Saturday, May 7

MY CHOICE IN THE 131ST "RUN FOR THE ROSES"

I lived and worked in Louisville, Kentucky, for a number of years and attended my fair share of Kentucky Derbies. It truly is one of the premier sporting events in the world and unbeatable for people watching. It's as much a fashion show, as it is a day at the races. The traditions are rich and I, too, have gotten misty-eyed at the playing of "Our Old Kentucky Home" and felt my nerve-endings tingle when those magnificent animals charged down the homestretch to the roar of 140,000+ crowds.

That said, what you need to know is that I don't know horse flesh and I don't pick winners. If you're smart, you'll just bail out of this post right now.

Still here? Okay, live and learn!

Here goes. My pick: High Fly, trained by Nick Zito, with Jerry Bailey aboard. He won the Florida Derby, he's bred for distance with a solid dosage rating of 2.00, and he's out of the #11 hole, which means he should be able to get over near the rail in the first turn and not pushed outside. His odds are supposed to be around 8-1. His jockey is as good as they come. The downside? In the entire history of The Derby, which dates back to the Civil War era, only three horses have won who have come out of the #11 slot in the starting gate. Were it not for the Zito/Bailey combination and the good dosage, I'd avoid him for that reason. Good news: Northern Dancer, winner of the 1964 Kentucky Derby, and Seattle Slew, 1977 Triple Crown winner, are in High Fly's bloodline. Bailey has twice won the Derby: aboard Sea Hero in '93 and Grindstone in '96. He's also a seven-times Ecipse Award winner and has riden winners in fourteen Breeders' Cups races. Pretty dazzling!

Two of the favorites in the race are Bandini and Bellamy Road (a magnificent looking animal -- simply stunning). They're starting out of the #15 and #16 holes, respectively. I think that's too far out in a one and a quarter mile race for three year olds who have never run that distance. More telling, their dosage figures are 3.57 and 3.50, respectively. I don't like Derby contenders with dosage figures greater than 3.0. All the talk has been about George Steinbrenner's entry, Bellamy Road. Well, "favorites" seldom cut it in the Kentucky Derby! If he's pushed wide in the first turn, forget him.

Longshot: Flower Alley, most lightly-raced of the entrants (not good), should be wearing blinders for this race (should help), and likely a 20-1 bet. Has 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide in his lineage. He has an excellent dosage rating of 1.73 for the distance and is coming out of the #7 hole, which has produced 7 winners in Derby history. I've read that he has been training well. Downside: beaten badly in Arkansas Derby by Afleet Alex, among the favorites in today's "Run For The Roses." But, my suspicion: Afleet Alex has been over-trained for this grueling 1 1/4 mile distance.

Now watch me be wrong all over again!