Steve Haskin's Road to the Kentucky Derby (Cont.)

But, while he will be in the top three in most everyone's contenders list and bet heavily in the future books, you can still get good value on Brancusi. This colt impressed us in his maiden victory, so much so that we put him on the top 20 list on Derby Watch the next week, something we normally would not do with a maiden winner. Despite having only won that one race, his only start this year, he still ran a sensational race in the San Felipe. He lost ground on the first turn, then was forced to drop in on the rail when Logician moved alongside him on the backstretch. He remained stuck down on the inside tracking Siberland's testing pace of :22 4/5, :46 2/5, and 1:10 4/5 over the deep, drying out track. Nearing the head of the stretch, he was brought off the rail to challenge Siberland from between horses, disposed of the leaders and opened a clear lead in mid-stretch. He looked like a winner until Buddy Gil and Atswhatimtalknbout came charging in the final 70 yards. He hung tough and was beaten only three-quarters of a length.

What we like most about this colt is the way he moves and the way he holds his head. He levels off beautifully and has a nice, easy flow to his stride. Although he gave way in the final yards, his pedigree is all distance. He's by Travers winner Deputy Commander, out of a mare by Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Alysheba. His maternal granddam, Treizieme, beat the colts at 2, winning the one-mile Grand Criterium. Treizieme's dam, Belle Pensee, is a daughter of the major classic/stamina influence, Ribot. Trainer Patrick Biancone was delighted with his effort and will point him for the Blue Grass Stakes.

Don't toss out Domestic Dispute just yet. He was coming off a two-month layoff and launched a big rally on the far turn while going four wide. Baffert said he gave Bailey bad instructions and assured the colt will rebound. He launched a big rally on the far turn while going four wide, but his move fizzled in the stretch. He raced erratically, drifting in a little from a right-hand whip, then came out when Bailey hit him left-handed just as Logician was being shoved into his path. He seemed to lose it after that, switching back to his left lead. Bailey didn't persevere with him rest of the way, and just let him finish all on his own. Still, he still was beaten only 3 lengths, with Bailey merely sitting on him for the final sixteenth. There is no reason to think he won't show vast improvement in the Santa Anita Derby. As for Man Among Men, he bled a 1 1/2 to a 2 on a scale of 5. Gary Mandella will watch him for a week and take X-rays of his lungs before deciding whether to continue on the Derby trail. It was apparent from the start that something was bothering him, as he never was in the race.

With Baffert pointing Composure for the Ashland Stakes, it'll be up to Domestic Dispute and Kafwain to provide him with his fifth Santa Anita Derby winner.

There really isn't too much to say about the Tampa Bay Derby, which basically was just another allowance race for Region of Merit and Aristocat, who right now are each other's only barometer. As we said earlier, their struggle to beat Hear No Evil raises some questions. But on the bright side, both horses still have lots of room for improvement and have the right running style. Region of Merit, who has now won four in a row, did bear down and showed a good deal of grit, while Aristocat was gobbling up ground late after failing to keep up on the far turn. We won't much more about these colts until they step up in class in their next start.

The Gotham Stakes at this point doesn't look like it's going to have much bearing on the Derby, although you can't take anything away from Alysweep, who ran a powerful race on the front end in his first start around two turns. He came home strongly, and has enough stamina to make him dangerous in future two-turn races. If there is a potential Derby horse to come out of here it is third-place finisher Spite the Devil, who closed well enough to suggest there are better days in store when the distances stretch out. The son of Devil His Due, trained by Allen Jerkens, is inbred to the outstanding stamina influence Herbager, and did come within a neck of beating Funny Cide in a New York-bred stakes last year.