Sunday picks

Updated: October 28, 2000, 10:04 PM ET
By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

The Athenia Handicap
9th Aqueduct
Distance: 1 1/16th miles on the turf
Purse: $100,000
For: Fillies & mares, 3-year-olds & upward
Grade III

La Ville Rouge returned off a brief layoff to run a strong second in the Noble Damsel for Hall of Famer Phil Johnson.. Shows a sizzling six furlong workout in 1:11 1/5 in preparation for this race. The only knock is that she may need a little bit more distance. Neptune's Bride has had a spotty year, but showed promise when finishing second behind Snow Polina in the Black
Helen. In her last start, she faced off against a very tough group of allowance horses and ran a solid third despite some serious traffic problems. Can score here at a square price. Silken is getting better all the time. After winning an allowance race, she beat a good one in Confessional in a Kentucky Cup grass race. Idle Rich got loose on the lead in the All Along at Colonial Downs. That won't happen here with Wild Heart Dancing in the field.

Picks Summary: 1. La Ville Rouge 2. Neptune's Bride 3. Silken


The Ack Ack Handicap
9th Churchill Downs
Distance: 7 * furlongs
Purse: $100,000
For: 3-year-olds & upward
Grade III

Dixieland Sham returned off a 10-month layoff with a big effort to finish third in a grass race. No doubt capable trainer Paul McGee was using that race as a major prep for this spot. Expect Dixieland Sham to be ready for a peak performance today. Fits well at this distance and should get a good trip sitting just behind longshot Number One Sheikh.  Chindi was misplaced on the grass in his last, finishing a poor sixth. If you throw that race out he shows top form, including a good second-place finish behind Bet on Sunshine in the Arlington Sprint. Millencolin stubbed his toe in the Perryville at Keeneland, running sixth as the 6-5 favorite. Though he had no apparent excuses that day, he's got plenty of good races in his past performances and may prove better than the competition.

Picks Summary: 1. Dixieland Sham 2. Chindi 3. Millencolin


The Carleton F. Burke Handicap
6th Santa Anita
Distance: 1 * miles on the turf
Purse: $125,000
For: 3-year-olds & upward
Grade III

This came up a very tough spot for a Grade III race as a couple of Breeders' Cup caliber horses will go here. The best is Mash One, who would have had to have been supplemented into the Breeders' Cup. Returning off a one-year layoff, he beat a better field in the Grade I Clement Hirsch in his last start and should boss this field around. Northern Quest, a stablemate of Mash One, was a big disappointment in the Turf Classic at Belmont. He had to chase a slow pace and simply may not have adapted to Belmont Park. Should he run back to his efforts in the Del Mar Handicap and the Arlington Handicap he could be very tough in here. Self Feeder was rated in the Clement Hirsch, a strategy that backfired as he finished an even fourth. There's not much speed in here and he could control a slow pace from the inside under Eddie Delahoussaye.

Picks Summary: 1. Mash One 2. Northern Quest 3. Self Feeder

• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com