05/09/2007 11:00PM

Pletcher may have done better with filly


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It is easy to never be wrong - simply never venture an opinion. That, of course, would not be much fun. So here are a few observations - right, wrong, and in between - as spring turns to summer, and the focus shifts from Louisville to Baltimore.

* An extraordinarily deep roster of colts cost Todd Pletcher his best chance to win the Kentucky Derby. With five colts in the race, it made no sense to start the filly Rags to Riches. But what if Rags to Riches was Pletcher's only top 3-year-old? It would have been easier to skip the Kentucky Oaks, which she won, and roll the dice in the Derby. In 1988, the filly Winning Colors was D. Wayne Lukas's only Derby starter.

Rags to Riches might not have defeated Street Sense, but she probably would have finished in front of Pletcher's top colt. Circular Quay earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96 finishing sixth in the Derby. Rags to Riches earned a Beyer Figure of 104 winning the Oaks in a romp.

* Which horse ran better? Was it a speed horse who put away all the other speed, or a closer who ran away from every other closer? It is the main dilemma next Saturday when front-runner Hard Spun faces deep closer Street Sense in the Preakness Stakes. It is a tough call.

* Barbaro won the 2006 Kentucky Derby off a five-week layoff. Street Sense won the 2007 Derby off a two-start campaign. It is interesting how a good horse can push down a traditional historical barrier. Perhaps handicappers should spend more time trying to find the best horse and less time thumbing through archives.

* The year 2007 was not the year for chaos. One strategy in Kentucky Derby and Oaks future wagers is to back No. 24 (all others). The approach fell short this year. Street Sense and Rags to Riches were individually listed in all three pools. The only "all others" Oaks starter from Pool 3 was Dreaming of Anna. Her payoffs from Pools 1 and 2 would have been $17.80 and $21.40, respectively. Dreaming of Anna was taken off the list for Pool 3. She would have returned $36.40 as an "all other."

* A California horseplayer nailed the Kentucky Derby trifecta ($440 for $2), which comprised the first, second, and fourth betting choices. But the bettor kicked himself afterward for not investing more and also betting the $2 superfecta. It paid $29,046.40, more than 66 times higher than the trifecta. Fourth-place finisher Imawildandcrazyguy, a 28-1 clunk-up closer, was not that tough to find.

It is reminiscent of a pet expression of the late Ernie Mason, a longtime California handicapper. He said, "The less you bet, the more you lose when you win."

* It happens every 11 years. In 1996, a filly trained by Jerry Hollendorfer (Pike Place Dancer) beat males in Northern California, then won the Kentucky Oaks next out at 9-1. In 2007, a filly trained by Hollendorfer (Hystericalady) beat males in Northern California, then won a Derby Day stakes (Humana Distaff) next out at 7-1. Stay tuned for 2018, assuming a Northern California circuit still exists.

* Is it too soon to start talking Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies? Of course it is. But the 2-year-old filly Ever So Pretty is causing a stir. A full sister to Grade 1 winner Stormello, Ever So Pretty has been lighting up the Hollywood track for trainer Bill Currin. She will make her debut when the 2-year-old races are carded at 5o1/2 furlongs.

* Now that Bordonaro is out of the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap on Saturday at Hollywood Park, is Peace Chant the biggest cinch of the weekend? Or maybe with Bordonaro out of the race, Peace Chant is merely the biggest underlay of the weekend.

* By the way, Peace Chant was flattered when the horse he beat last out, 8-year-old Publication, returned to win May 6. Do you remember Publication? Fourth in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he is the only horse from that race still running. The win by Publication in the optional claimer for trainer Vladimir Cerin was his sixth from 20 starts and pushed his earnings over the half-million-dollar mark.

* Inside posts are dominating Cushion Track sprints at Hollywood, while outside posts suffer. At six furlongs (through Wednesday), posts 1-4 had won 10 of 20 races, while postso9-14 were a combined 0 for 37. At 6 1/2 furlongs, posts 1-4 won 13 of the first 16 races, and the other posts were a combined 3 for 76.

* By the way, 12 days into the Hollywood meet, Cushion Track favorites had won 34 of 104, or 32 percent. Gosh, really crazy, huh?

* The Ben Cecil-trained mare Tahtheeb was facing males Wednesday in race 5, and her third-place finish suggests she would be a perfect fit June 9 at Golden Gate Fields in the 1o3/8-mile, $75,000 Yerba Buena Handicap. Tahtheeb, who closed ground behind loose-on-the-lead Tice, would face her own gender in the Yerba Buena.

* Lava Man will work next Saturday for the first time since returning from Dubai, where he finished up the track in the Dubai Duty Free on March 31. It will be interesting to learn if the trip knocked out Lava Man, or if the popular gelding can join Native Diver (1965-67) as the second horse to win the Hollywood Gold Cup three straight years. Lava Man will have his work cut out in the June 30 Gold Cup against fresh shooters Molengao and Buzzards Bay.

* Two recent seventh-place finishers at Santa Anita underwent minor throat surgery since they raced and could improve. Red Diadem finished last April 15, while Bashert finished nowhere in his March 18 comeback. Red Diadem, a filly, and Bashert, a colt, are better than they look. And now they can breathe. You have been warned.