04/30/2007 12:00AM

Great day for betting exotics


In addition to the Kentucky Derby, which will be run for the 133rd time on Saturday, there will be a betting festival of excellent stakes at Churchill Downs linked in pick threes, pick fours, and the pick six.

The five graded stakes and the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby also will be part of Daily Racing Form's new "Winner Take All," Triple Crown Handicapping contest, which will involve the six graded stakes on each of the Triple Crown racing programs.

Here are the stakes on the Derby undercard, along with a probable horse to beat in each race and a few upset threats.

* Grade 3, $150,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, for fillies and mares, one mile on the turf: Although Todd Pletcher's reigning 3-year-old filly champion Wait a While would have been a formidable contender in this event, he does have Magnificent Song ready to pinch hit in this spot. A Grade 1 winner in 2006, Magnificent Song has been training well in company with Pletcher's Derby-bound colt, Cowtown Cat.

* Grade 2, $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap, 4-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs: Likely to have a relatively deep field of contenders, including Ah Day, Istan, Moon's Halo, Saint Anddan, Will He Shine, and Wanderin Boy, none of whom are trained by Pletcher, even though he has four nominees for the race. Of course, Pletcher just might slip in at the last minute with Half Ours or Keyed Entry. Half Ours is unbeaten in five career outings.

Regardless of the final composition of the field, the horse to beat would seem to be Wanderin Boy, an underrated Nick Zito-trained speed type who usually competes in middle distance route races.

While unable to handle 3-year-old champion Bernardini or Horse of the Year Invasor in a few major stakes last year, Wanderin Boy did win the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap and might be using this race as a springboard for the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont on May 28.

* Grade 1, $300,000 Humana Distaff Handicap, fillies and mares, 7 furlongs: A strong lineup of 10 or 11 is expected. Although she has not raced this year, Bushfire looms the horse to beat. Winner of the 2006 Ashland at Keeneland and two other Grade 1's in New York - the one-mile Acorn and 1 1/8-mile Mother Goose - Bushfire obviously will be quite comfortable in this one-turn event out of the chute on the Churchill Downs backstretch. Top threats include a pair of Southern California invaders, Shaggy Mane and Pussycat Doll.

Shaggy Mane, a front-runner trained by Don Chatlos, is 6 for 9 lifetime, including her victory in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream in February - her first trip outside California.

Pussycat Doll is seeking a repeat victory in the Humana Distaff, having won last year as the low-profile entrymate to heavily favored Behaving Badly. As usual, she is working well for trainer Bob Baffert.

Others expected to run are Carriage Trail, Culpeper Moon, Hysterical Lady, Indian Flare, Leah's Secret, Maryfield, Mornet, and Wildcat Bettie B, who has been training with Derby contender Hard Spun.

* Grade 3, $150,000 La Troienne, for 3-year-old fillies, 7 1/2 furlongs: Although the 2006 2-year-old champion Dreaming of Anna was nominated to the La Troienne, she was training so well last week, that her connections abruptly shifted focus to the Kentucky Oaks on May 4 despite two defeats at short odds at Gulfstream Park during the winter. That defection opens this race quite a bit, unless Appealing Zophie, the fleet filly who won the prestigious Spinaway at Saratoga last summer is back on her game after fading as a pace factor in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks on March 10.

Perhaps the most dangerous threat is Total, a confirmed sprinter who finished second to Appealing Zophie in the 1 1/16-mile Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 10.

* Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles on the turf: Always a very competitive race that has produced its share of upsets, the logical horse to beat is the veteran Better Talk Now.

Now 8, Better Talk Now has maintained strong form during a solid career that included a victory in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf and several other Grade 1 triumphs. As usual, trainer Graham Motion also will saddle Shake the Bank, a steady front-running type who will ensure a lively pace for his more accomplished entrymate.

Graded stakes performers Brilliant, Defer, Einstein, Go Between, Icy Atlantic, Milk It Mick, and possibly Danzon are likely to compete. Of these, Icy Atlantic has strung together two high-class performances in rich Southern California stakes, while Einstein is a most intriguing upset threat.

After Einstein's fourth-place finish in this race last year, trainer Helen Pitts slowly but surely got him back to top form earlier this year, winning the $500,000 Mervin Muniz stakes at Fair Grounds on March 9 from a difficult outer post.

All that said, some of us will be looking eagerly to the 133rd Kentucky Derby to complete a bonanza of multi-race exotics, or perhaps just to break even. In my own case, I will be setting up trifecta and superfecta tickets using the ultra fresh, strong-finishing Circular Quay to crack one of the top two finishing positions at about 10-1 odds while also using unbeaten Curlin as an important part of my trifectas and superfectas.

At the bottom line, some of the undercard stakes may be relatively straightforward, but the 2007 Kentucky Derby looms a complicated race in which value should be quite good in various exotic pools.