01/21/2008 12:48AM

Gone West


BEVERLY (Hills, that is), Cal. -- Good thing that Santa Anita has an early noon post time Monday, or else there could have been a thorny conflict between the carryover-laden 10th at SA and the start of the Eclipse Awards cocktail hour here at the Beverly Wilshire.

Both are irresistible. You have to start drinking early to get through the Eclipses, a/k/a The Longest Night in American Racing, and the 10th race is not only the last leg of a pick six with a $129k carryover, but also a rare carryover Super High Five race, with $65k from Sunday seeding that pool. (Guess my colleague Mr. Free was right about the pick six carrying over more often.) Thanks to the early post, though, the 10th is slated for 4:37 p.m., a mere 23 minutes before first post at the bar.

So it's an unexpected-homework night and it's going to be a busy Monday here in the land of swimming pools and movie stars. The Turf Publicists of America's luncheon honoring Carl Nafzger as the Big Sport of Turfdom starts at 11 and the first leg of the pick six goes at 2:05. Full report on the day's festivities when they're all over.

--This may have been the thinnest graded-stakes weekend of 2008, with only two such races on the national calendar: Saturday's G3 Tuzla and G2 San Marcos at Santa Anita, where Champs Elysees was an easy winner at 2-5. The 4-year-old Danehill-Hasili colt is a full brother to fellow Juddmonte homebreds Banks Hill, Cacique and Intercontinental and a half to Heat Haze, all G1 winners. Frankel, who has trained most of them in their U.S. starts, thinks Champs Elysees will be even better at distances beyoind the San Marcos's 10 furlongs, and will race him lightly this winter with bigger summer and fall races in mind.

Why such a light weekend for stakes racing? Probably the biggest reason is next Saturday's Sunshine Millions, which since its inception has thinned out the graded-stakes schedule at Santa Anita and Gulfstream on surrounding weekends.

--Congratulations to all the New York Giants fans out there for Sunday's stirring victory over Green Bay, but I root for the other Manning. Despite growing up in New York, I've been a Colts fan since childhood due to Johnny Unitas, an allegiance that spurred one of my first life lessons about betting on sure things.

In Super Bowl III, you may recall, the then-Baltimore Colts were 17-point favorites over the New York Jets. The concept of the point spread was lost on my junior-high classmates, who simply wanted to bet on their hometown Jets and Mr. Cool, Joe Namath. I goaded as many of them as I could into betting the game straight up, no points. Candy from babies. It was like getting even-money on a 1-to-10 shot.

As you may recall, the Jets won the game outright, 16-7. I still think it was a great value bet.