04/20/2009 12:00AM

Kudos to Gomez for a great ride on Advice


NEW YORK - One of the bigger complaints about American Idol contends that the contestant who goes last has an unfair advantage because the voting public remembers the last one the best. I'm not exactly proud I know this, but there does seem to be some truth to it.

In any event, there doesn't seem much to fear concerning Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland acquiring American Idol syndrome. The Lexington might have been the last real prep for the Kentucky Derby, and it might be freshest in our minds. But there doesn't seem much danger that anyone will attach more importance to it than it deserves.

Advice charged from last of 11 to win the Lexington and become a potential third Kentucky Derby starter for WinStar Farm along with Hold Me Back and Mr. Hot Stuff. But the most notable thing about Advice's win was the ride he got from Garrett Gomez. Gomez was knocked in this space last week for his ride on Ventura in the Vinery Madison. Truth be told, I didn't like his ride on Dunkirk when they were second in the Florida Derby, either. So it's only fair to point it out when Gomez demonstrates - as he did in the Lexington - why both the connections of Pioneerof the Nile and Dunkirk wanted his services in the Derby.

In case you traveled to Mars over the weekend and missed it, Gomez will ride Pioneerof the Nile in the Derby. In the Lexington, he did all you can ask of a jockey. Gomez was patient when impatience would have cost him an extreme loss of ground around the far turn. Instead of going six wide on the far turn, Gomez and Advice made the perfect inside out move into the stretch. The ground Advice didn't lose on the far turn is a big reason why he was as fresh as he was late. Still, it's important to remember that Advice was still eligible to the first-level allowance condition going into the Lexington, and he broke a four-race losing streak Saturday. So even though he won, Advice will be one of the longer shots on the board in the Derby.

The other noteworthy Lexington performance was the one by Square Eddie, who finished third as the favorite. Square Eddie made a monstrous six-wide move around the far turn but tired late after taking a clear lead in midstretch - perfectly understandable in his first start after a three-month injury-related layoff. Square Eddie figures only to improve off the Lexington. But whether he can improve enough in only two weeks is another matter entirely.

Some other random thoughts:

* Just because Dunkirk is now safely in the Derby, it doesn't mean that the graded earnings system Churchill Downs uses to cap the field at 20 shouldn't be revised. Even just a tweak to devalue 2-year-old earnings and put the emphasis on 3-year-old performance would be a significant improvement. It makes no sense to put this off until a horse dominates in the Preakness and Belmont after being denied the opportunity of a possible Triple Crown because he didn't have enough graded earnings to start in the Derby.

* While we're at it, the awarding of a berth to the winner of a virtual allowance race in England should also be revisited. The concept of fostering international competition in the Derby, and increased international wagering participation, is a good one. But perhaps that berth should be linked to a higher quality race than a listed race at Kempton. Mafaaz, who won that berth, proved to be outclassed in the Blue Grass, showing he really had no business competing in the Derby. Thank goodness Dunkirk is safely in the Derby field. But if his participation had depended on Mafaaz's status, then Mafaaz might not have been withdrawn, what with the bitter rivalry between the folks behind Dunkirk - the Coolmore clan - and the folks behind Mafaaz, the Maktoum family.

* Not sure what to make of Commentator after his tired fourth in the inaugural Charles Town Classic on Saturday night. On one hand, he was making his first start of the year in a three-turn race, which can't be an easy task. On the other hand, the Charles Town Classic was the second straight race Commentator lost after establishing a comfortable early lead. He had previously been unbeatable when he held such an advantage. Maybe age - 8 - has finally caught up to Commentator.

* Seattle Smooth didn't beat a lot numbers-wise or quality-wise in Saturday's Bed o' Roses Handicap at Aqueduct. But she won it with so much style that it's hard envisioning her not being a major factor in the older female division in the East.

* So who was best in Saturday's Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita? Was it Magical Fantasy, who prevailed by a hair after having to check around the far turn when blocked in traffic? Or was it Black Mamba, who finished fast to just miss after being spun seven or eight wide into the stretch? Tough call.

* Say what you will about the folks at IEAH Stable, but they showed a lot of class stopping on Stardom Bound because she had not trained up to satisfaction following her loss early this month in the Ashland in her first start outside of California. I'm not sure every ownership group would have done the same thing with a horse purchased for $5.7 million five months earlier right when the economy was going south.