The Inquirer's veteran handicapper likes the favorite over the latest local horse in the 133d Kentucky Derby, Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Listed in order of preference:
2. CURLIN -- No other member of this field has the star potential of this colt who has captured his three starts by over 28 lengths. His record-setting 10 ½-length romp in the Arkansas Derby was the strongest prep of the season. While a lack of experience could be a negative (no Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 was unraced as a juvenile) , Derby "rules" are now broken regularly. Many handicappers were so disturbed by Barbaro's five week absence prior to last year's Derby that he paid a whopping 6-1 in his 6 ½-length score.
8. HARD SPUN -- Locally-owned winner of five of six starts with lone defeat blamed on Oaklawn Park footing. All his victories have been achieved in decisive style and he has a regal pedigree, being a son of the great sire Danzig. His rapid five-furlong work on Monday could be perceived as a sign that he loves the Churchill footing and is super-sharp after a six-week absence.
7. STREET SENSE -- Obviously loves the track as witnessed by his 10-length victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Despite just two preps this season, he has been set up perfectly for this race by trainer Carl Nafzger, who saddled Unbridled to win this race in 1990. This colt has a powerful late kick and the running style that often produces the Derby winner.
20. GREAT HUNTER -- This $30,000 Chester County-bred bargain was unlucky in the Blue Grass when knocked sideways in the stretch and now must try to overcome the extreme outside post in this cavalry charge. But he was impressive in his seasonal debut at Santa Anita and a troubled third behind Street Sense in the Juvenile.
12. NOBIZ LIKE SHOBIZ -- Possibly no other colt was as awesome as him last year but he does appear to have made much progress this season. He won the Wood Memorial when adding blinkers but edged a rival with weak credentials by less than one length. Trainer Barclay Tagg, who won the Derby with Funny Cide in 2003, has been sizzling lately in New York.