03/19/2009 11:00PM

Looking past the first Saturday in May


PHOENIX - Industry eyes tend to get a little tunnel-visioned at this time of year. It's all things Derby all the time, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. But with our attention so narrowed we may miss a lot of other items that could have implications well beyond the Triple Crown. Here are a handful of horses who may do some damage down the road.

Affirmatif: The world has one horse who didn't race at 2 to ponder about for the Kentucky Derby in Dunkirk. Affirmatif, a 3-year-old son of Unbridled's Song from the same Todd Pletcher barn, also made his racing debut this year. He kicked off his career Feb. 28 and what a debut it was. In a mile turf race at Gulfstream, the colt dueled early for the lead, took command down the backside, and just kept going, getting smaller to his rivals as he vanished in the distance, reporting home nine lengths clear. You don't see horses do that first time out, much less do it on turf and routing. And the 98 Beyer was downright evil.

Pletcher rightly said he would never toss him into the Derby mix. But if this guy runs big in his first try against winners, couldn't Pletcher be at least a wee bit tempted to look at the Preakness May 16? Or maybe he waits longer before going after the big boys a la Bernardini and Tiznow.

Biker Boy: A son of Grade 1 route (Pacific Classic) and sprint (Hopeful) winner Came Home, he looked like a real comer a year ago. He blitzed maidens at Gulfstream by five for a 95 Beyer. He came back to whip allowance foes in the mud at Churchill Downs May 3 by 2 1/2 lengths. Alas, that was the end of the 2008 campaign for Biker Boy, trained by Nick Zito.

But 2009 could be his year of fulfillment. Now 4, Biker Boy came back to romp over allowance foes at Gulfstream Feb. 1 by 5 1/2 lengths for a 101 Beyer. He returned this past Wednesday there and again whipped allowance foes - he had only two rivals - by over 13 lengths. He got only a 93 Beyer but basically jogged the final furlong.

All his work has come at seven furlongs or a mile, and it just so happens there are some pretty darn nice races coming up that fit the bill, like the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct or the Met Mile at Belmont. The talent is surely here, and in a year where the milers lack significant power maybe this guy can step into the void.

Plan: He's by possibly the most influential stallion of the past 20 years in Storm Cat. His mom, Spain, earned over $3.5 million from multiple Grade 1 victories. He was a Group 3 winner on the turf in Ireland last year and finished second in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington last August.

And now new trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. is simply gushing about this guy, saying he could be the kind of horse who can win the BC Classic. Now surely Dutrow is subject to hyperbole now and again, but, hey, he was right about Saint Liam a few years ago and was right about Big Brown last year. As the old saying goes, it ain't bragging if it's true.

Here's a horse bred to be any kind, with proven ability on turf. That pedigree says dirt and synthetic should be no problem, either. He's supposed to be unveiled soon for his 4-year-old season, and with the handicap ranks in a state of flux he could have a big say if he's anywhere close to as good as Dutrow thinks.

Pure Clan: Okay, so maybe she bit off a tad too much when she tried the BC Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita last October. Still, she had proven herself the top 3-year-old turf filly by winning the Grade 1 American Oaks and finishing a much-troubled second in the Grade 1 Garden City. She has shown her quality on dirt, too, having run third in the Kentucky Oaks.

Trainer Bob Holthus has said that her focus this year figures to be the grass, and why not? She's yet to return to the work tab, but a bevy of big spring and summer grass engagements await. Surely horses like Cocoa Beach, Visit, Forever Together and Backseat Rhythm loom major hurdles, but this girl showed she can run with any of them.