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Saturday picks

3/10/2006

Corinthian surged to the lead three wide entering the stretch and went by the weakening heavy favorite, First Samurai, in a few strides. As I predicted, First Samurai wouldn't handle 1 1/8 miles, and as I predicted, Corinthian, at almost 8-1, would be a live longshot in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Oh, I was feeling so smart and starting to count my money.

But even when you're right, everything can go wrong, and unfortunately, it did. Soon after Corinthian, a talented head case, went by First Samurai, three bad things happened. He came in, he came out, he came down.

Upon further review, Corinthian's disqualification from first to third was a no-brainer, but I still was seized by a dark fury. I said bad words, cursing my fate. I figured he'd be pushed back to second, and I would have still had the First Samurai-Corinthian exacta for a consolation prize. No, Eddie Boy, tear that up, too.

"There's not too much to explain," steward Charlie Camac said of the DQ. "He squeezed [First Samurai] and then came out into the 10 [Flashy Bull]."

Judge, you did the right thing, I'm sorry to say.

It had been such a pleasant day before that, as I hit a few exactas and watched one of my other picks in this column, Wend, win easily at even money. Just when you think everything is going your way, you get blindsided by the racing gods.

Well, at least I wasn't alone in my disappointment. I didn't cash $125 or so in tickets and didn't get to crow about a brilliant pick. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens lost a Grade II trophy and a 10-percent share of a $300,000 purse.

"I guess he started a chain reaction," Jerkens said. "He still ran great. I still don't know why he did what he did. It's a shame because he was the best horse. That's why it hurts so much."

Despite being put up, it was a disappointing day for First Samurai, no matter how trainer Frank Brothers tried to spin it. "I thought it was a very good race for him," Brothers said. "I thought he answered a big question today about whether he could go a mile and an eighth."

Yes, and the answer was no. Anyone who bet First Samurai in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager should realize that they threw away their money. If he gets to Louisville for the first Saturday in May, First Samurai will be a pace casualty. He's very quick and talented, but he doesn't want to go farther than a mile and a sixteenth.

Jockey Edgar Prado looked a bit sheepish in the winner's circle? "Winning like that takes a little of the taste out of it," he said.

Brothers was far more upbeat. "He relaxed quite a bit, then had to start going again when bothered in the stretch, which is a good sign," he said. "He showed a lot of courage, especially for a horse making his first start around two turns.

"I've been on both sides of that fence when the inquiry comes. It's a tough loss, but it was our day."

I guarantee that May 6 at Churchill Downs won't be.

Last week: Besides the Fountain of Youth bummer and the chalky win with Wend, I picked Lava Man ($8.80), winner of the Santa Anita Handicap. Bad racing luck doomed Cacique, who was spun 10-wide in the stretch of the Kilroe Mile and finished off the board despite a big rally. Bet him next time.

Unlike last Saturday, when Gulfstream and Santa Anita carded stakes-filled programs, I didn't find too much to get excited about this week. I settled on two grass races in Florida and a filly and mare stakes in Southern California, where rain is likely to produce an off track.

7th race, Gulfstream, maiden special weight (1 1/16 miles, turf)
Eden's Causeway, a half-sister to former grass champion Paradise Creek, closed strongly Jan. 26 at Gulfstream in her career debut for trainer Christophe Clement. She passed eight horses in the stretch and ran second after going her last furlong and a half in a snappy 29 1/5 seconds. She gets first-time Lasix and should improve.

1. Eden's Causeway 2. Aristo 3. Sudden Desire

9th race, Gulfstream, Canadian Turf Handicap (1 1/16 miles)<
English Channel makes his first start for Todd Pletcher since finishing up the track in the Breeders' Cup Turf, where a long season and very soft ground may have taken their toll. He's 3-for-3 at a mile and a sixteenth and lays over the field if he runs back to his races last year. He's won twice beyond 1 1/8 miles, but I think this is the little battler's best distance.

1. English Channel 2. Silver Tree 3. Good Reward

8th race, Santa Anita, Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap (1 1/8 miles)
The likelihood of a wet track makes this an iffy play. If the surface is fast, I'll be betting on Proposed. She had traffic trouble in midstretch last time when second at 8-5 in the Grade I Santa Maria Handicap. With front-runners Dream Of Summer, Seafree, Healthy Addiction and Star Parade in here, the masterful Patrick Valenzuela could work out a dream trip by using Proposed's tactical speed.

1. Proposed 2. Dream Of Summer 3. Star Parade