03/28/2007 11:00PM

Notional looms a juicy overlay at 4-1


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Scat Daddy, starting in Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, is one of the most underappreciated 3-year-olds in the country. Despite having won the Champagne and Fountain of Youth stakes, Scat Daddy is not considered by many handicappers to be in the same class as horses such as Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, and Circular Quay.

But he is not the least appreciated horse in the Florida Derby. From my perspective, that horse is Notional, who is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line following victories in the Grade 2 San Rafael and Grade 3 Risen Star stakes.

That is an overlaid price on a Doug O'Neill-trained runner who owns the race's top Beyer Speed Figure (105), who is perfect in three starts on traditional dirt tracks (his two losses came on Cushion Track), and who is coming off a trip that was much worse than it appears on paper.

In Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Notional was let off at 22-1, 10th among the 23 individual entries.

So why isn't Notional more fancied by bettors? My guess is because some view the form established in the Risen Star Stakes as somewhat fake.

That race was marred by the unseating of rider James Graham at the top of the stretch, which eliminated the chances of favored Circular Quay, who ran fifth. Circular Quay, with John Velazquez up, had to check sharply to avoid the fallen rider, losing all chance.

That left Notional in position to outfinish the rest of the field, horses which were not nearly in the same class as Circular Quay.

Even so, that does not make the race fake. Notional had a deceptively tough trip in that race, not Circular Quay tough, but certainly less than perfect.

Breaking from the 12 post, he was wide entering the first turn of the Risen Star and farther back than accustomed. Then after advancing down the backstretch and on the second of two turns, he and jockey Robby Albarado had to fight their way through traffic.

Once clear in the stretch, Notional ran strongly to win comfortably by 2o1/4 lengths.

He is well drawn on the fence in the Florida Derby, and I am fully expecting him to run even better.

Orchid: Time On can fire fresh

Another favorable wagering opportunity comes in the Orchid Handicap.

Time On, a Sadler's Wells filly making her first start in America, appears ready to fire fresh in her first race since October. And if she does, her opponents are likely running for second.

After a poor 2-year-old campaign in 2005, she blossomed in Europe in 2006 once stretched out to long-distance races. She finished the year with a 3-for-7 record, which included a win in Group 2 company at the Orchid's distance of 1 1/2 miles.

Now she joins the barn of trainer Christophe Clement, who has a winning history with European imports, with Naissance Royale being one example. Naissance Royale won the Grade 2 Lake Placid for him in 2005 after being brought to America from France, and has gone on to become one of the better turf mares in the country.

Time On will have to outrun a classy filly in Safari Queen to win the Orchid, but seems up to the challenge.

Fairway Fun: Stormy Amber sharp

Saturday's Fairway Fun Stakes at Turfway Park provides an early test on how horses that wintered in Florida and Louisiana this winter will fare against those that stayed at Kentucky through the winter.

My choice is Stormy Amber, who has never raced on Polytrack, but has been in top form since last summer, running first or second in seven of her last eight starts. The one time she didn't crack the exacta over that stretch - when seventh two starts ago in the Truly Bound Stakes at Fair Grounds - she had a valid excuse for running poorly.

A filly who is at her best racing on the lead or very close to the pace, Stormy Amber broke a step slowly from a wide post and then was shuffled back to sixth and hung wide into the first turn. She made a wide move on the second turn to reach contention, only to fade to seventh in the stretch.

Following that race, trainer Tom Amoss regrouped by sending her to Delta Downs, where she won an open allowance with ease Feb. 10. She ran quickly, too, posting an 88 Beyer Speed Figure, one of the best recent numbers posted by a horse in the Fairway Fun field.

Facing only a moderate amount of speed in the Fairway Fun, Stormy Amber should get her preferred up-close trip. And if she takes to the Polytrack surface, she ought to win.