04/15/2008 11:00PM

Lack of big favorites adds to challenge

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - If this were Southern California, where pick-six pools snowball in a hurry, it'd be no big deal. But because there never has been a larger carryover in Keeneland history, the pick six will be the talk of the track when racing resumes here Wednesday after the customary two-day break.

Horseplayers shot and missed on each of the first eight days of the Keeneland spring meet, building into a carryover of $307,050 for Wednesday - meaning the total jackpot might well be worth about $1 million when all pick-six wagers are in. The carryover breaks the previous record of $260,209 set at the 2003 fall meet. The highest pick-six payoff in track history, $317,439, was made last spring on Blue Grass Stakes Day.

Normally, the $125,000 Appalachian Stakes would be the main attraction Wednesday as the eighth-race feature, but clearly the prospect of a life-changing windfall will take precedence with the majority of fans. The $2 pick six always is held on the last six races at Keeneland, so the fourth race (post time, 2:40 p.m. Eastern) serves as the leadoff on a nine-race Wednesday card that starts at 1:10 p.m.

Warning: Trying to single horses Wednesday could prove worrisome. There are no huge favorites in any of the races, and the fields are mostly big ones, with the exception of seven horses in the seventh race. Clearly, the prospect of an even bigger pick-six buzz looms for Thursday.

Race 4: Mizzen the Rhythm can claim the highest last-race Beyer Speed Figure (75) among the 3-year-old fillies in this starter-allowance race, but that was earned over the Gulfstream Park slop, and now she moves to Polytrack. The others appear well-matched, with Call Me Kitty Cat, a maiden special winner over the Fair Grounds turf, and Holiday Cruise, making her first start since moving into the barn of Tim Glyshaw, rating solid chances in a race in which 6 of the 10 starters last ran at Turfway Park.

Race 5: One rule of thumb for early-season baby races at Keeneland is that, more often than not, the winning trainer is Steve Asmussen, Todd Pletcher, or Wesley Ward. That would mean considering 4 of the 11 starters here: Tiffany Royal and Mostly Peace for Asmussen, Iberian Gate for Pletcher, and Teriffany for Ward. Anything else helps substantially toward a Thursday carryover.

Race 6: All but one of these nine 3-year-olds come out of a stakes race, although it seems reasonable, for various reasons, to downplay the chances of Strait of Mewsina, Targe, and Tejanos Eliminator. That still leaves several dangerous options in this 1 1/16-mile turf allowance, with maybe Chitoz, Celestial Comet, and Texas Fever having slight edges over Ready Set and Nistle's Crunch.

Race 7: Victorianna was a bang-up second in the Queen Stakes, but she wasn't even good enough to be in Eddie Kenneally's first string in south Florida this winter. What gives? Maybe she has improved enough to win this second-level allowance, which drew some pretty honest, if unspectacular, filly sprinters. Barclay Tagg has an interesting uncoupled duo in Sweetest Kiss and Runaway Cat; neither would be a surprise off moderate layoffs. Beyer-wise, Speak Wisely actually appears best, but she's running somewhere other than Woodbine for the first time and hasn't been out in nearly six months. Trisha's Silver ended a New Orleans campaign with three nice turf races and now switches to Polytrack.

Race 8: Nearly six months after running fifth as the favorite in the Epitome on Breeders' Cup weekend at Monmouth Park, Namaste's Wish gets a crack at redemption in the Appalachian, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. Quite a few opponents, however, look capable of denying her in this highly competitive race, including I Lost My Choo, going for a fourth straight victory; Alwajeeha, withheld from an allowance here last week to try this; Sweepstake, a six-length winner of an overnight turf stakes last out in New Orleans; and Much Obliged, an easy winner of her last two races on the Fair Grounds turf.

Race 9: Roc Roe looks like a logical - albeit eminently beatable - favorite in the closing leg after faring respectably in all three of her Gulfstream tries this winter. Still, this maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies, run at about seven furlongs, is full of sneaky-looking possibilities from top-class stables, most notably Anna Bella, Arrow in Flight, A.P. Fortune, and Sagacite.