04/20/2006 12:00AM

Sinister Minister no great bet - but field is


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is Kentucky Derby season, and everyone has an opinion . . .

* Only a delusional handicapper would believe Keeneland bias-aided Sinister Minister can race gate to wire in the Derby. Of course, some horseplayers have a valid excuse for being delusional. That is, a ticket (15.90-1 odds) on "all others" in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Go, Sinister Minister, go.

The Derby field could include five "all others" from Pool 3. In addition to Sinister Minister, they are Blue Grass runner-up Storm Treasure, Wood runner-up Jazil, Lane's End runner-up Seaside Retreat, and Remsen runner-up and Fountain of Youth third Flashy Bull. Not a bad five-horse "entry" at nearly 16-1.

* It's two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and trainer Bob Baffert already is in top form. He berated a handicapper for "knocking" Bob and John before the Wood Memorial, then bemoaned the fact that no reporters called him before the Blue Grass.

* There is at least one major difference between Bellamy Road, the high-figure horse (120 Beyer) going into the 2005 Kentucky Derby, and Sinister Minister, the high-figure horse (116 Beyer) aiming for the 2006 Derby. It is this - Bellamy Road started at 5-2, whereas Sinister Minister's odds will be about 10-1.

* If media darling First Samurai would have won the Blue Grass by nearly 13 lengths, would he be considered the second coming of Secretariat?

* Just wondering: Why is it acceptable for Brother Derek to set a slow pace and win the Santa Anita Derby on a fair track, but inexcusable for Sinister Minister to set a wickedly fast pace and win the Blue Grass over a speed-favoring track?

* For the record, Godolphin-owned Discreet Cat, winner of the UAE Derby, closed as the 9-1 third betting choice in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. There was a total of $37,397 wagered on Discreet Cat in Pool 3. Really swell.

* The next quarter-mile race for 2-year-olds at Santa Anita will be March 2007. When those straightaway races resume, a weird post-position statistic will be in effect. It will have been five years since posts 9 or 10 produced a winner. Since 2002, posts 9 and 10 are a combined 0 for 49.

* Speaking of post, Barbaro overcame a tough one in the Florida Derby. In the two years since Gulfstream Park reconfigured its track, Barbaro is the only horse to win a nine-furlong race from post 10 or higher (32 tried). Anything outside post 6 is bad. Posts 1 through 6 each average 14.8 percent winners from starters at the distance; posts 7-12 have won only 6.5 percent of the nine-furlong dirt races at Gulfstream.

* Has a division ever collapsed as badly as the California 3-year-old fillies? Breeders' Cup one-two finishers Folklore and Wild Fit are out; Santa Ynez winner Dance Daily broke down. Balance and Quiet Kim, one-two in the Santa Anita Oaks, ran poorly at Keeneland and Oaklawn. If not for Diplomat Lady, you would think the Santa Anita Oaks was just a bad race.

* Has there been a worse trip by a 3-year-old filly this spring than Miss Norman's runner-up effort in the April 14 Fantasy Stakes? She bolted turning for home, straightened away, veered again midstretch, kept grinding, and missed by three lengths to Ready to Please. It means two things - Miss Norman has an outside chance in the Kentucky Oaks, and the Fantasy victory by Ready to Please was not as good as it may have looked.

* When odds-on Artie Schiller got nailed in his April 14 comeback at Keeneland, he was the fifth straight Breeders' Cup Mile winner to lose his first start after the BC. Singletary (2004) ran seventh at 3-1 next out; Six Perfections (2003) and Domedriver (2002) finished second at odds-on in France; and Val Royal (2001) finished fourth at 6-5. It's something to remember if Silent Name races again after he wins the 2006 BC Mile.

* You don't need a huge pick-six ticket for a nice score. Just ask Daily Racing Form's Dean Keppler, manager of DRF Press, who took a $96 stab last Sunday on the three-day, $1.1 million pick-six carryover at Santa Anita. Wagering through an online account, Keppler singled Doug O'Neill-trained Cambiocorsa and Cronenbold in races 7 and 8, nailed the other four winners on his 4x2x2x1x1x3 ticket, and hit for $91,977.40. Nice score. Surprisingly, Keppler actually showed up for work Monday morning.

* Jockey Robert Boyce finished fifth on 9-5 favorite Miss Kayleigh D in the first race on Wednesday. The filly is trained by Shane Chipman. But why was Boyce in the winner's circle after the race, smiling and having his picture taken, after Chipman's other starter - $22 debut winner Travel in Circles - scored the upset?

* It is great news that 2005 champion sprinter Lost in the Fog returns Saturday. But don't you have to bet speedball Carthage in the $100,000 Golden Gate Fields Sprint? A romping front-running winner his last three starts, Carthage earned Beyer Figures of 108 and 105 his last two races, gets a nine-pound weight break from the favorite (116 to 125), and has recent form. Carthage raced two months ago; Lost in the Fog raced six months ago.

* The late odds drops continue. Faulkwood Shores was 2-1 leaving the gate in race 3 Wednesday at Gulfstream Park. When he crossed the wire first, he was 6-5. It happens at Santa Anita, too. Dixie Banker's odds were double digits, according to observers, leaving the gate in race 3 on April 11. When Dixie Banker won, he was 5-1. Makes you want to open a Betfair account just so you know what fixed-odds price you are getting.

* Don't forget to add Man of Illusion's name to your Stable Mail. He suffered one of the worst trips of the spring while finishing third in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland on April 14. Trained by Patrick Biancone, the Australian-bred turf sprinter could show up May 5 at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint. Get down.