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Local celebrities make their Kentucky Derby picks

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Kentucky Derby has produced great champions (Secretariat), great literature (?The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved? by Hunter S. Thompson) and, for some shrewd handicappers, great windfalls.

Need help figuring out who?s going to run out front in today?s 20-horse field? We asked some horse racing insiders, and fans, from around the Empire for their picks:

<b>Eric Branch

Sonoma County Fair Horse Racing Writer

Predictions: </b>1. General Quarters: Everyone likes an underdog story. 2. Chocolate Candy: A homer pick for Hollendorfer. 3. Atomic Rain: Call it a gut feeling for this 50-1 shot. Or indigestion.

<b>Bill Nichols

Press Democrat horse racing expert

Predictions: </b>It?s hard not to like I Want Revenge, but favorites rarely do well in this race. I?ll use I Want Revenge with Pioneerof the Nile, who has two wins over the favorite. Dunkirk should improve here and Friesan Fire will be especially tough because of the recent rains. Mr. Hot Stuff is my longshot choice.

<b>Laura Hillenbrand

Author of ?Seabiscuit?

Predictions: </b>Hillenbrand said she followed the pre-Derby races, but not too closely. She picked General Quarters to win the Blue Grass, and he did. Quality Road and I Want Revenge impressed her also. Quality Road is out, so we?ll give her General Quarters and I Want Revenge.

<b>Doug Courtemarche

Santa Rosa High track coach

Predictions: </b>?Everyone seems so hot on I want Revenge, who couldn't handle Pioneerof the Nile in California on the poly and Pioneerof the Nile nearly bullets his five-furlong work breezing. Chocolate Candy is one that will thrive on the Derby distance. And look at all of the other Derby prep races. Papa Clem, another California flyaway, wins his eastern Prep. That Chocolate Candy and Pioneerof the Nile have taken so well to the Churchill Downs dirt says that they should be the two to beat, as they have already shown themselves to be versatile running on the poly at Santa Anita. Mr Hot Stuff looks like something special too. It could be the year of the West and the Western escapees.?

<b>Mrs. Barbara Walter

Owner of 1996 Kentucky Derby runner-up Cavonnier

Predictions: </b>?I?ve narrowed it down to five. Of course, I like I Want Revenge and Pioneerof the Nile like everyone else. I?m also looking at Papa Clem, Regal Ransom and Dunkirk. (Of course, her first pick is always Cavonnier, who she says is out giving the yearlings some sage advice).?

<b>Steve Specht

Santa Rosa horse trainer

Predictions:</b> ?I?m going to shoot for the stars and throw out the top two picks. I?m picking a trifecta box of longshots with Papa Clem, Chocolate Candy, Friesan Fire and Musket Man.?

<b>Peter Meechan

Analy boys? soccer coach

Predictions: </b>?I?m picking a superfecta of Pioneer of the Nile, Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk and Regal Ransom.?

<b>Dewey Forget

Horse Racing handicapper

Predictions:</b> ?There are several feel-good stories in this Derby. But, what makes anyone feel better than chocolate? Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer finally gets to smell the roses. Chocolate Candy will have plenty of speed up front to set up his late-running style. Adding Mike Smith, one of the most patient riders in the business, is the key. I just feel bad for Russell (Baze).?

<b>Henry Trione

Santa Rosa philanthropist and horse lover

Predictions: </b>?I like Chocolate Sundae, no it?s Chocolate Candy. He?s a fine horse.?

<b>Sam Spear

Golden Gate Fields TV host

Prediction:</b> I Want Revenge.

<b>Don Pierce

Retired jockey (3,546 career wins, including four Santa Anita Derbys)

Predictions: </b>I Want Revenge really impressed me with the race in New York. He was put in a bad spot and bounced out of it to win. Papa Clem would be my sentimental choice.