A LOOK AT some of the important races around the country today:
Churchill Downs (Race 8) - Post 4:49, Grade III, $100,000, 1 mile, 3-year-old fillies
1. Alina, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, odds 5-2
2. Keep the Peace, jockey Julien Leparoiux, odds 2-1
3. Temper Temper, jockey Corey Lanerie, odds 15-1
4. Secret Gypsy, jockey Elvis Trujillo, odds 4-1
5. Pious Ashley, jockey Brian Hernandez, odds 10-1
6. Tiz to Dream, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 7-2
7. Acoma, jockey Robby Albarado, odds 10-1
Alina should get stalking position behind the speed and run by the front-runners in the stretch. Tiz to Dream is another late runner who could benefit by a hot pace. Keep the Peace beat both of my choices in a race on the Derby undercard, but will have to run hard from the start and might not last.
DJ's picks: 1. Alina. 2. Tiz to Dream. 3. Keep the Peace.
The Ohio Derby
Thistledown (Race 9) - Post 5:27, Grade II, $300,000, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds
1. Smooth Air, jockey Manoel Cruz, odds 2-1
2. Medjool, jockey Jose Carbaballo, odds 7-2
3. Your Round, jockey Miguel Mena , odds 8-1
4. Instill, jockey Danush Sukie, odds 8-1
5. Stolen Cherry, jockey Rex Stokes, odds 5-1
6. Celtic Meal, jockey Andrew Ramgeet, odds 20-1
7. Z Fortune, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 5-2
8. Cherokee Artist, jockey Jeremy Rose, odds 12-1
I thought Z Fortune had a chance to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby, but he had traffic issues early and was never a factor. With 12 fewer horses and no Big Brown, the colt will get to run as he did in the Arkansas Derby, when he was a strong second. Smooth Air got off to a terrible start in the Derby and finished 11th. Never worse than third in his seven previous starts, Smooth Air clearly is better than that. Instill ran a career-top race when he won an Illinois-bred stake.
DJ's picks: 1. Z Fortune. 2. Smooth Air. 3. Instill.
Churchill Downs (Race 10) - Post 5:51, Grade III, $125,000, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up
1. Esperamos, jockey Elvis Trujillo, odds 4-1
2. Elite Squadron, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 7-2
3. Carnacks Choice, jockey Robby Albarado, odds 15-1
4. Indian Chant, jockey Jamie Theriot, odds 2-1
5. Kelly's Landing, jockey Julien Leparoux, odds 5-2
6. Noonmark, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, odds 9-2
Indian Chant has been first or second in 17 of his 22 starts. In a race loaded with early heat, he will be close to the pace, but can pass a horse or two. Noonmark should benefit from what will be a smoking-hot pace and come running late. Elite Squadron got loose on the lead on the Derby undercard and won nicely. Will have competition for the top this time.
DJ's picks: 1. Indian Chant. 2. Noonmark. 3. Elite Squadron.
The Milady Handicap
Hollywood Park (Race 5) - Post 6:20, Grade II, $175,000, 1-1/16 miles, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares
1. Kris' Sis, jockey J Garcia, odds 10-1
2. Foxysox, jockey Victor Espinoza, odds 10-1
3. Model, jockey Alonso Quinonez, odds 20-1
4. Romance is Diane, jockey Michael Baze, odds 8-1
5. La Tee, jockey Tyler Baze, odds 6-1
6. Zenyatta, jockey Mike Smith, odds 3-5
7. Double Trouble, jockey Rafael Bejerano, odds 6-1
8. Santa Teresita, jockey Joe Talamo, odds 5-1
Zenyatta is unbeaten in four starts and surely looks like one of the best horses (of any sex) in America. Last out, she crushed Ginger Punch, the best of her sex in 2007. Owned, trained and ridden by the same people who gave us 2005 Derby winner Giacomo, do check her out. She is serious business. Santa Teresita will be running from the back, but is an improving filly. La Tee has been running strictly on grass, but her form should translate to cushion track, and her speed makes her dangerous.
DJ's picks: 1. Zenyatta. 2. Santa Teresita. 3. La Tee.
Hollywood Park (Race 8) - Post 7:50, Grade II, $250,000, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up
1. Heatseeker, jockey Rafael Bejarano, odds 2-1
2. Tiago, jockey Mike Smith, odds 9-5
3. Shambinan, jockey Jon Court, odds 6-1
4. Surf Cat, jockey Alex Solis, odds 5-2
5. Albertus Maximus, jockey Corey Nakatani, odds 5-1
Surf Cat looked like a potential star 2 years ago and is just now recapturing that form. If he is all the way back, this would be a good time to show it. Tiago, a half brother to Giacomo and stablemate of Zenyatta, has looked like a potential star for a while. This could be the breakthrough race. Heatseeker might be running in company with Tiago when they start their runs from the back. Albertus Maximus might be the only speed in a paceless race, but will have to hold off two strong closers.
DJ's picks: 1. Surf Cat. 2. Tiago. 3. Heatseeker.