04/21/2010 11:00PM

Pleasant Prince will rebound on dirt


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The word "ticket" comes to mind when handicapping Saturday's Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs.

Ticket, as in the one Pleasant Prince hopes to punch for the Kentucky Derby with a win that would secure enough earnings to qualify.

And ticket, as in the one I aim to cash by betting him to win.

A victory won't come easily against a deep field that includes Eightyfiveinafifty, the Grade 3 Bay Shore winner who also needs more earnings to qualify for the Derby. But with a return to dirt, his best surface, Pleasant Prince looms an appealing wager.

We already know he can run. He showed as much this winter in Florida, finishing fourth in the Fountain of Youth behind Derby favorite Eskendereya, then finishing second by a nose in the Florida Derby.

This year's Florida Derby was not as strong as in the past, largely because Eskendereya bypassed the race and ran in the Wood, but it was still the Florida Derby, one of the elite Derby preps. A weak Florida Derby is still better than a good Derby Trial or, for that matter, the Bay Shore, which Eightyfiveinafifty won, making him the likely favorite in the Derby Trial.

As for Pleasant Prince's seventh-place finish in the Blue Grass, toss it out. It came on Polytrack, and the main track at Churchill is completely different. Pleasant Price is proven over the local strip, too. He won at Churchill last fall, going the one-turn mile distance of the Derby Trial.

Although he will run on two weeks' rest, I expect we will see a return to form from Pleasant Prince.

Trainer Wesley Ward and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have done well wheeling horses back quickly, and Pleasant Prince already performed well at Gulfstream in January, when he finished second in an allowance on 11 days' rest.

As for Eightyfiveinafifty, he is the fastest horse in the race on figures, but with his 100-plus Beyer Speed Figures sure to catch the eyes of bettors, he figures to start at his 8-5 morning-line price, if not lower.

He appears to be a good horse. But coming off a perfect-trip victory in the Bay Shore, in which he was able to set a comfortable pace while alone on the lead, he looks like an underlay in the Derby Trial, which, top to bottom, is easily the best field he has faced.

Pleasant Prince is more battle-tested, and at 4-1 on the morning line, is the better wager.

Bullish on Sweet N Sour Nine

Turning south to Gulfstream Park, which offers several statebred stakes Saturday, Sweet N Sour Nine is one of the best plays on the card.

Entered in the Cherokee Frolic Stakes, a seven-furlong dirt race for Florida-bred 3-year-old fillies who have raced for a claiming price, Sweet N Sour Nine appears well suited for the company and the distance.

She went 3 for 3 at Gulfstream this winter while racing in elongated sprints, which suit her closing style perfectly.

What she lacks are lofty figures, a big reason why she was a modest 3-1 favorite on the morning line. Not once this winter did she run faster than a 72 Beyer, and without the big figs, I suspect some horseplayers will try to beat her.

Not me. This filly knows how to win and is capable of running faster.

My Charming Clyde will get setup

A race later at Gulfstream, 3-year-old colts and geldings compete in a similar stakes race, the Shake U Down, another seven-furlong race for Florida-breds who have started for a claiming price.

My Charming Clyde, first or second in 7 of 10 sprint starts, is the selection at 4-1 on the line. He is coming off a wide runner-up finish in the April 3 Ocala Breeders' Sale Sophomore Stakes behind the talented Thank U Philippe at Tampa Bay Downs.

With plenty of speed in the field, My Charming Clyde should get a hot pace to set up his stalking rally. And he is a winner over the Gulfstream strip, having easily taken a starter allowance March 6 in the race that preceded his runner-up stakes finish at Tampa.