10/11/2008 9:11PM

T Minus 13


And so it begins. Sorry to be so quiet the last few days, but I was trying to freshen up a bit before nonstop Breeders' Cup handicapping and scribbling begins. Here are the key dates ahead:

Sunday 10/12: In what appears to be the final prep race any of the 200 or so BC pre-entrants will run, Casino Drive will make his third career start, and first since winning the Peter Pan May 10, in an OSA N2x allowance going 8.5f on Pro-Ride (TVG, 7:12 pm ET.). He's even-money on the ML but seems likely to be 3-5 or less against an undistinguished field. A good effort by the Japanese-based half-brother to Jazil and Rags to Riches and he goes in the BC Classic.

Monday 10/13: Curlin will work between races at Santa Anita, after which a decision will be made on whether he'll run in the Classic -- or maybe not made. He might be pre-entered Tuesday as a placeholder while a final decision waits another week.

Tuesday 10/14: Pre-entries are due for all 14 BC races. It's going to take a day and a half for Cup officials to certify the entries, figure out who's in and who's on the bubble, and rank the AE's in order of preference, so the pre-entered fields will not be announced publicly until....

Thursday 10/16: Pre-entered fields announced, past performances posted.

Tuesday 10/21: Final fields entered and drawn for both the Friday and Saturday BC cards.

Friday 10/24: BC F&M Sprint, BC Juvenile Fillies, BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Fillies, BC F&M Turf, BC Ladies' Classic (a/k/a Distaff), probably but not definitely in that order. The five BC races will be run as the 3rd through 7th on a 10-race card and televised on ESPN2 starting at 3:30 pm ET with the Classic scheduled for 6:15 pm ET.

Saturday 10/25: The first four of the nine unladylike BC races will be broadcast on ABC starting at 1 pm ET. The order is subject to change but is currently leaning toward: BC Marathon, BC Turf Sprint, BC Dirt Mile, BC Mile. Coverage then switches to ESPN for a likely lineup of the BC Juvenile, BC Juvenile Turf, BC Sprint, BC Turf and, at 6:45 pm ET, the BC Classic.

Cup officials are trying to alternate grass and, um, main-track races both days. As for why the relatively new BC Juvenile Turf, rather than the BC Mile, will be the fourth-to-last race Saturday, kicking off the $2 million guaranteed late Pick-4? That's because the Juvenile Turf is sponsored by Grey Goose vodka, and the Walt Disney Company will allow a hard-liquor company to sponsor a race on its cable network ESPN but not on its broadcast network ABC. I swear I'm not making this up.

--I've passed on three carryovers at Belmont in the last week, which I probably haven't done since dinosaurs roamed the planet. The cards just looked completely impossible to me, largely because they were laden with my beloved turf sprints -- four on Thursday and three on Saturday. Amazingly and commendably, there were two winners of Sunday's sequence at $112k each, and two of Thursday's sequence at $76k each. As for today's card, no one could do better than 4-of-6 in a sequence where the winners paid $14.60, $22.80, $43.80, $16.40, $49.00 and $9.90 -- a $3.6 million parlay. So there's a $161k double-carryover into Sunday's card, which mercifully has only two turf sprints in the sequence, one of them a $100k stakes. I'll be burning that stored-up midnight oil.

If it carries again tomorrow, we won't have to wait until Wednesday to play for a million: Belmont's open Monday for Columbus Day, then dark Tuesday and Wednesday.

Update 10/12 6:15 pm: No million to play for, but don't blame me: I was not the lone winner of $460,138 in the Belmont pick-6 Sunday, nor did I have any $1,718 5-of-6 consos. Three A's and three C's gets you a handful of fours, and I was out early with a C-C start. Can't blame the turf sprints -- got through those with a 1x2 on the main, but had trouble liking Fast Tigress ($25.80), Swept the Series ($17.80) and Magic Show ($40.80) more than a little:

The performance of the day came before the pick-6 began: In the second race, McLaughlin firster Elusive Heat, a 2-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality and champion Xtra Heat, made a sensational debut, winning by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:03.26 for 5.5f off fractions of 22.19, 44.95 and 56.81. She was flattered half an hour later when the 3-year-old fillies J Z Warrior and Pelinoe, who routinely run low-90's Beyers, ran 1-2 in the $75k House Party Stakes in 1:10.13 off fractions of 22.73, 46.00 and 57.73. This was a brilliant debut by Elusive Hear, and an almost spooky one: It came on the same card where the feature race was the $100k Xtra Heat Stakes, named for her dam.