Take a flyer on these key horses

May 1, 2007 8:07 AM

It’s Monday morning and I will make an attempt to make some sense out of this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. First, on the surface it looks like a very wide open race and that’s good as far as getting a good payoff.

There are several factors that help put together a good betting strategy, but without knowing the track condition or the post positions of each horse, it becomes a difficult task, especially with 20 horses heading to the post.

On Kentucky Derby day there is one thing to remember, you must watch the early races and try to discern any track bias. I have been to the Kentucky Derby many times and almost always the track superintendent does things to the track that you must be aware of.

For some reason they want to make the track as fast as possible on these big racing days, so you must be aware of the earlier races — is the track favoring closers or speed, is the inside the place to be or is it the outside?

This past Breeders’ Cup was the perfect example as the inside of the track was like a paved highway and if you tried to close from the outside you had little or no shot.

In any case, let’s try to make some sense out of this year’s race.

In my handicapping of a race like this, a race that has a big field and that will offer a big payoff, I usually weed out the ones that have no chance, and then look for one or two key horses. These will be used in my exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers.

I probably won’t make a win bet unless there is a nice overlay on one of my key horses.

The first key horse that I came up with will be Street Sense — he has the class, he has never been out of the money in seven lifetime starts, and he has a top notch trainer who has won the Kentucky Derby before, so he knows what it takes to get a horse ready for this race.

He has run at Churchill before, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 10 lengths. He is bred to handle the distance as his sire, Street Cry, could run all day. He has had two tough races this year and looks set for a smasher in his third start as a 3-year-old.

His only knock is that he is going into the Kentucky Derby with only two starts as a 3-year-old, but Barbaro broke that 50-year old jinx last year. I really believe that Street Sense will run a big race and the only way he won’t be first or second is a bad trip, which is possible in a 20-horse field.

Now onto my second key horse — that will be Any Given Saturday. There are several things that I like about this guy, one is that he is another who is ultra consistent as he has never been worse than third running against the best of his generation.

He fits in all categories as he ran three times as a 2-year-old and has run three times this year and he will go into the Derby with four weeks off.

His race in the Wood Memorial really doesn’t look that good as he finished a fading third behind Nobiz Like Shobiz. But his trainer Todd Pletcher will be making some adjustments as he will take him farther off the pace and try and make one big late run.

I think that this will be possible as one of the hottest jokes in the country, Garret Gomez, has opted to take the ride on him and there are few better when playing the waiting game than Garret. Also, Any Given Saturday is working great and has had a good effort over the Churchill strip. Saturday is also bred to run all day as is his sire is Distorted Humor.

Now let’s get to my other top contender, Nobiz Like Shobiz, who has a ton of stamina, being the son of Albert The Great who won the 10-furlong Grade 1 Suburban Handicap. This guy can definitely get the 1¼ -mile Kentucky Derby distance and may relish it.

He is another that is ultra-consistent and has never been out of the money in six lifetime starts and is a Grade 1 winner in the Wood. His trainer, Barclay Tagg, of Funny Cide fame is another who knows what it takes to win this race.

I will play around with these horses using Street Sense first and second, Any Given Saturday first and second, and Nobiz Like Shobiz second and third. In addition here are some of my other horses that I will toss into the mix.

Curlin, who has just three lifetime starts, and has never faced the likes of these may be good enough to be part of the tri and super; thus I will use him in only the third and fourth slots.

Great Hunter is another who is bred to run all day as his sire, Aptitude, possesses great stamina being a son of A.P. Indy. I will use him in the third and fourth slots.

Circular Quay, who is a deep closer, could be coming late but will have to overcome a ton of traffic and an eight week layoff. His only bad race was when he encountered trouble in the Risen Star after he took up to avoid a fallen jockey.

I will toss in Tiago for principle’s sake as he is the half brother to Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo — and you never know about these Italians!

Liquidity, who looks like he can run if he ever gets his head on straight, could be one to use at what will be a nice price. His trainer, Doug O’Neill, will be making some equipment changes in the hopes of coaxing that one big effort out of his charge. He is taking blinkers off and adding a Sure-Win bridle, which helps keep a bit firmly in place in the horse’s mouth.

I will also use Hard Spun and Scat Daddy in the mix as they could be part of the early pace and both should have no problem getting the distance.

Good luck and don’t go crazy. Remember, it’s just another race and you will need a lot of luck as the best horse often doesn’t win. Look for some overlays and take a few shots and don’t put all your eggs in one basket; remember tomorrow is another racing day.

There are a lot of things going on in Las Vegas this weekend and there will be no better place to be, so enjoy and don’t drink to many mint juleps.