04/26/2012 3:21PM

King: Derby Trial favorites are beatable at Churchill Downs


Advice for horseplayers analyzing Saturday evening’s Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs: don’t bet the hype.

The talented morning-line favorites Paynter and Bourbon Courage are being hailed by some as stars in the making. And though they may they have the potential to become stars, betting on blue sky often can lead to bad wagering fortune. Horse racing is a humbling game, and bubbles burst in racing more often than in real estate or in technology.

That’s not to say they can’t win. Sure they can – they’re the most likely winners. Paynter is dropping in class after a fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and Bourbon Courage has run a pair of Beyer Speed Figures in the 100s.

But judging from the comments on Twitter, every clocker in California is foaming at the mouth at the prospect of betting Paynter, and similarly, the figure fellas are fanatical about Bourbon Courage, particularly if he isn’t favored.

As for this handicapper, he’s is backing a former maiden $30,000 claimer: The Black. Having three times raced for a tag, he will go largely unnoticed due to those humble beginnings, despite deceptively good Santa Anita form.

In three starts this year, he won a maiden $30,000 race by over 11 lengths; a starter $40,000 race going away by two lengths; and rallied to be second in the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes for California-breds March 31.

Making his form a touch more intriguing is that those wins came with rear-half rallies at Santa Anita, a track much more speed conducive than the main track at Churchill Downs.

And with the exception of Bourbon Courage, who is stretching out in distance from six furlongs to a mile for the Derby Trial, The Black’s Beyers are competitive with the recent numbers of other key contenders.

Paynter, for example, ran an 89 in the Santa Anita Derby, only 3 points higher than the 86 The Black ran in finishing second in the Echo Eddie.

Add up these positives and The Black is an intriguing value play at his 15-1 morning line – a price that could even increase come post time after the Paynter and Bourbon Courage backers go to the betting windows.

Texas Mile: Hurricane Ike ready

Another promising price play exists in the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star on Saturday – with the horse being 6-1 shot Hurricane Ike.

A mile specialist, he looks ready to move forward after a useful seven-furlong comeback race at Keeneland April 7 when second to stakes winning Scotus in a third-level allowance.

Though no match for Scotus in the lane, losing by 3 1/4 lengths after having a clear lead at the eighth pole, Hurricane Ike likely needed the race after being out of action since last year. It also came on Polytrack, and this is a horse that seems more effective racing on dirt than on synthetics.

Two years ago he won the Derby Trial over Aikenite on a muddy main track, and in his best race from last year, he was a close second to Glenwood Canyon in a swiftly run Schaefer Memorial at Hoosier Park.

If able to run back to either of those two efforts, which earned him Beyers of 101 and 99, respectively, he has a shot to win.

This is not an exceptional group for $200,000, with Canonize favored at 2-1 after a narrow win over Gladding in the Santana Mile at Santa Anita.

Snow Chief: Corner Office appealing

Turning out west to Betfair Hollywood Park, the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief for 3-year-olds looks like a head scratcher – making it the kind of race to back a horse at a price.

My preference is Corner Office, who has made all three of his starts this year in routes, and who seems well suited to the distance and the shift to race on the synthetic surface there, Cushion Track.

He ran second there in his second start last December, running a solid 72 Beyer in a 6 1/2-furlong race, and since that time this horse has progressed when given a chance to go a distance of ground.

And making his second start off a layoff, he looks ready for a peak effort – making him a good gamble at his 6-1 morning line.

Stoney Fleece and Unusual Heatwave are the ones to beat in the race, but they’re not unstoppable. The former drew the outside in the field of 10, putting him at risk of a wide trip, and the latter has been even paced late in his two-turn races, which came going just a mile.