There may be virtue in picking untested Patience Game to win

How The Experts See It

May 15, 1999|By Steve Davidowitz | Steve Davidowitz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After the Demolition Derby was run at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, not a whole lot was really learned about many in the 19-horse field. That said, there is no disputing that Menifee made a strong impression, gaining gobs of ground late while weaving his way between horses to just miss catching long-shot winner Charismatic, who had a good striking position and clear sailing throughout.

It was equally apparent that the classy filly Excellent Meeting also had a strong late response after suffering even more dangerous traffic congestion than Menifee.

And, of course, Cat Thief, the bridesmaid of this year's moderately talented 3-year-old crop, was in the thick of things from start to finish to establish himself as a perfect target for the stretch-running contenders in the slightly shorter Preakness.

Of the others who revealed hints of ability in the Kentucky Derby, the Arabian-based Worldly Manner made a nice run for 1 1/8 miles but probably lacked the seasoning to stay the full Derby distance in his first official race since last September. Sixth-place finisher Kimberlite Pipe also turned in a good performance to suggest he might be a logical companion with Cat Thief on the third level of Preakness trifectas, while Torrid Sand, Stephen Got Even and Adonis belong on Superfecta tickets.

At the bottom line, potential traffic problems and a moderate pace could compromise the chances of several horses today. This leaves me skeptical of playing the eye-catching Menifee at odds that may drop to 7-5.

I am instead inclined to prefer two other intriguing horses over Menifee: the filly Excellent Meeting and the lightly raced but rapidly improving Patience Game.

Excellent Meeting has won three graded stakes around two turns this year and can almost match Menifee's stretch punch while launching her move from mid-pack, instead of last place, as she was forced to do in the Derby.

Patience Game is a natural distance horse with good overall speed who scored a facile win despite traffic problems in the Derby Trial stakes at Churchill Downs three weeks ago. After skipping the Derby, this beautifully balanced colt worked a crisp five furlongs in 58 3/5 seconds to suggest he just might be the one to push past Cat Thief, Worldly Manner, Stephen Got Even and Valhol in the upper stretch.

In a year in which maidens and inexperienced horses have won major stakes, Patience Game can win the Preakness with talented jockey Corey Nakatani at about 8-1 odds, maybe higher. The same is true for Excellent Meeting at about 5-1, or Menifee at 7-5; but the latter's low odds force me to use him strictly in the exotics.

Here are the picks: 1. Patience Game, 2. Excellent Meeting, 3. Menifee, 4. Charismatic.

A win bet on Patience Game; a saver on Excellent Meeting.

Exactas: Patience Game and Excellent Meeting; over Patience Game, Excellent Meeting, Menifee and Charismatic. ($12 at $2 units.)

Steve Davidowitz is a free-lance writer and handicapper.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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