12/30/2006 12:00AM

Pickapocket decent odds in field of 12

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MIAMI - How tough is Monday's $100,000 Tropical Park Derby at Calder? Tough enough that Pickapocket, who enters the race off a pair of stakes victories, not only won't be the favorite but also may not even be among the top three betting choices in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. The Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby is traditionally the first graded stakes in North American each year, and it drew a field of 12 3-year-olds.

"It's a pretty competitive field, that's for sure," said Frank Alexander, who trains Pickapocket for owner Martin Cherry. "I hope he's going to be a nice horse. In fact I think he already is. He does everything the right way."

Pickapocket, a homebred son of Mecke, bounced back from a rough trip in Saratoga's With Anticipation Stakes to win the World Appeal at the Meadowlands by a length. He won the 1 1/8-mile Pilgrim over a yielding course at Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths after opening a commanding advantage near midstretch. He hasn't run since that Oct. 22 race.

"I gave him a little break after the race at Belmont," said Alexander. "I hope it wasn't too much. But he worked very good here last week over the main track with Eibar [Coa] aboard and he seems to be coming up to the race in top form."

Pickapocket drew post 12, and again has the services of Coa.

"Obviously, I'm not wild about the post, but there's nothing much I can do about it," said Alexander. "Hopefully, there will be a few scratches and he'll draw further inside, although he's got enough speed to get good position coming out of the chute."

Among the horses likely to be more heavily bet than Pickapocket are the locally based pair of Soldier's Dancer and Green Vegas, along with Maryland invader Rutledge Cat.

Soldier's Dancer vaulted to the top of the local 2-year-old turf division following his 6 3/4-length triumph in his grass debut in the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf Stakes on Nov. 11. He returned as a 3-5 favorite four weeks later in the Kris S. Stakes, and fell a head short of catching Fernando Po.

Green Vegas won the Foolish Pleasure and In Reality stakes, both at two turns, this fall and more recently finish second in the What a Pleasure Stakes. The Axthelm marks his grass debut.

Rutledge Cat finished a game second behind the Pilgrim runner-up Strike a Deal in the Laurel Futurity in his only try on grass.