04/14/2010 12:00AM

There's hidden value in Blue Grass


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If a handicapper were simply to weigh the next-out performances of the horses who faced Make Music for Me and Interactif in their last starts, determining which one to back in Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes would appear a no-brainer.

Of the four horses who have returned to race from the March 6 Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita, won by Make Music for Me, not one has managed a subsequent top-three finish. Conversely, Interactif ran second in the March 13 San Felipe at Santa Anita, a race that produced two next-out graded stakes winners, Sidney's Candy in the Santa Anita Derby and American Lion in the Illinois Derby.

So Interactif is the obvious choice, right? Wrong. Make Music for Me is the better wager.

Due to the subsequent failures of the four horses who have exited the Pasadena, my guess is that the betting public will underrate Make Music for Me, perhaps even reasoning that the 97 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in the race to be phony.

Don't believe it. There was nothing phony about the fig. In the Pasadena, Make Music for Me raced a mile on the grass in 1:35.30. Putting that time in perspective, three races later on the card, Proviso won the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile in 1:35.31.

Nor was there anything phony about Make Music for Me's performance. Despite being unraced for 2 1/2 months and untested on turf, he ran down four-time winner Macias, who had enjoyed a perfect loose-on-the-lead trip.

Now he shifts back to the Polytrack for the Blue Grass, and although a change in surface might be a cause for concern in some circumstances, realize that Make Music for Me seems every bit as good, if not better, on synthetic.

This is a horse who was twice second in graded stakes on the Polytrack at Del Mar to champion Lookin At Lucky, and finished his 2-year-old year with a close third behind Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise in the CashCall Futurity on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park.

Having been battle tested against such prominent runners, Make Music for Me seems unlikely to bounce. Based on Make Music for Me's sharp recent workouts at Hollywood Park, expect him to pair up another Beyer in the upper 90s - a number that looks good enough to win.

As for Interactif, he commands respect, having run a 94 Beyer in the San Felipe and making this third start off a layoff, often the peak race of a horse's form cycle. But he figures to be overbet as a Todd Pletcher-trained runner who shows a running line against Sidney's Candy and American Lion.

Noble's Promise should be peaking

Turning south to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby, Noble's Promise looks poised for a winning effort from just off the pace.

Coming off a sharp comeback in the March 13 Rebel Stakes, in which he nearly held off juvenile champion Lookin At Lucky before finishing second, beaten a head, Noble's Promise looks ready to move forward in his second race of the year.

He is also the most battle tested horse in the field, having won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity, and having hit the board in such races as the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, CashCall Futurity, and Rebel Stakes.

His one weakness is that he sometimes fails to deliver the knockout blow in midstretch, leaving him vulnerable to a late surge from a closer. But few in the Arkansas Derby are powerful finishers, lessening the risk that he will get run down.

He also seemed to kick on much stronger in the Rebel than in the late stages of some of his synthetic starts.

As for front-running Super Saver, the morning-line favorite, he also looks ready to run well, having run a close third in a swiftly run Tampa Bay Derby after setting the pace. But the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Arkansas Derby figures to lessen his effectiveness somewhat, particularly if Uh Oh Bango pressures him in the early stages, as expected.

Uh Oh Bango has been disadvantaged by poor starts in his last two starts and has much more speed than a quick glance at his past performances might suggest.