburgh. And, that doesn't even include what's happening at Bay Meadows, Calder, Hastings, and Woodbine, where another $850,000 worth of combined stakes races will take place.

The way tracks across North America are throwing stakes money around on Saturday, you would think it grows on trees. Here's hoping we can pick up some stakes green on Saturday, too. At the betting windows.

Super Derby

I'm going to take a shot here with Thunder Days, who ran deceptively well at Saratoga in his first two starts this year. In his first start of the year, Thunder Days closed fast from way back to be a narrowly beaten third, and did so on a track that was profoundly biased toward speed.

Most recently, he was a distant third in the King's Bishop Stakes. But the King's Bishop on Travers Day was run over a sloppy track that a lot of horses didn't care for, and the King's Bishop has already proved to be a productive race. Runner-up Boston Common came back to romp in the Jerome, and Day Trader, who finished a little more than a length behind Thunder Days, came back to win decisively in the Kentucky Cup Sprint.

On Saturday, Thunder Days will get the two turns he's been craving for, as all sons of Thunder Gulch and a Silver Hawk mare would. In his only other attempt at two turns, he was much the best winning an allowance race at Churchill Downs last fall. Moreover, the price will be nice. Thunder Days should be somewhere around 10-1.

The Judge Sez Who, whom I picked when he narrowly missed in last month's West Virginia Derby, and who came back to win the Oklahoma Derby, will be formidable once again. But, if you respect him, you can also consider A.P. Five Hundred. A.P. Five Hundred was third, only a half-length behind The Judge Sez Who, in Oklahoma, and he can be the controlling speed in this spot if his rider desires.

Maryland Million Classic

Duckhorn may well win this race. He will be strongly favored.

Duckhorn is, after all, a Grade 2 stakes winner dropping into an event restricted to the offspring of Maryland-based sires. But if he does win, then I will lose, because I plan on betting against him.

Duckhorn will be attempting to win going 1 3/16 miles off a three-month layoff, which is never an easy feat. He also tends to cough up big early leads. There is no one in this field that can keep step with Duckhorn early. But there are horses like Big Becker, Concerned Minister, and Carney's Prospect who can be close enough to make Duckhorn go a little faster early than he would prefer to go.

My pick is Docent, who is making an interesting turf-to-dirt move. When Docent made such a surface switch over the summer, he knocked off two wins. The first was a decision over Sumerset, who won this race last year, and then he edged the hard-hitting Burning Roma in a stakes at Mountaineer. Docent earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 in the Mountaineer race, and that would be good enough here, especially if Duckhorn doesn't fire his best shot.

Kentucky Cup Turf Dash

Like almost every other handicapper in North America, I'm a fool for turf sprints. So I couldn't let this one pass.

Unlike most other American turf sprints, which are at five or 5 1/2 furlongs, the Dash is at six furlongs. Since most of these horses are accustomed to shorter sprints, and since there is a ton of early speed in this race, which is no surprise, I expect there to be a premium on finishing ability. That's why I'm going with Aloha Bold, who overcame a slow start to win his turf debut last May, and who then finished well to miss narrowly in a small stakes.

I am, however, afraid of Mighty Beau, who comes into this suitably fresh. When he made his turf debut in a stakes at Keeneland last April, he did so off a layoff, and he came within a head of upsetting the highly accomplished turf sprinter Morluc at 69-1.