05/01/2003 11:00PM

Derby runner profile: Brancusi

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STRENGTHS: He's improving by leaps and bounds. He will offer value, which is the single most important element. His San Felipe third-place finish was impressive, especially since it came in his first try against winners. It is very difficult to go from maidens to Grade 2 company and run a career best. He could have bounced next out in the Blue Grass, but he did the opposite and ran a solid second. He has foundation races as a 2-year-old, a staple of most Derby winners. His tactical speed and the ability to get the Derby distance add to his appeal.

WEAKNESSES: He has come a long way in a short time and you don't know if he will run out of gas. He is stabled at Keeneland, so he will have to van in for the Derby. Finally, this will be the first Derby for trainer Patrick Biancone and rider Tony Farina.

STRATEGY: He will want to lay just off the early pace but in front of the main pack. He can't afford to get shuffled back early.

BETTING VALUE: Unless he becomes the "wise-guy" horse, which is doubtful, Brancusi will offer value.

PEDIGREE PROFILE

SIRE LINE: Brancusi and Derby runner Ten Most Wanted are from Deputy Commander's first crop, which also includes Kentucky Oaks hopeful, Holiday Lady. Deputy Commander blossomed in the summer of his 3-year-old season, winning the Travers Stakes and Super Derby, both at 1 1/4 miles. Deputy Commander's sire, Deputy Minister, was Horse of the Year in Canada and a champion at 2 in the U.S. He has been among the upper echelon of stallions, and his best offspring include Open Mind, Go for Wand, Touch Gold, and Awesome Again, all of whom relished 1 1/4 miles. He's of the Northern Dancer sire line.

FEMALE FAMILY: His female family is full of quality and stamina. Second dam Treizieme was a $500,000 Keeneland weanling and became a multiple group winner in France - counting the Group 1 Grand Criterium against males among her victories. In the U.S., she was second to Estrapade in the Beverly Hills Handicap.

PEDIGREE PATTERN: With Deputy Commander on top, 1987 Derby winner Alysheba on the bottom, and a high-class female family, Brancusi is bred to run all day. His second and third dams were also by stout influences, The Minstrel and Ribot. Brancusi should have no problem getting the Derby's 1 1/4 miles.

- Pedigree profile by Lauren Stich