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Preview of Opening Day at Churchill Downs

ON MY DIME is the most unlikeliest of favorites in the first race on opening day under the Twin Spires. The five-year-old gelding ships in from Turf Paradise while making his first start for little-known trainer Troy Newton. However, the son of Mizzen Mast is 18 points superior on the BRIS Prime Power Rating, our most predictive number, and towers over this field on the BRIS Pace and Speed Ratings. Players looking to beat this one will hang their hats on his weaker 11-1-4-1 record on the main track. Most of this gelding's success has come on the turf, but he is very capable on the dirt versus this field.

Not much jumped out on the Ultimate Past Performances on the next two races. In race four COLLAR exits an impressive maiden win at Oaklawn, earning 97/98 BRIS Pace Ratings and a final Speed figure of 89. Despite his inexperience, he looks best in this field for 24% trainer Charles Dickey.

Some key trainer angles pop up on Wesley Ward in race 5. BRITANNIA ROSE moves into his barn (25% with 1st start new trainer) and get Lasix (32% 1st Lasix) administered. This filly was the beaten favorite in her debut at Gulfstream and certainly looks eligible to improve on Saturday.

In race seven SALUTE THE CROWN will likely be a prohibitive favorite, especially given that he is 15 points best on Prime Power. However, there are reasons to think this one is beatable. He hasn't run in 100 days, is 9 years old, is winless in 5 turf starts here, and is moving away from Rick Dutrow's barn into a new stable (albeit, that of Mike Maker). It's a wide open field beyond this gelding, so it may worth taking a risk in multi-race wagers and going deep in an attempt to beat the favorite.

SILVER CITY comes out of the Grade 2 Rebel, which featured a wicked early pace according to the BRIS Pace Ratings (111/115), and he headlines a competitive Derby Trial Stakes. He'll have to fend off CHECKLIST, who has been working in company with Dunkirk, and HULL who was scratched after drawing the 12 hole in last Saturday's Lexington S. Hull owns a slight edge on the BRIS Speed Ratings.

Click here to read the opening day blog on Calder.

 -- Rich Nilsen (4.22.09)