04/13/2010 11:00PM

Salve Germania ready to pay off


NEW YORK - Although the isolated prep will still remain, this is really the last weekend of major Kentucky Derby prep races. And while last week's Wood Memorial, won by Eskendereya, and Santa Anita Derby, won by Sidney's Candy, are very likely to rank as the two strongest Derby preps this year when all is said and done, Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass at Keeneland and Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park will still at least have a major say in the complexion of the 2010 Kentucky Derby field.

The Arkansas Derby tops the closing-day card at Oaklawn, while the Blue Grass heads a program at Keeneland that also includes three other graded stakes - the Grade 2, $250,000 Commonwealth, the Grade 2, $200,000 Jenny Wiley, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Shakertown.

Jenny Wiley Stakes

Forever Together, the champion turf female of 2008 whose third in last fall's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf was thought at the time to be the last race of her career, will make her 6-year-old bow in this spot. But while Forever Together had a fine season last year, winning this race along with the Grade 1 Diana and finishing third or better in all six starts, she just didn't seem quite as sharp as she was during her Eclipse Award campaign. And now that Forever Together is another year older and further removed from her time as a champion, it might be unreasonable to expect her to regain her 2008 flash. That said, Forever Together wouldn't have to duplicate her best-ever race to win this. It's just that with her big reputation certain to depress her odds, this looks like a spot to go against her.

Interestingly, Forever Together isn't the only Eclipse Award winner in this race. Stardom Bound was champion 2-year-old filly in 2008. But Stardom Bound has never really been able to recapture her dominating juvenile form, and the fact that she is now being asked to try turf for the first time seems like an act of desperation.

Wasted Tears would be a logical alternative, as she is looking for her fifth straight win. Wasted Tears overcame the 13-hole and a short run to the first turn to win the Honey Fox most recently, although her task of making the lead and getting over was made a lot easier when the other speed horse in the race, Romacaca, didn't go for the lead. Besides, Wasted Tears is a question mark going this far at this class level.

I like Salve Germania. Salve Germania showed genuine ability when she upset the Ballston Spa Handicap last summer in her U.S. debut, coming from last into a pace that was very slow, even allowing for the soft footing, to nail an opponent in Rutherienne, who came back to win the Noble Damsel with a Beyer Speed Figure of 98. And Salve Germania suggested that she is ready to deliver on her potential with a sharp effort in her first start this year off a five-month layoff in a good allowance race at Gulfstream. Salve Germania broke slowly, had no room on the rail late on the backstretch and into the far turn, was blocked when ready to go on the far turn, was in traffic between horses into the stretch, and yet still finished boldly to just miss catching Speak Easy Gal. Speak Easy Gal came back to win the Orchid Stakes, her third straight win since moving into Marty Wolfson's barn.

Blue Grass

Pleasant Prince will be one of the favorites here off his nose loss in the Florida Derby. But even though Pleasant Prince is duplicating the same training pattern that preceded his sharp improvement in the Florida Derby - a bullet five-furlong work six days before - it must be noted that the original plan did not have him running in this race. Pleasant Prince is in here because he needs more graded earnings to secure a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby, and that deviation from plan is a concern to me. And I'm also against Odysseus. While I acknowledge Odysseus has big potential, I just don't think the Tampa Bay Derby he won was a strongly run race.

Interactif is absolutely the horse to beat. He ran just as well as Sidney's Candy did when narrowly beaten by that one last time out in the San Felipe, considering the huge advantage Sidney's Candy had controlling a slow pace. And, of course, Sidney's Candy came back to win last week's Santa Anita Derby with a Beyer Figure of 100, and American Lion, who finished behind Interactif in the San Felipe, came back to win last week's Illinois Derby with a 98 Beyer. But I'm going to try and beat Interactif with my unsuccessful longshot pick in the Florida Derby, First Dude.

First Dude did not have a smooth trip in the Florida Derby. He was caught three wide on the first turn between horses, was bumped around between horses into the stretch, and then was forced to take up on the rail and angle out for running room, yet he still finished willingly. First Dude is better than his Florida Derby looks at first glance, and I like that he handled Keeneland's Polytrack well last fall when second in his career debut.

Arkansas Derby

I was originally disappointed with Dublin's third-place finish in last month's Rebel Stakes, because I didn't like the way he faded in the final furlong behind Lookin At Lucky, who had real trouble in that race, and Noble's Promise. I still don't love Dublin's Rebel, but he did move too soon, and he was four to five wide around both turns, which is not an easy feat in a seven-horse field. So I'm giving Dublin another chance and making him the play here.

The other reason why I'm going with Dublin is I don't really trust the two other big players in here. As noted above, I wasn't a big fan of the Tampa Bay Derby, which Super Saver comes out of, though I will be flexible enough to reassess should Odysseus run bigger than expected in the Blue Grass. And even though Noble's Promise has my respect for always trying so hard, he still shouldn't have lost the Rebel considering the trouble Lookin At Lucky had.