01/26/2009 12:00AM

Macho Again due for a good effort


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Most horses will signal a top performance with an encouraging effort in their last race. Macho Again, on the other hand, has consistently produced peak performances following lackluster efforts.

Given his habit of reversing negative form, he looms an attractive wager in Saturday's $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic following a Dec. 20 race at Fair Grounds in which he finished sixth of seven in the Woodchopper Stakes on grass.

His price should be favorable in a full field, particularly with Delightful Kiss likely to take support following a visually striking come-from-behind victory in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope over the Gulfstream Park strip.

Although I respect Delightful Kiss, if he goes off favored, as expected, I will play against him, knowing that he rallies from the clouds. Deep closers like him need pace and well-timed moves to be successful.

Macho Again, in contrast, has more tactical speed. He prefers to stalk from three to five lengths off the early pace, and drawn in post 3, he should get a good trip under Kent Desormeaux.

But, again, the primary reason to like him is his value-increasing poor performance in his last start - a race that should set him up for a good effort based on his racing history.

Consider that on Oct. 7, 2007, he finished seventh at 8-5 odds when trying Polytrack for the first time at Keeneland. Returned three weeks later at Churchill on dirt, Macho Again won, leaping forward 31 Beyer Speed Figure points.

Months later, as a 3-year-old, his connections give him another shot on Polytrack, this time in the Lane's End Stakes. Again, he ran poorly, finishing seventh. But a race later, back on dirt at Churchill Downs, he won the Derby Trial, upsetting Kodiak Kowboy and running a 101 Beyer.

Then after finishing a well-beaten fifth behind Da' Tara in the June 7 Belmont, an effort that resulted in just an 86 Beyer, Macho Again came back to win Saratoga's Grade 2 Jim Dandy, earning a career-best 102 Beyer.

These results suggest Macho Again wants to race strictly in dirt routes, not on turf or in marathons, and that he is not the type of horse to string together two poor efforts in a row.

His best appears good enough to win the Sunshine Millions Classic. In addition to winning the Jim Dandy, he ran second in the Preakness and also in the Super Derby despite encountering traffic problems.

His Super Derby, which came in his last dirt start Sept. 20, was deceptively good. He kicked on strongly to edge Forest Command for the place, and the winner, My Pal Charlie, ran a stakes-record time of 1:48.36 for 1o1/8 miles.

My Pal Charlie legitimized the race by finishing a close fourth in the Breeder's Cup Dirt Mile.

At odds of 5-1 or higher, Macho Again looms an attractive wager.

Oaks: Surface switch for Emmy Darling

Turning to Santa Anita - which like Gulfstream Park is hosting four Sunshine Million Stakes races for Florida-breds and California-breds on Saturday - I like Emmy Darling to win the Sunshine Million Oaks, a $250,000 six-furlong sprint over the track's synthetic Pro-Ride surface.

Having won the Landaluce Stakes over Cushion Track at Hollywood Park last year, she is proven racing on synthetic surfaces, and she exits a series of much tougher stakes races. She faced the likes of Evita Argentina and Stardom Bound in the Sorrento and Del Mar Debutante, respectively, and then faced some of the best young turf fillies around in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Grade 3 Miesque.

Although her last two races came on turf, seemingly not her preferred surface, her performances were solid. She was fifth in the Breeders' Cup when staying too close to Laragh's brutal early pace, and then in the Miesque she crossed the wire fourth, just two noses away from finishing second.

Back on a synthetic track and returned to a sprint, she should get a favorable stalking trip behind what should be a hot pace.

Dixie Belle: Tiger's Song well spotted

In other stakes action Saturday, a favorable wagering opportunity presents itself at Oaklawn Park in the Dixie Belle Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies on the main track.

My play is Tiger's Song, who joins high-percentage connections following a private purchase by Darrell and Evelyn Yates and trainer Chris Richard.

A stakes-placed filly with good Beyers, she has performed well in sprints despite wide trips. But drawn in post 1 in the Dixie Belle, with plenty of speed to set up her off-the-pace rally, she looks poised for a rewarding trip that could result in immediate dividends for her new connections.