03/30/2006 12:00AM

WinStar Derby/Oaks preview

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Pace may make the race in Saturday's WinStar Derby at Sunland Park. Stretch-out sprinters Blaze It and Might Be Hooked figure to vie for early supremacy through quick fractions, and that may set the race up for a late-runner to grab the lion's share of the $600,000 purse.

Morning line favorite Wanna Runner looms a legitimate stalking threat, and is the top selection. After winning a pair of route races in Southern California to cap off his juvenile season, Wanna Runner was overmatched against Kentucky Derby hopefuls Brother Derek and Cause to Believe in a pair of graded stakes races. He gets a bit of class relief in the WinStar, and projects for a nice trip just off the speeds under Victor Espinoza. The gelding shows a string of quick works in preparation for this race, and a repeat of his 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the San Rafael two starts back would likely be good enough to win.

Bob Baffert's other entrant, Sky Diving, bombed in the Grade 2 San Felipe after running an excellent second in the Turf Paradise Derby two starts ago. He battled hard on the lead at Turf Paradise over a closer-friendly track, and still was only beaten a length by late-running Keagan. Sky Diving draws the rail, and may sit a nice pace-tracking, ground-saving trip with the possibility of gaining first run on the final bend.

The aforementioned Keagan should get another excellent setup in the WinStar, and he acts like he'll run all day. He's won three of his last four starts, and should be charging hard late.

Steve Asmussen will try again with Doctor Decherd. After pulling off a 14-1 upset in the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream, Doctor Decherd was well-beaten in both the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream, and the Borderland Derby over this strip. Like Wanna Runner, he may get a nice stalking trip, but has yet to win around two turns and his form is questionable.

Selections:

1. Wanna Runner

2. Sky Diving

3. Keagan

The WinStar Oaks will likely feature a heavy favorite in Southern California invader Sweet Fourty. A rallying second in the Sharp Cat stakes behind the promising Balance last time out, Sweet Fourty owns the best Beyer Speed Figures and is the class of the field. She should get some pace to run at late, and is the one to beat, but value players will have to look elsewhere.

Legally Wild dueled while in between horses for the majority of the Island Fashion Stakes last time out. She put away her pace rivals in the upper stretch, but understandably tired when the closers came calling. That was a solid route debut for Legally Wild, and she may sit just off the expected early leader, Princess Patricia. Although her Beyers aren't as gaudy as Sweet Fourty, she has displayed some ability and heart, and her price will be square.

Well Hidden has yet to taste defeat after three starts, and she ran down Legally Wild in the Island Fashion. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Well Hidden has the tactical speed to find a good stalking spot, and will be the best price she's ever been in her career.

Selections:

1. Legally Wild

2. Sweet Fourty

3. Well Hidden