03/21/2010 11:00PM

Radiohead can overcome tough post


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Value-oriented horseplayers often look for reasons to play against a favorite or a second favorite, hoping to spot vulnerability that will lead to an opportunity on a better-priced alternative.

It is almost always a negative angle of some sort that is used to knock the favorite, be it a layoff, a poor pace setup, or a disadvantageous post.

I suspect it will be the latter angle that will lead some horseplayers to bet against Radiohead, the second favorite on the morning line behind Rule in Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby. The horse has the outermost draw in post 11 in the 1 1/8-mile race, a position from which no horse has won in 27 attempts since the Gulfstream Park main track was reconfigured from a mile to 1 1/8 miles in 2005.

Combined with post 12, the outer two posts are 1 for 44 - with the only winner being eventual Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown in the 2008 Florida Derby.

The reason for the struggles of horses with wide draws is clear. Starting just in front of the finish line, they have less than 10 seconds to secure position in the run to the first turn, and often they end up getting hung wide, costing them ground.

So should handicappers give Radiohead the heave-ho, tossing him among the pile of pretenders in the Florida Derby?

No, they should run to the window to bet him. This statistic about outside posts will be talked about on television, in print, and among railbirds and simulcast players until the Florida Derby is run at approximately 6:20 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.

As a result, he seems likely to be a tick or so higher on the odds board than he should, perhaps holding or drifting up from this 3-1 morning-line odds.

Why should Radiohead overcome his draw when so many before him have not? His style. This horse regularly starts on top, typically outbreaking most of the field by a half-length or a length mere strides from the gate.

Combine that with his natural speed, and I see no reason why he can't get just the trip he wants.

If he continues his quick-breaking ways, he will likely be pressing the pace of Rule in second, two wide into the first turn. Or, if another rival happens to show more speed than expected, he might end up three wide, but in a stalking position behind Rule as that other rival softens him up. Either way, his trip should be favorable.

As for talent, it seems Radiohead has what it takes. He was a Group 2 winner at Ascot last year and second in the Grade 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. He also ran a close seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, despite a troubled trip.

But his best race was a Feb. 27 performance at Gulfstream, his first race for trainer Rick Dutrow. With jockey Edgar Prado taking just a light hold of him early after an alert start, he was allowed to utilize his high cruising speed, something his prior riders didn't often do. They strangled him early in an attempt to get him to finish.

This is not a fast-quickening late runner. He is a steady-paced, speedy horse - just the type of horse suited to racing on dirt.

Facing a relatively unheralded Florida Derby field, one in which the favorite, Rule, is the Delta Jackpot winner, Radiohead looks poised to win the race.

Venezuelan runner figures strong

Three races earlier at Gulfstream, the pride of Venezuela, champion Bambera, makes her first start in the U.S. mainland in the Grade 3 Rampart after dominating in her home country and winning the Caribbean Stakes over an international cast at Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico on Dec. 6.

I can guess what readers are probably thinking: we've been fooled by Venezuelan horses before. Form from there does not match up here.

Typically, it does not. Sure, Canonero II came from Venezuela to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1971, but that was almost 39 years ago.

More often, there have been examples like Taconeo, another Venezuelan champion, who largely underachieved in three starts the United States in 1998 for the same owner as Bambera, Paula C Racing Stable.

But Bambera has so dismantled her opposition that she seems to be of another class. Her natural speed also makes her a perfect fit for American racing.

I expect her to take the Rampart gate to wire.