08/10/2006 12:00AM

Ace's abilities exceed record

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NEW YORK - It takes a lot to overshadow weekend cards at Saratoga and Del Mar, but that is exactly what Arlington Park does Saturday with a program highlighted by three rich Grade 1 turf events.

At Saratoga, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational and the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup Handicap share the spotlight. The Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap is the headliner at Del Mar.

Arlington Million

English Channel and Cacique put on quite a show alternating decisions in Grade 1 events in their last three starts. Both are very solid, and this 1 1/4-mile distance might be their best. But I like Ace, who has been competitive over the last two years with the best turf horses in the world, to beat them.

Ace has not won in two years and it is usually poor policy to fancy horses who haven't won in so long. But in handicapping, it is an even bigger mistake to be too inflexible. Because he has run well at the highest levels, Ace is just the type of horse who begs an exception. This year, Ace competed in two Group 1 races in England against top-class performers such as Shirocco, Ouija Board, and Electrocutionist, and was beaten less than five lengths in each event. More importantly, Ace has already demonstrated that he can transfer his sharp European form to this continent. Last fall, Ace finished third in the Turf Classic, and though English Channel did finish in front of him that day, it should be noted that Ace forced the pace in that race, and that is not the way he wants to run. He returned to closing tactics in the BC Turf, and was a terrific second to Shirocco.

Sword Dancer

The striking thing about this race is the complete lack of pace. Ramazutti, who will go to the front unless he gets left in the gate, might actually get away with an opening half-mile in more than 50 seconds. The problem is, Ramazutti was in precisely that position earlier this year in the Louisville and Pan American handicaps, and was nailed in both races.

So, I'm looking for the horse who will prompt Ramazutti's slow pace. The old Relaxed Gesture would have been that horse, but in his last three North American starts he has morphed into a closer, although he still figures to be tough off his loss in the Manhattan Handicap two starts back. The horse I project to be in perfect position stalking Ramazutti is Wild Desert.

Wild Desert is a turf neophyte compared with the rest of this field; he has only one modest win from three grass attempts early in his career. But at least Wild Desert has shown he can handle turf, and he has improved dramatically Beyer Speed Figure-wise since moving into Rick Dutrow's barn this year. Last time out, he finished second in the Suburban Handicap behind Invasor, who came back to win the Whitney, and ahead of Andromeda's Hero, who also came back to win. Not only is Wild Desert in line to get a dream trip, he is also set for a peak performance third start back off a long layoff.

Beverly D.

Gorella is the morning-line favorite, as well she should be. She showed the kind of late burst of speed you don't often see when she won the Just a Game most recently, and she was a very good fifth behind English Channel and Cacique two starts back. Even though she's the likely chalk, Gorella is still the play.

This Beverly D. also has Honey Ryder, who has won six of her last seven and is in career form, and the classy Film Maker, and they should take enough action to make Gorella's odds acceptable.

Saturday

Arlington Park: Beverly D. Stakes
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 3/16 miles, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-4:42 p.m., Central-3:42 p.m., Mountain-2:42 p.m., Pacific-1:42 p.m.; Arlington Heights, Il., forecast: Partly cloudy, 80¦

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Gorella105104955-2
2Sharp Lisa94849512-1
3Chic Dancer92897320-1
4Rising Crossn/an/an/a15-1
5Wend86909810-1
6Honey Ryder971041043-1
7Live Life88939210-1
8Minge Cove91908030-1
9Royal Copenhagen82859320-1
10Rich in Spirit91939612-1
11Film Maker1011001054-1

Track morning line odds

Saratoga: Sword Dancer Invitational
3 and up, 1 1/2 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-5:20 p.m., C-4:20 p.m., M-3:20 p.m., P-2:20 p.m.; Saratoga Springs, N. Y., forecast: Sunny, 75¦

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Silver Whistle941009310-1
2Relaxed Gesture104108n/a8-5
3Silverfoot10299976-1
4Go Deputy9997893-1
5Ramazutti80999415-1
6Wild Desert1051028710-2
7Grand Couturiern/an/an/a4-1
8Crown Point98838420-1

DRF odds

Arlington Park: Arlington Million
3 and up, 1 1/4 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-5:42 p.m., C-4:42 p.m., M-3:42 p.m., P-2:42 p.m.; Arlington Heights, Il., forecast: Partly cloudy, 80¦

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Major Rhythm97889330-1
2The Tin Man108n/a10610-1
3Acen/an/an/a5-1
4Touch of Landn/an/an/a15-1
5Soldier Hollown/an/an/a15-1
6Phoenix Reachn/an/an/a5-1
7Cosmonaut103829920-1
8Better Talk Now101105n/a6-1
9Go Deputy99978915-1
10Cacique1071081074-1
11English Channel1081071083-1

Track morning line odds