A LOOK AT SOME of the important races around the nation today:

New Orleans Handicap

Fair Grounds (Race 6) - Post 4:06 p.m., Grade II, $500,000, 1-1/8 miles, 4YO & Up

1. Encaustic, Julien Leparoux, 12-1

2. Silver Lord, Corey Lanerie, 5-1

3. Grasshopper, Robbie Albarbaro, 2-1

4. Circular Quay, Garrett Gomez, 7-2

5. Brass Hat, Willie Martinez, 9-2

6. Reporting for Duty, S. Bridgmohan, 6-1

7. Magna Graduate, Edgar Prado, 5-1

DJ's picks: 1. Grasshopper 2. Magna Graduate 3. Brass Hat

Grasshopper was the colt that nearly upset Street Sense in the Travers last August. His first race of 2008, a dominating win in the Mineshaft Handicap, was visually impressive and quite fast (102 Beyer figure).

Came from off the pace that day, but could be controlling speed here. Best horse, potential lone speed, hard to beat. Magna Graduate, a $2.3 million earner, ran some giant figures last year and was a decent third behind Grasshopper in his season debut.

Brass Hat is really a tough, old gelding, with eight wins in 22 starts against some very good horses.


Aqueduct (Race 9) - Post 4:50 p.m., Grade III, $250,000, 1-1/16 miles, 3YO

1. Giant Moon, R. Dominguez, 7-2

2. Laysh Laysh Laysh, Mario Pino, 15-1

3. Roman Emperor, Jeremy Rose, 6-1

4. Saratoga Russell, Eibar Coa, 4-1

5. Southern Terminus, Stewart Elliott, 8-1

6. Holidaze, Mike Luzzi, 15-1

7. Texas Wildcatter, Norberto Arroyo, 12-1

8. Larrys Revenge, Joe Bravo, 15-1

9. Ling Ling Qi, Rajiv Maragh, 12-1

10. Visionaire, Jose Lezcano, 3-1

DJ's picks: 1. Giant Moon. 2. Saratoga Russell. 3. Visionaire.

Giant Moon, unbeaten in four starts, may or may not be the 2008 version of New York-bred Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner. The son of the brilliant Giant's Causeway has speed and has proved very competitive in every start. Saratoga Russell was brilliant in the slop last out at Gulfstream and figures to get an off track today.

The colt is from the hot West Point Stable, which has solid Derby contender El Gato Malo on the West Coast. Visionaire, trained by Michael Matz, was third behind Pyro in the Risen Star.

Fair Grounds Oaks

Fair Grounds (Race 8) - Post 5:08 p.m., Grade II, $400,000, 1-1/16 miles, 3YO fillies

1. Indian Blessing, Garrett Gomez, 3-5

2. Proud Spell, Gabriel Saez, 6-5

3. Acacia, S. Bridgmohan, 10-1

4. Wisconsin Lady, Robbie Albarado, 8-1

DJ's picks: 1. Indian Blessing. 2. Proud Spell. 3. Wisconsin Lady.

Indian Blessing, the 2-year-old filly champion, is unbeaten in five starts. She certainly figures to control the pace again, but will be a very short price. Proud Spell has chased the favorite home in the last two races and might have to alter her running style to challenge for the front, if she is to get Indian Blessing.

Louisiana Derby

Fair Grounds (Race 9) - Post 5:48 p.m., Grade II, $600,000, 1-1/16 miles, 3YO

1. Stevil, Eddie Castro, 15-1

2. My Pal Charlie, Julien Leparoux, 20-1

3. Pyro, S. Bridghmohan, 7-5

4. J Be K, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1

5. Unbridled Vicar, Corey Lanerie, 20-1

6. Tale of Ekati, Edgar Prado, 7-2

7. Blackberry Road, Robbie Albarado, 10-1

8. Yankee Bravo, Alex Solis, 4-1

9. Majestic Warrior, Garrett Gomez, 9-2

DJ's picks: 1. J Be K. 2. Pyro. 3. Majestic Warrior

It is all about trainer Steve Asmussen in New Orleans these days. Curlin's trainer already has won 14 stakes at the FG meet and will have the overwhelming favorite here. I am going to try to beat that favorite with, who else, Asmussen. His "other" colt, J Be K, appears to be the only speed in what is the toughest Derby prep to date. Has won both his starts by daylight and will have a big lead on obvious favorite, Pyro. Nothing bad to say about Pyro. The colt chased 2-year-old champ War Pass unsuccessfully in three starts last year. Pyro looked hopeless at the top of the stretch in the Feb. 9 Risen Star when dead last. The colt swung out and flew by the field, running his final quarter-mile in an insane 22.3 seconds to win by 2 lengths. The Beyer (90) was not much, but the pace was so slow, the final time could not be fast. Pyro, however, surely was fast in the stretch. Majestic Warrior looked like a potential champion until running poorly in the Champagne. Trainer Bill Mott thinks a hoof injury he discovered later might have been the problem. Keep a close eye on this horse.

Santa Anita Oaks

Santa Anita Park (Race 9) - Post 7:30 p.m., Grade I, $300,000, 1-1/16 miles, 3YO fillies

1. Lovely Isle, David Flores, 7-2

2. Briecat, Richard Migliore, 12-1

3. Divine Legacy, Tyler Baze, 12-1

4. Final Fling, Joseph Talamo, 6-1

5. Seattle Smooth, Joel Rosario, 15-1

6. Sunday Holiday, Victor Espinoza, 9-2

7. Golden Doc A, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2

8. Ariege, Corey Nakatani, 5-1

9. Kazamira, Mike Smith, 12-1

DJ's picks: 1. Golden Doc A. 2. Briecat. 3. Lovely Isle

Golden Doc A nearly ran down Indian Blessing in the Santa Ynez and then proved that no fluke when she came back to win the Las Virgenes. Briecat and Lovely Isle might contest the pace, which should make Golden Doc A's rally even more effective.