04/25/2007 11:00PM

'Hotstuf' always a square price


NEW YORK - With Kentucky Derby Day on tap next Saturday, this is the first weekend in what seems like ages without a major prep for the first leg of the Triple Crown. But there are still plenty of stakes to be run Saturday.

Miami Mile

Hotstufanthensome is something of a "stable pet" of mine, but that is not the reason why he is the play. Rather, it's because he is consistently effective, and yet his odds always seem to be more than fair.

For example, despite a series of races last summer at Monmouth that saw him lose narrow decisions to Miesque's Approval, last year's champion turf male, and Ashkal Way, a Grade 1 winner, Hotstufanthensome was almost 5-1 when he made his first start of the year in the Tampa Bay BC. Despite a victory in that spot, Hotstufanthensome was slightly more than 5-1 last time out in the Pan American Handicap, in which he finished a close second.

Hotstufanthensome might not quite be 5-1 again Saturday, but his odds figure to be acceptable. Bettors might be thrown off by his unconventional cutback in distance from the 1 1/2 miles of the Pan American to a mile. That, however, is a non-issue, as Hotstufanthensome is equally adept at a wide range of distances. There is also the presence of Classic Campaign, who is sure to take money off a meaningful eight-pound weight shift in his favor off his second to Hotstufanthensome in Tampa and a subsequent near miss to Ashkal Way. But Classic Campaign must break from the outside, which means he is at great risk of losing substantial ground around the first turn.

Derby Trial

Even though its name might be a misnomer, this edition of the Derby Trial shapes up as wild betting event. A reasonable case can be made for almost every one of the 14 entered, meaning value should be readily available.

I'm going with Flying First Class. No one was more skeptical of Flying First Class when he earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden romp at Oaklawn Park, and it wasn't a surprise when he stopped as the favorite against Curlin in the subsequent Rebel Stakes. But even though Flying First Class finished sixth last time out in the Arkansas Derby, I liked the way he ran. Flying First Class was squeezed back at the start, but made a nice run to get within a couple of lengths of the lead on the far turn. And while it looks on paper like Flying First Class gave up again late, remember, Curlin was running away from the field, and Flying First Class wound up beaten only a little more than two lengths for second. Flying First Class should be forwardly placed Saturday in a race that doesn't have a great deal of serious speed.


Divine Park rode the crest of Keeneland's Polytrack closer's bias when he won last time out, and is stepping up and meeting opponents who have already run well in stakes. I like Divine Park, anyway.

Divine Park bettered his debut Beyer by 20 points, which is huge. Divine Park still has gobs of room for significant advancement, and another big step forward is anticipated. If he does move forward again, his main opposition Saturday might not be able to match him.