09/02/2004 12:00AM

Allow odds to dictate Bassinet play


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Horseplayers must regularly weigh speed and class, be it in a $5,000 claiming race or in a stakes. Sometimes the two handicapping factors point to the same horse, other times not.

Saturday's $100,000 Pepsi Bassinet Stakes at River Downs - a race that produced Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Caressing in 2000 - is one of those races with conflicting signals. The standout on Beyer Speed Figures is Runway Model, who won an allowance prep for the Bassinet with an 87 Beyer. But in her only prior stakes engagement, the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs, she finishing seventh behind Im a Dixie Girl and Sweet Miss El, two Bassinet opponents.

There are two other fillies in the Bassinet with established stakes form: Angel Trumpet, who ran second in the Grade 2 Schuylerville at Saratoga, and Gallant Secret, the runner-up to Lunarpal in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

With all these fillies being legitimate contenders, value becomes of prime importance. Here are my thoughts on the five Bassinet principals and what I consider fair odds: My intention is to play the overlay, provided there is one.

Runway Model (5-2): Despite her past stakes failure, she has much to offer. The 87 Beyer she earned for winning an open allowance by 9 1/4 lengths at River Downs on Aug. 15 is 8 Beyer points faster than the average Bassinet-winning Beyer, going back to 1994.

Over that 10-year stretch, only four 2-year-old fillies have posted higher Beyers at River Downs in any race, including the Bassinet.

Prep winners have held their own in the Bassinet in recent years. Of the last five that returned to race in the Bassinet, one, Lady Gin, came back to win the big race in 1999. Another ran second, two ran third, and one fourth.

Runway Model, a $240,000 purchase earlier this year, should win if able to avoid a bounce.

Im a Dixie Girl (9-2): Bernie Flint trains her as well as Runway Model and Angel Trumpet. Despite being a stakes winner, she could get overlooked, in part because she won her maiden for $80,000 in June.

In a head-to-head matchup with Runway Model and Sweet Miss El, she performed best. She finished fourth at 51-1 odds in the Debutante at Churchill Downs, a length in front of sixth-place Sweet Miss El and 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Runway Model.

She followed that race by winning the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth by 8 1/4 lengths Aug. 7. Her weakness: unspectacular Beyers. Her high is a 73, received in winning the Colleen.

Sweet Miss El (5-1): Among the quickest and most impressive maiden winners this spring in Kentucky, she was less flashy late in the Churchill Downs meet. She won a soft allowance in June, finishing in slow time, and ended the meet by tiring in the 5 1/2-furlong Debutante at 3-1 odds July 4.

Trainer Greg Foley then regrouped, giving her more than a month break from workouts. Now she is fresh - as she was in her debut.

She ran quickly in that debut performance, posting a 79 Beyer in a 4 1/2 furlong race - a high figure for a 2-year-old in May. Four months later, with added maturity and experience, she could run faster.

She also exits a highly productive Debutante. Six fillies have returned from the race, with four winning, including Classic Elegance, who took the Schuylerville, and Im a Dixie Girl and Runway Model.

Angel Trumpet (5-1): Following her runner-up finish in the Schuylerville at Saratoga, the betting public expected her to win last month's Anna M. Fisher Debutante at Ellis Park, a race in which she finished second. As in her runner-up finish at Saratoga, she blew a clear lead in the stretch, needing more than 14 seconds to run the final eighth.

Moving from seven furlongs to six furlongs should benefit her, as should the luxury of catching a field with little pace. With the exception of stablemate Im a Dixie Girl, most of the entrants are stalkers.

Gallant Secret (12-1): Unraced for four months, she starts for the first time since rallying for second in the Three Chimneys Juvenile. She notably finished in front of third-place Classic Elegance in that race, although that one did the dirty work by battling with victorious Lunarpal. Lunarpal went on to sweep the Churchill Downs spring stakes program for 2-year-olds.

A late runner who scored going 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland in April, Gallant Secret should appreciate the stretch out from five to six furlongs if 100 percent for her first start off the bench.

Of these five runners, Runway Model is the most probable winner, though I question if she will start at odds greater than 5-2. Im a Dixie Girl is the best overlay prospect, and my most likely play.

Beware of McPeek pair in Cradle

Scipion, a Patrick Biancone-trained colt who won his only start at Saratoga, was expected to be established as the morning-line favorite when entries were taken Friday for Monday's Grade 3, $200,000 Miller Genuine Draft Cradle at River Downs.

With Scipion likely to take heavy betting action, I'm leaning toward Diamond Isle and Belarion, two Ken McPeek-trained colts being considered for the race. Diamond Isle won a six-furlong race at Churchill Downs in fast time

July 5, while Belarion won his maiden going 1 1/16 miles on turf at Saratoga on Aug. 23.

McPeek has been highly successful in the Cradle in recent years. He won it in 1999 with Deputy Warlock and in 2001 with Harlan's Holiday.

Trainer Tom Amoss, who is expected to start Cat Tourn, won the Cradle in 2002 with Lone Star Sky.