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Derby day

This year's Derby is a mouth-watering edition of America' great horse race. The field is as deep in talent as any I can recall. Only one horse has no chance. Spanish Chesnut will run as rabbit for Bandini, his objective being to insure an "honest" pace, and to take away the possibility that one of the front-runners coasts to an easy lead. A case can be made for almost any other runner, although I think Baffert and Lucas - two trainers with the appetite for the race and the skills to win it - are taking flyers with Sort It Out and Going Wild. Those three horses should go off at odds of 75-1 or more; every other horse is worth some consideration (you can get free past performances from the Daily Racing Form here).

Steve Haskin, who has watched Derby preparations from the backstretch at Churchill Downs for many years, is as confused as I am. That's not surprising, since three year olds mature into polished racehorses quickly in the spring, and the best of them gather at Churchill Downs to take a shot at this race. The Derby field is always the cream of the crop, and it's not easy to separate the exceptional from the very good. Haskin admits he can't do that this year, in this analysis of the race and his strategy for betting it. He's "going for value," playing horses that are training well and that look to go off at high odds.

Bellamy Road is the potential superstar in the field, but he will not have the race his own way - Spanish Chesnut will force the issue with him early. If Bellamy Road is the second coming of Seattle Slew, he will brush off the challenge and let his long, easy stride carry him to victory. But he is a lightly raced colt. He has not faced anything like what will be thrown at him today, and lacks the experience that forges a seasoned competitor. Afleet Alex has the seasoning, and has impressed me (and Haskin too) with his preparation for the Derby. And he runs fast. He's my pick to win a very competitive horse race. If Bellamy Road's Derby is more like Holy Bull's than the Slew's, a trifecta including High Fly and Nobel Causeway would yield a handsome payoff. Happy Derby Day!