04/23/2009 11:00PM

Expect Leparoux to remain red hot


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sometimes horse racing is remarkably formful. Through the first nine days of the Keeneland meet, leading jockey Julien Leparoux had ridden 26 percent winners, with an $11.85 average payoff, for a generous $3.11 return on each $2 invested. Would those numbers hold up through the rest of the meet?

As this is written Friday morning, they have. During the next five days of racing, through the next-to-last day of the meet, Leparoux rode 10 winners from 35 mounts, a 28 percent success rate. His average win payoff was $10.90, and his return on investment was the same $3.11.

Keeneland's Polytrack can be tricky, and it is playing differently now than it did a couple of years ago, when the track was deeper and slower. One change is that early speed has held on better recently.

Leparoux must have figured out a few secrets about riding strategy at Keeneland, because his numbers are on the upswing. In October 2007, he rode 12 percent winners, with a low $1.03 ROI. His statistics were similar in April last year, with 12 percent wins and a $1.19 ROI. Things got better in October, with 16 percent wins and a $1.59 ROI. This latest meet was excellent.

There is a good chance that Leparoux will continue to fare well at Churchill because he had a very good handle on that track during the fall meet last year, when he rode 30 percent winners with a $2.48 ROI and was the leading rider by a margin of 22 wins. The catch is that his average win payoff and ROI are likely to decline as bettors become more aware of the fact that he is producing profits.

Concerns remain for Square Eddie

How visually impressive was the bold move that Square Eddie made turning for home at Keeneland in the Grade 2 Lexington? I've spent 15 years in the press box, and the burst of speed that carried Square Eddie from eighth to first caused more involuntary oohs and aahs than any other performance I have witnessed there. It seemed to most observers that he was on his way to a convincing win, but he was still rusty after having missed some training due to an injury and faded to finish third.

Square Eddie has since attracted some interest as a potential longshot play in the Kentucky Derby, and I can understand why. But there also are a couple of concerns about him.

The first worry is that Square Eddie will have just two weeks to recover from that taxing performance. If it were possible, my guess is that four or five weeks between races would give him a good chance to take another step forward. But the quick turnaround makes regression about as likely as improvement. Stretching out from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/4 miles also might cause another fade down the stretch. The second concern is that the Lexington was not a highly rated race. Advice earned only a modest 94 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory, and Square Eddie received a low 91. He'll need to take a big step forward to scare the leading contenders in Louisville.

Storm Military has pace edge

Storm Military is my selection in Sunday's Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park. This 7-year-old finished a contending third in the Grade 1 Eddie Read at Del Mar two races ago and fits well on the class drop. He likes Hollywood's turf course, with a win and a second from two local starts.

But the thing I like best about him is that he is the only genuine front-runner in the field and should have a pace advantage over his rivals. That's important because early speed has been valuable in turf routes at Hollywood at recent meets, and that trend appeared to be in force through this meet's first two days of racing.

Storm Military has trained well for his first start since August and would be formidable if he runs a typical race. The concern is that Storm Military also was entered to run Saturday at Golden Gate in the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile. If he stays at Hollywood, he's a bet.