06/23/2005 11:00PM

Osidy can run to head of class in Cinema

Benoit & Associates
Osidy, with Alex Solis, eyes his second straight stakes win in the Cinema.

PHOENIX - In this game one horse's misfortune can easily turn into another's opportunity.

Chinese Dragon, firmly established as the best 3-year-old turfer out West, would have been a heavy favorite in Sunday's Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park Sunday. But he suffered a splint bone injury and will be out for some time. That leaves a vacancy at the top of the division out West, and Osidy is just the guy to take advantage when he runs in the Cinema.

Trained by Dick Mandella, Osidy came to the U.S. from France for B. Wayne Hughes. Overseas he finished third and twice fifth in Group 3 stakes last year at 2. He made his U.S. debut in the Harry Henson, a turf sprint at Hollywood April 22, and blew the start to get away last of 10. But he finished powerfully to be second, showing he had acceleration.

He came back in the Grade 3 Will Rogers May 28. Osidy bided his time in midpack of the mile race and blasted home to get up for the win. And while the margin was merely a head, it was clear at midstretch that Osidy was going to win the race.

So now Osidy takes a swing at the 1 1/8-mile Cinema with a chance to use it as a springboard to bigger and better things. After this he could ship East for the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington and then come back for the turf derby triumvirate out West - the Grade 1 Del Mar Derby, Oak Tree Derby, and Hollywood Derby.

But that's getting ahead of things. First things first, and that's the Cinema.

His main opponent figures to be Willow O Wisp, second to Osidy in the Will Rogers. Willow O Wisp, a Florida transplant now trained by Vladimir Cerin, has much more speed than Osidy, so he figures either on the pace or just off it. Either way that gives him a chance for first run and the opportunity to scoot away from Osidy.

In the end, however, it's acceleration that usually carries the day on the turf, and that's one thing Osidy has in spades.

Baffert's comeback vehicle?

For much of the 90's and into this decade Bob Baffert was perhaps the most recognizable trainer in racing, what with his wealth of top horses through all divisions. But things seemed to take a bit of a downturn for him the last couple seasons. Injuries to the likes of proven stars Vindication and potential ones such as Wimbledon have taken some of the luster from his operation.

But one of the best things about our sport is that there is always a fresh face, a new shooter, and Baffert may have found his next star.

Certainly big things were expected of What a Song from Day 1 - after all, the 2-year-old son of Songandaprayer was purchased for $1.9 million so, his owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, weren't hoping to get merely an allowance horse. And judging by his superb debut win at Hollywood June 18 they're on the right path. What a Song pressed the early pace and drew off to win with ease. His 92 debut Beyer was excellent, and while that's all well and good, it was more the way he looked that impressed.

What a Song is not bred for the Derby in a classic sense. But then again, neither have several recent Derby winners, whose sires were sprinter-miler types. What a Song's sire, Songandaprayer, fits this mold. He was a stakes-winning sprinter, but could also carry his speed a distance, as he won the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth and was second in Grade 1 Blue Grass. He was part of the insane speed scenario that set things up so perfectly for Monarchos's Derby victory, and faded badly that day.

The dam's side is more sprint-oriented. His damsire, Tough Knight, was a confirmed speedball and has passed that trait on to his kin.

Derby talk may be premature. What isn't premature is the notion that Baffert can make plenty of noise with a highly promising youngster. Right now What a Song is pointing for the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, a six-furlong race July 16. With 2-year-olds you don't worry about having to go 10 furlongs. Should things progress well, Baffert's biggest concern may be about 1 1/16 miles at Belmont later this fall.