12/07/2009 12:00AM

Quindici Man could yield jackpot at Zia Park


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - I accept the widespread belief that horseplayers and slot players are two different types of gamblers, with the former enjoying the analytical and sporting aspect of racing, and the latter preferring the faster-paced nature of the one-armed bandits.

But for Saturday, at least, slots will make this horseplayer excited about playing the ponies via Internet wagering in New Mexico - where before the introduction of slots there weren't many rich Thoroughbred stakes races to get bettors excited about the racing there.

This Saturday, I'm intrigued by the $150,000 Zia Park Derby in Hobbs, N.M.. It is one of the richest races run in North America this weekend.

The race offers more than a large slots-enhanced purse. It also offers a well-matched nine-horse field. Without a standout 3-year-old in the group, odds should be reasonable on just about every starter, with the possible exception of Red Lead, the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

Although Red Lead appears formidable, my choice is Quindici Man, a former $32,000 claimer that has blossomed in recent starts, winning two straight stakes.

Quindici Man has raced mostly on synthetic tracks in California, but he is by no means a one-dimensional all-weather runner. His two stakes wins actually came on other surfaces, with his first coming on dirt in the Pomona Derby at Fairplex and his second in the Jack Coady Sr. Stakes at Turf Paradise on turf.

He caught the eye in rallying to win both, but was particularly impressive in taking the Jack Coady Stakes, having encountered traffic problems in the lane and bulling his way between horses to score a nose victory.

The feeling here is that he won on pure class - not because of a particular fondness for the grass. This is a horse who had been 10th in his only prior grass performance.

Being by Came Home and out of a Valiant Nature mare, his pedigree is geared toward dirt racing. And he already has experience racing on dirt in New Mexico, albeit at Ruidoso and Albuquerque, where he began his career as a successful juvenile.

Well drawn in post 2 in the 1 1/16-mile Zia Park Derby, he looks poised to get an honest pace up front to aid his late rally, and in the stretch I expect we'll see the determination from him that has led to four victories from 12 starts in 2009.

At 8-1 on the morning line, he has this horseplayer thinking jackpot.

Lady Alexander brings strong Beyers

Across the country at Aqueduct on Saturday, a different division competes in the $65,000 Garland of Roses. A six-furlong dash for fillies and mares on the inner track, it has little in common with the Zia Park Derby, aside from having a large, closely matched field.

Many of the nine entrants have question marks. Saarlight and By the Light haven't raced since June; starter sensation Hold That Prospect gets a dramatic class hike; and every entrant but Hold that Prospect and Lady Alexander comes off Beyer Speed Figures that fall in the 70s or less.

The choice is Lady Alexander, who owns the top last-race Beyer in the race, an 89. She also happens to be one of the most consistent runners in the field, having earned figures in the 80s in all six of her starts this year.

Admittedly, there are some concerns with this front-running filly, too - such as a cutback in distance from a route to a sprint and the presence of other speed - but at a price, she seems worth the gamble.

Lady Alexander is 4 for 8 on dirt, can seemingly handle any track condition, and appears to have the versatility to win from a pressing or a stalking position if beaten to the lead.

Lots to like about Coulee

Turfway Park also is featuring the fillies and mares Saturday, though its stakes race, the $50,000 My Charmer, is for routers at 1 1/16 miles on its Polytrack surface.

With outside paths faring well at Turfway early in its meet, I'll take a shot with the red-hot Coulee, who is drawn in post 9. She is in sharp form, having won two in a row, and has fared well on the Turfway surface, having recorded 6 of her 9 victories there.

She comes off the best performance of her career, a Nov. 13 allowance triumph on the turf at Churchill Downs in which she beat some stakes-quality runners in Dreaming of Liz and Lady Carlock.

Because she has never raced in a stakes race and is a former $25,000 claimer, she could slip past the betting public and start as an overlay.