05/09/2007 11:00PM

Passified overdue for a good trip


NEW YORK - Three-year-olds not quite ready for the prime time of the Triple Crown get a lucrative opportunity Saturday in the Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park, which is, with a purse of $300,000, the richest race of the weekend.


While this race could turn into a repeat of last month's Providencia Stakes, in which Super Freaky ran down Passified, I'm not expecting it. Turf races like this are often determined by trips, and I like Passified to win because she is in line for a good trip.

In the Providencia, Passified broke from post 11, forcing her to dispute the pace from the outside. Once she finally forged to the front in upper stretch, she was immediately tackled by Super Freaky, who benefited from a perfect inside-out trip. Through it all, Super Freaky was only able to beat Passified by three-quarters of a length. Passified had a similarly tough trip two starts back when she also had to break from the outside in the China Doll Stakes, only that day, much to her credit, she prevailed gamely.

Passified has a much more favorable setup Saturday. She drew more toward the inside, and should have little difficulty outrunning the four breaking inside of her to establish rail position. And this time, the only ones who can challenge Passified's role as the controlling speed are the ones breaking from outside posts.

Lone Star Derby

Slew's Tizzy and Reporting for Duty will be the first two betting favorites here, but I'm willing to try and beat them. Slew's Tizzy's two wins, the most recent an upset of the Lexington Stakes, both came on synthetic surfaces, and his dirt form leaves something to be desired. Reporting for Duty ran okay finishing second in the Illinois Derby considering he had no pace to rally into, but a lot more seconds than victories on his record raises the question of his will to win.

I'm going with Reata's Rocket, whose last two races are better than they look on paper. Although he was overwhelmed last time out by Dominican when third in the Rushaway Stakes, Dominican did follow by nosing Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in the Blue Grass. Two starts back, he had a terrible trip when fourth in the Hutcheson Stakes. This will be Reata's Rocket's second attempt at two turns, meaning he has a license to improve, and he ran fast enough as a 2-year-old to suggest he can take enough of a step forward Beyer Figure-wise to upset this race.

Jim Murray Memorial Handicap

In extended turf races such as this one when there isn't even anything close to a confirmed front-runner, I prefer the horse who has the best kick home. That might sound counterintuitive, as some horse has to fall out on the lead, and that horse will get away with slow fractions. But when a closer makes the lead by default, he often loses interest, and despite slow fractions, the race turns into a sprint home anyway.

Notable Guest, my play here, is in a weird way an example of that. Two starts back in the San Luis Obispo Handicap, Notable Guest led the second flight as Bravo Maestro ran off to a double-digit lead. Although Notable Guest wasn't technically on the lead, in a sense, he was, and he lost interest late and faded to fifth. But in his two other U.S. starts, the San Marcos and San Luis Rey, Notable Guest employed a committed closing style, and he finished strongly to finish second both times, running his final quarter mile on each occasion in approximately 23 seconds. A finish like that would be good enough Saturday, regardless of how slow the early splits are.