04/23/2008 11:00PM

Ginger Brew will even score


NEW YORK - Among the most notable events on tap this weekend are the $400,000 Calder Derby, which tops Calder Race Course's Turf Million card; the $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park; the $150,000 Withers and $100,000 Beaugay Handicap at Aqueduct; the $150,000 Mervyn Leroy Handicap at Hollywood Park; and the $100,000 Derby Trial on the opening day card at Churchill Downs.

Calder Oaks

Shes All Eltish defeated Ginger Brew the only time they met. But that was on dirt, the same surface on which Shes All Eltish recorded her big win in the Bonnie Miss Stakes most recently. This race is on turf, and I'm betting that will be the difference maker in enabling Ginger Brew to exact revenge and win this race.

That isn't to say Shes All Eltish isn't capable on turf. She is. She earned a good Beyer Speed Figure when second on grass two starts back, and she notched her maiden win on turf. Life Is Sweet, who comes off a respectable fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland, is also effective on grass, as evidenced by two wins on it. But with the way Ginger Brew won an allowance race on the turf at Gulfstream Park last time out, I believe she can become an important horse on grass.

As good as Ginger Brew's most recent win looks on paper - and it looks solid in the past performances - it was considerably more impressive visually. She was caught three wide around both turns while sitting in close attendance to a very fast early pace. Yet despite the ground loss and effort extended to stay close early, Ginger Brew showed an eye-catching turn of foot in upper stretch, a hallmark of a top turf horse. That quick burst enabled Ginger Brew to go on and dominate. And the Beyer Figure of 88 she earned for that effort, while certainly competitive with her competition Saturday, was a pale indication of how well Ginger Brew actually ran.

Derby Trial

There are a couple of reputation horses here in Majestic Warrior and Kodiak Kowboy, but both may be vulnerable. Majestic Warrior might appreciate the cut back to one turn, but he hasn't looked anything like the colt who won the Hopeful last summer in his three starts since that race. Kodiak Kowboy won three stakes last year, but over soft company, and Tale of Ekati was far better than him in last fall's Futurity than the length margin would suggest.

I like Eaton's Gift. I'm not going to hold his tired third most recently in the Lafayette against him, as it was his first start in two months, and it came on Keeneland's quirky Polytrack. Eaton's Gift ran well winning the Swale Stakes two starts back, he won over Churchill's main track last fall, he has a big recent work over the track, and, most importantly, he is the controlling speed in a race that doesn't have much other early speed.

Mervin Leroy Handicap

Zappa could win this race on his best, and so could Surf Cat. But I'm concerned that Zappa could be dulled cutting back substantially in distance after racing at extended routes in his last two starts. And whether it is because of age or the synthetic tracks he now races on, Surf Cat just doesn't seem to be the same horse he was when he won this race two years ago.

Monzante is the play. Monzante showed quality when he was beaten only a half-length for second by the recent Oaklawn Handicap winner Tiago in the Strub Stakes two starts back, and he couldn't have been more impressive winning the Santana Mile Handicap most recently, earning this field's best last-out Beyer of 106. And between the stretching-out Desert Code, and Buzzards Bay with blinkers on, Monzante should get an honest pace to set up his good late kick.