Friday, May 4, 2007

Paulie's Picks, The 2007 Kentucky Derby

Where does the time go? Here it is, the first Friday in May already, meaning tomorrow is the first Saturday in May, and we all know what that means. They say events unfold in groups of three. This week Artforum did a cover story on Op and the Warriors beat the Mavericks in a true David and Goliath fairy tale. I'm hoping that unlikely occurrence #3 is Paulie picking a long-priced winner in the Derby.

A little news flash first: the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet decided to give all 20 Derby starters a surprise drug test today. The kicker is that they're not going to make the results available until after the race, so I guess it follows that there's a chance the winner may be disqualified.

Ok, I'm stalling, and the reason is that as I type this I'm still thinking about my picks. This is a very, very tough race to call.

Last night I went to Len Ragozin's famous Derby seminar at the Ukrainian National Home on 2nd Ave. For $20, you get copies of "The Sheets" (Ragozin's legendary speed figures) for the Derby and Kentucky Oaks, plus Len Friedman's picks for the two races. Len narrowed the field down to about six contenders, which I could have done at home for free.

Curlin looks like he might be a super-horse, and he's got the highly desirable #2 post. But he's only raced three times. All extremely impressive wins, but as Andrew Beyer pointed out in his Daily Racing Form column, there hasn't been a Derby winner with less than four races under his belt since Exterminator in 1918 (29 have tried) and there hasn't been a winner who didn't race as a two-year-old since Apollo in, get ready, 1882. Also, Curlin is probably going to go off at a very short price because of the way he crushed the Arkansas Derby.

What complicates matters further is the weather forecast. It's been raining and it's supposed to keep raining, so the track should be a mess. This is the only real knock on Street Sense, who is the favorite in some of the morning lines (Curlin is the favorite in others). Street Sense only has one race in the mud and he came in third. Curlin is also untested in the slop.

Some of the other logical choices, and their problems (or maybe my problems):

In my estimation, Nobiz Like Shobiz gets an asterisk for his win in the Wood Memorial. It was a pretty slow race, Nobiz got a dream trip on the rail, and Any Given Saturday was caught wide on both turns.

Circular Quay looks great on paper, and Johnny Velazquez picked him to ride - Johnny V could have chosen any of the five Todd Pletcher horses in the race. But where has Pletcher been hiding this horse for two months? Why no prep races? Does have have the sniffles, or worse?

I was ready to give the afore-mentioned Any Given Saturday a by for his poor performance in the Wood, but as fate would have it he's marooned in the 18th post position.

I'm probably going to play a matrix of exactas, trifectas, and a couple of superfectas - the 2005 super (Giacomo/Closing Argument/Afleet Alex/Don't Get Mad) paid $1.3 million, which would really come in handy right now. I know, I'm still stalling.

Based largely on post positions, pace set-ups, and rain-drops, here are my picks for the 2007 Kentucky Derby. If you know what's good for you, you probably won't risk any money on this:

6 - Cowtown Cat
8 - Hard Spun
18 - Any Given Saturday
2 - Curlin

Tune in tomorrow night for results.