At The Track May 26, 2004 

MY FAVORITE WEEKEND

Clear the books and finish the mowing on Friday night and maybe Memorial Day weekend can be your favorite weekend of the year, as it is mine. The best part, of course, is three days in a row of racing at Les Bois Park (Saturday, 5:45 p.m.; Sunday and Monday, 2 p.m.). I actively look forward to two additional, non-mainstream sporting events over The Weekend.

My favorite weekend begins with Saturday morning TV: the NCAA lacrosse semifinals at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN2. Navy (yeah, Navy) plays in the Final Four for the first time since 1981 against Princeton—gotta root for the Middies. Later, it's off to the track, where the Bitterroot Juvenile (the Futurity consolation) pits the next-best 10 2-year-old quarter horses at 350 yards.

Jockey Travis Hamilton and trainer Jay Pitcher qualified three for the consolation race: Butches Little Plan, A Little Bit of Fame, and Propel. Of the three, Propel, who raced from a muddier inside post on Sunday, May 16, looks like the smartest choice. Propel to win, with Declinin, Snoway Hozay, and whomever Hamilton picks to ride (if it's not Propel) to fill out your quinella box.

I watch approximately 2,000 horse races and exactly one automobile race each year—the Indianapolis 500 (Sunday, Channel 6, 9 a.m.). If you'll take a wager, I'd like a quinella box with Castroneves, Hornish, Herta, and my sentimental fave—Sarah Fisher. Even if the 500 runs late, you should still be able to zip down to Les Bois Park to catch the seven-furlong Wade Snapp Memorial, for Thoroughbreds, and the 400-yard Bitterroot Derby, for 3-year-old quarter horses.

The Lord Is Eager won his Snapp trial convincingly, recording the fastest time. In the final, Nosotros Dos, Shotmo, and Key Runner should be close, but a lot depends on post position. Most of the qualifiers ran close to the rail on the turns in the trials. Only Key Runner and Cajun Law took the scenic route, and their slower times reflect the extra ground they covered. In a race this competitive, the shortest trip around the track is a huge advantage.

In the Bitterroot Derby, the short-odds horses should prevail: Brewskies Express, followed by Sensual Lady and Classy Make N Money. If you get a quinella box, also throw in Jay Conklin's mount.

Monday has the lacrosse final on ESPN early and the richest race in Idaho late. One hundred thousand dollars is on the line in the 350-yard Bitterroot Futurity for 2-year-old quarter horses. The final times from the trials, conducted on May 15 and 16, are deceiving. On Saturday, the track was fast but wet, with a noticeable tailwind. On Sunday, the track was slow but drying out, the winds were calmer, and a bias developed toward the outside post positions. It's impossible to know how the Saturday qualifiers would have fared on Sunday, and it's impossible to know how much faster a No. 1 horse would have run from the #8 post. Eschew the favorite and go with Little Earl. He was one of only two horses to finish fourth or better from the #1 post on Sunday, and was the only horse inside of the #5 post to qualify. His odds could be more than 20-to-1.

Also on tap for Monday is the Memorial Day Speed Handicap for Thoroughbreds. Bobbiblue Bayou and Justifiable Cause should compete for the win.

The Governor's Handicap (Thoroughbreds, seven furlongs), highlights the Wednesday, May 26, race card. As big a mystery as whether Dirk Kempthorne will attend and present the Governor's Cup is who will win. The top five horses from the Inaugural Handicap meet again, joined by Kerrygold. Look for Jazzing Jack, now with a recent race, to turn the tables on his rivals. It's a barnburner.

To recap: Wednesday—Jazzing Jack. Saturday—Navy and Propel. Sunday—Castroneves, Nosotros Dos, and Brewskies Express. And Monday—Navy, Little Earl, and Justifiable Cause.

Have a great weekend!

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