03/30/2006 1:00AM

No one will catch Sharp Humor


NEW YORK - Saturday is the biggest day of the season at Gulfstream Park, where the $1 million Florida Derby heads a card that includes six other stakes, and at Sunland Park, which features the $600,000 WinStar Derby.

Florida Derby

Barbaro is the solid favorite, and for good reason. He has won all four of his starts, and the prevailing thinking is he will be much more comfortable on the fast track he is assured of Saturday than he was when he won the Holy Bull Stakes last time out in the slop in his first start on dirt.

But Barbaro is still vulnerable. He is coming into this race off the longest layoff of his career - eight weeks - and is badly drawn in post 10. With such a short run to the first turn in 1 1/8-mile races at Gulfstream like this event, Barbaro could easily find himself caught five wide on the first turn. Barbaro might attempt to drop back after the start to save some ground, but that would mean he would have to come from farther off the pace than he ever has before.

I like Sharp Humor to post a front-running upset. Given the high speed he demonstrated contesting a fast early pace when he won the Swale Stakes in his first start of the year, Sharp Humor is unquestionably the best early speed in this field. He should be able to build a clear advantage fairly quickly, and then slow down the pace. And while Sharp Humor is an unknown commodity going two turns - this will be his first attempt at a route distance - there are reasons to think he can be successful. His pedigree suggests that nine furlongs is within his scope. Moreover, Sharp Humor is a tenacious fighter. It looked like he was going to get run down in the stretch when he won the Sleepy Hollow in his final start at 2, but he would not give in. And in the Swale, Noonmark looked like he had him collared in the stretch, but Sharp Humor again would not give in.

Excelsior BC Handicap

This is a very interesting betting race. It has two highly accomplished old geldings in Funny Cide and Evening Attire who still have reputations, but look to be past their primes. It has a hot Maryland shipper in Your Bluffing, who is meeting tougher. And it has the sharp Colita, who will try yet again to make a successful jump from overnight races.

The one thing this race doesn't have is genuine early speed. So, I'm going with Liquor Cabinet in the hopes that he will be the one to capitalize on the lack of pace.

I usually only pay great mind to jockey assignments in extreme situations, but I like the fact that Eibar Coa is on Liquor Cabinet again. Coa has never been bashful about sending horses when the circumstances call for it, and they call for it here. In any event, Liquor Cabinet fits on form, anyway. He hasn't been worse than second in eight starts dating back 20 months, and was a dead-game second last time out in the Stymie Handicap in his stakes debut.

Pan American Handicap

When Einstein won the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap last time out on the front end, he did so in a race void of early speed, and when he went wire to wire in an allowance race two starts back, he did so over a speed-biased sloppy track. But I'm still picking Einstein.

Einstein is a lightly raced and upwardly mobile colt facing opponents Saturday who have pretty much hit their ceiling. In addition, Einstein's best running style might actually be from off the pace, a method he employed in his first two wins. He will get a chance to run that way here stalking Ramazutti, Scooter Roach, and El Duque.


Aqueduct: Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap
3 and up, 1 1/8 miles

Approximate post: Eastern-4:21 p.m., Central-3:21 p.m., Mountain-2:21 p.m., Pacific-1:21 p.m.; Ozone Park, N. Y., forecast: Thunderstorms likely, 59¦

1Liquor Cabinet9999967-2
4Funny Cide8497826-1
5West Virginia8997904-1
6Go Now86868820-1
7Evening Attire9192865-1
8Your Bluffing101102996-1
9Infinite Glory9493928-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Gulfstream Park: Pan American Handicap
3 and up, 1 1/2 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-4:38 p.m., C-3:38 p.m., M-2:38 p.m., P-1:38 p.m.; Hallandale Beach, Fl., forecast: Sunny, 80¦

2Broadway View88928915-1
3Ground Hero88-6850-1
4Go Deputy99101985-2
5Silver Whistle9397937-2
6Scooter Roach839010115-1
7Sabre d'Argent93n/an/a3-1
8El Duque7685n/a50-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Gulfstream Park: Florida Derby
3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles

Approximate post: E-5:42 p.m., C-4:42 p.m., M-3:42 p.m., P-2:42 p.m.; Hallandale Beach, Fl., forecast: Sunny, 80¦

2Flashy Bull9489924-1
3Saint Augustus94727212-1
4Doc Cheney88867812-1
7Sharp Humor9782935-1
8High Blues94807410-1
9Charming Image75737020-1
11Sam's Ace77887420-1

Odds by Art Gropper