06/29/2005 11:00PM

Ohio Derby tough to figure

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - The diverse group of eight entered in Saturday's

Grade 2, $350,000 Ohio Derby made their last starts in seven different states and in Canada. Choosing between them will give some handicappers a headache and likely reward others with a nice payoff.

The 1 1/8-mile derby will be televised on ESPN as part of the Road to the World Thoroughbred Championships. Other races on the broadcast, which airs from 4-6 p.m., are the Suburban and New York handicaps from Belmont Park, and the United Nations from Monmouth Park.

, locally owned by Elisabeth Alexander and trained by Todd Pletcher, is the morning line favorite at 5-2, but he is far from a cinch. The well-traveled Honor Grades colt has raced in stakes at four different tracks this year, and won the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in March. In his last start, he steadily gained ground to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby.

Magna Graduate is versatile and should receive a goood trip from jockey Gary Stevens. This will be Magna Graduate's first start for Pletcher, who has taken over from trainer Patrick Byrne.

An interesting horse who may be overlooked is , who comes in from Woodbine for trainer Roger Attfield. Palladio is the only horse in the field with a win at nine furlongs and appears to have the best closing kick. He has won two of his last three starts, including a convincing score in the Victoria Park Stakes last time out. His only recent loss came in the Marine Stakes, where his unruly antics in the post parade may have hindered his performance. Richard Dos Ramos rides.

Trainer Nick Zito brings in from Saratoga. Pinpoint tired badly in the Belmont Stakes but prior to that reeled off three straight wins, including the Sir Barton at Pimlico. He is one of several likely pacesetters and will be ridden by Larry Melancon.

The other entrants are Marine Stakes winner Unbridled Energy; recent Arlington Park allowance winner Straight Line; Florida shipper Hal's Image, who may challenge Straight Line for the early lead; It's Time to Smile, who is coming off a close third-place finish in the Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico; and Silver Haze, who has won his last three starts, all at Louisiana Downs.