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Three-year-olds chase lucrative purses on busy Derby prep weekend

If there was any doubt about which division is horse racing’s glamour attraction, look at the purses for three Kentucky Derby preps this weekend.

It’s the 3-year-olds, with a total of 35 competing in the $1 million Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park on Sunday and the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral at Turfway Park on Saturday. All three stakes races are nine furlongs.

At 9-5 odds, Mucho Macho Man is a deserving favorite in the Louisiana Derby. His win in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds shows a liking of the surface. I suggest using Elite Alex (6-1), a dead late closer who should enjoy the long stretch run in New Orleans.

In the Sunland Derby, I do not like any horse that prepped in the Borderland Derby at Sunland. The horse to beat is Astrology from trainer Steve Asmussen. Astrology is making his first start since he finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. His pedigree, by A.P. Indy, suggests the farther they run, the more he’ll like it.

The Spiral has a clear favorite in Positive Response, a proven synthetic specialist who has won five of eight starts on that surface. Watch out for interesting newcomer King Congie, who has won two turf stakes and is making his synthetic debut. I suspect his proven class is worth backing.

■ DUBAI WORLD CUP — The $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race, will be Saturday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, part of a card with eight stakes races worth more than $26 million.

Meydan is a Tapeta synthetic surface, the same found in the U.S. at Golden Gate Fields and Presque Isle Downs. Horses with a synthetic or turf resume should have an advantage.

My choice in the Dubai World Cup is Musir (5-1). He can turn the tables after losing last time out to race favorite Twice Over. Musir is trained by Michael de Kock, among the best in the business.

■ ELIZABETH TAYLOR — The late actress Elizabeth Taylor had common threads to horse racing. Her first major movie role at age 12 was portraying child jockey Velvet Brown in “National Velvet.” Taylor also occasionally went to Hollywood Park, especially when Marge Everett owned the track.

In a striking coincidence, on the day of Taylor’s death, a horse named Burton’s Angel won at Santa Anita Park. Taylor was twice married to actor Richard Burton.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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