Best Pal is the best bet in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, his unfortunate draw of the No. 15 post position notwithstanding.

The best horses overcome obstacles, especially when they've got top riders.That reason also is why the second-choice here remains Fly So Free, despite his unlucky draw of the rail.

Sea Cadet gets the nod for third - primarily because of his fortuitous No. 4 post and the services of Chris McCarron, long one of the nation's best riders and right now one of the hottest.

Fast-improving Mane Minister is the longshot to include in exactas and trifecta boxes.

Best Pal has been among the best of his class since he won the first 2-year-old race staged in the United States last year. And this week during training hours at Churchill Downs, Best Pal has been the best Derby horse period.

He's clocked three striking works, including an eyebrow-raising three eighths-mile move in :34 3-5 that turned into a five-eighths exercise in :59 2-5 simply because it takes his exercise rider so long to slow him down.

He's also the picture of a classic winner. His coat is shiny and dappling, which means he's developing the dark spots that are a sign of perfect health. His fitness is extraordinary, after cooling down from the last work, an astonished veterinarian spotted him bucking and playing in the grazing area.

The services of rider Gary Stevens, last year's top money-winner, don't hurt either.

Until his upset in the Blue Grass Stakes, Fly So Free appeared a horse without much drive. He won because he faced less talented horses, not because he had any real desire to win.

Sea Cadet probably is better suited to shorter races than the 11/4-mile Derby, but a good horse can be stretched out if the jockey can get him to relax, and McCarron has the hands and the personality to do so.