05/20/2010 12:00AM

Queen of the Creek still improving


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Three of the nine runners in Saturday's $200,000 American 1000 Guineas at Arlington come off a race in which they significantly improved upon their prior speed figures, and those efforts could leave some of them at risk of regression.

The key to betting the race is determining which of the three recent big-fig runners - Queen of the Creek, Bay to Bay, and Go Ask Alex - is less likely to bounce.

To these eyes, that horse is Queen of the Creek. A talented 3-year-old Theatrical filly, she has made steady progress with each start. After a fourth-place finish in her debut at Keeneland last October, she ran well to win a straight maiden race at Churchill in November by two lengths, running a 78 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trainer Tom Proctor gave her a break over the winter, and she returned in an April 8 allowance race at Keeneland. And though she was rank early, partially the result of being fresh, she settled once on the backstretch and drew clear to a 4 3/4-length victory. That win earned her an 87 Beyer, a 9-point improvement off her prior victory.

Despite that big move forward in terms of figures, I don't see any bounce in her immediate future. She had a right to develop after five months of growth -- most horses, after all, are much faster at 3 than 2.

I also like the confidence Proctor shows in this filly. Rather than bring her back at Churchill Downs in the Edgewood Stakes during Derby week, he gave her more time and waited for this more lucrative pot.

She also looks poised to get just the kind of trip she likes, an outside pressing journey, presumably on the flank of Go Ask Alex, seemingly a need-the-lead type.

As for Bay to Bay, she turned in her best performance in her last start, running second in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland despite racing five wide on the second turn.

But having since shipped to trainer Brian Lynch's base at Woodbine and now to Arlington, she could be a bit knocked out in comparison to Queen of the Creek, who has been at Arlington for the past few weeks.

Bay to Bay also seems more likely to have the tougher trip of the two Saturday. She is drawn in post 8 and doesn't appear to have the speed to clear much of the traffic to her inside.

Without a change in style from her last race, it is fairly easy to picture her being four wide early with a very short run to the first turn in the mile turf race.

And what about Go Ask Alex? Though she won the Indiana Distaff, posting an 87 Beyer, she did so on a course that was highly favorable to speed that day.

This time, she figures to have a classy Queen of the Creek hounding her down the backstretch.

Louisville: Conditions boost Telling

Defending champion and morning-line favorite Brass Hat is likely the best horse in Saturday's Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. But a lack of pace works against his late-running style, putting him at risk of an unfavorable trip.

Under these conditions, Telling looms a rewarding play. A marathon specialist, he was merely prepping when fourth last month at Keeneland in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race, a start that should set him up for a top effort now that he is back at his best distance of 1 1/2 miles.

He has further shown that he can handle a wet course, something that appears likely with heavy rain expected in the Louisville area beginning Thursday night into the evening Friday.

Provided the weather forecast is correct, this will likely result in a course with some give in the ground, probably a drying-out good course.

Well drawn in post 3, Telling should be better able to stay in touch with the leaders early -- important with seemingly little pace in the race.

Laz Barrera: Skipshot looks best

Turning west to California for the Grade 3 Laz Barrera going seven furlongs, Skipshot looms an apparent standout.

Coming off a wide fifth in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, he should benefit from facing easier competition as well as racing a sprint distance.

This was a horse who held second at the eighth pole of the Santa Anita Derby before weakening in the late stages.

With plenty of speed in the field, he should be able to work out a nice stalking trip under new jockey, Rafael Bejarano.