04/12/2009 11:00PM

Terrain, underrated, has real shot

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Hold Me Back undoubtedly has the qualifications to win Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, having compiled a 3-for-3 synthetic record that includes a victory in the Grade 2 Lane's End March 21 at Turfway Park.

Theregoesjojo also gives the appearance of a significant player after chasing Quality Road and Dunkirk - two of the Kentucky Derby favorites - in Florida this winter. He finished second in the Fountain of Youth behind Quality Road and third behind both Quality Road and Dunkirk in the Florida Derby

Yet neither looks like the best horse to wager on in the race. That horse is Terrain.

Coming off a troubled third in the Louisiana Derby in his first start of the year, he looks ready for a breakout race in the Blue Grass - yet he is 6-1 on the morning line and could rise higher by post time.

The reason? He lacks flash.

Terrain began his career for a maiden $50,000 tag, something that handicappers will always hold against him, and is also a gelding, something that some bettors believe is an indication that a 3-year-old is of lesser quality.

But Terrain can run. He showed as much last year by winning the Arlington-Washington Futurity by disqualification, then by finishing second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity, and finally be running fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

All three of those races, incidentally, came on synthetic tracks - just the type of surface he will racing over at Keeneland for the Blue Grass.

Furthermore, his Louisiana Derby is all the more impressive when you consider that he missed his prep because of illness and ran into traffic problems into the first turn that likely cost him second place.

Admittedly, he has not run as quickly as others in the field, but now in his second start off a layoff he looks ready for a jump forward.

Jenny Wiley

Earlier on the Blue Grass card, a favorable wagering opportunity exists in the eighth race, the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley - that is, if the forecast for rain proves correct.

Backseat Rhythm has thrived on a wet course, and the Jenny Wiley favorite, champion Forever Together, has not.

Add that up and an upset appears to be brewing, particularly with Forever Together having to overcome a layoff since she won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf Oct. 24.

Backseat Rhythm, making her third start of the year, is an attractive wager if she stays anywhere close to her 5-1 morning-line odds.

Arkansas Derby

Turning to Oaklawn, the $1 million Arkansas Derby does not appear nearly as competitive as the Blue Grass. One-time Kentucky Derby favorite Old Fashioned, coming off his first loss in the Rebel Stakes, looks set to rebound from his first defeat in the Grade 2 Rebel.

Although second to longshot Win Willy that afternoon, Old Fashioned ran a deceptively powerful race. Pressing a brutally fast pace that would have exhausted most horses, he performed well to lose by only 2 1/4 lengths, running a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

Old Fashioned is drawn outside the other speed in the Arkansas Derby, and his jockey, Terry Thompson - who replaces Ramon Dominguez - can sit chilly and avoid letting his headstrong, speedy mount do too much early.

If able to relax, he should roll and head to Kentucky as one of the Derby favorites.

Northern Spur

Although the Northern Spur Stakes on the Arkansas Derby undercard lacks the quality of the Arkansas Derby, it makes up for it in terms of depth and competitiveness. Thirteen horses were entered, making it a great betting race.

Although inconsistent, It Happened Again looms a good wager. A talented son of Proud Citizen, he bombed in the Risen Star Stakes, fading to 10th behind stablemate Friesan Fire, but he had an excuse for tiring. Hustled leaving the gate, he got cooked in a fast pace.

With plenty of speed in the Northern Spur field, I anticipate Terry Thompson letting It Happened Again relax and settle in a stalking position.

From his inside post - which is winning at an 18 percent clip in routes at Oaklawn this meet - he should be able to secure a good tracking spot and run down the opposition from just off the pace. That's just what It Happened Again did in winning the Triple Sec Stakes in fast time at Delta Downs earlier in the year.

It Happened Again is training swiftly, working six furlongs at Oaklawn in 1:13.40 March 27 and following that with a bullet five furlongs there in 59.60 seconds April 6.