It worked last year, so why not again, you say? Well, for one, Bernardini's don't grow on trees. Secondly, more good horses might be inclined to move on to Pimlico from Churchill Downs than did last year. Derby winners like Barbaro don't grow on trees either.

Neverthess, today's Grade 3 Withers Mile at Aqueduct is one helluva horserace. Of the seven three-year-olds entered, four would have to be considered serious contenders to win. Of those, the two favorites, C P West (2-1) and Street Magician (5-2) have the best chance. But Our Sacred Honor (7-2) and Divine Park (5-1) would be no major surprise. Let's examine their credentials, in reverse order:

There's no telling how good the 2-for-2 Divine Park is. Although he steps way up here, his last race earned him the fastest performance figure in the race. But moving up in class and distance returning on relatively short rest makes victory exceedingly difficult. Our Sacred Honor hails from the Pletcher shed, an outfitthat has won with four of 12 horses shipping up from South Florida. Already a winner at today's distance, he failed to catch Street Magician in his Gulfstream finale, the Aventura, when a furious late rally came up short by 3/4s of a length. He could win this easily, of course.

C P West was Grade 2-placed at 2 and was regarded well enough to earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he ran dismally. Recycled, he lost a narrow photo in his three-year-old debut at Gulfstream to the better conditioned Frosty Secret, an entrant here. He is sure to benefit, retains Edgar Prado, and has worked well since.

We're giving the edge, however, to Street Magician, who owns excellent tactical speed but can finish well, too. Rafael Bejarano can take advantage of his mid-gate draw, break quickly, and force the competition to react to him. You would think his rivals would not try to attend him too closely,lest they be used up in pursuit. Trainer Michael Trombetta, of Sweetnorthernsaint fame, is pushing all the right buttons this year, winning at a 28% rate. Because he spots the field anywhere from five to seven pounds as the 123-pound highweight, the odds should dictate a play.

Taking Street Magician to win. Making exacta boxes with C P West and Our Sacred Honor. Trifecta players might do well to include longshot shipper Mint Slewlep (12-1) second and third in that wager. Robert Bailes trainee is 2-for-2 at a mile and is on a forward-looking line.

Running Totals Through Wednsday (13) 5-4-2 ROI: $32.10