10/13/2008 11:00PM

Alwajeeha should offer value in QEII


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Backseat Rhythm was the best 3-year-old turf filly in New York this summer, winning the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 15 and repeating in the Grade 1 Garden City Stakes on Sept. 6.

Left in her wake were a good number of the fillies she faces again in Saturday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland, including Ariege, My Princess Jess, Alwajeeha, and Rosa Grace.

But as the probable favorite for the Queen Elizabeth, I'm willing to take a shot against her.

On form and Beyer Speed Figures, the QE II is well matched, and with sunny conditions forecasted, the race is likely be run on a firm course, in contrast to the yielding courses the late-running Backseat Rhythm won over in New York.

The QE II also appears likely to unfold with a slow pace, with San Clemente winner Storm Mesa seemingly the only regular front-runner in the field of 11.

As a price-oriented play, my choice to upset is Alwajeeha, a 12-1 outsider on the morning line who should appreciate the opportunity to race on firm turf after catching wet courses in her last three starts.

This spring at Keeneland, when she last caught a firm course, she showed her turn of foot and class on dry ground. Despite being hung three to four wide throughout, she closed from midpack to edge Sweepstake and favored I Lost My Choo in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes.

Also of note, her closing quarter-mile was timed in less than 23 seconds and her final time earned her a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of her career at the time and currently her co-highest figure.

Admittedly, that race was a mile, and the QE II is 1 1/8 miles, a distance at which she has faded in two attempts, but both those races came on wet turf. A dislike for the ground, more so than an inability to get the distance, may have been responsible for those defeats.

At or about 12-1 odds, that is a gamble I'm willing to take.

Expect Alwajeeha to get a favorable stalking trip, sitting just off the pace of Storm Mesa. That may allow her to get the jump on Backseat Rhythm and other closers.

Cherokee Triangle may move forward

The 3-year-old boys are in the spotlight Saturday in Chicago in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby.

Adriano, winner of the Grade 2 Lane's End over Polytrack at Turfway and the Grade 3 Kent Stakes on turf at Delaware Park, is the obvious headliner and the most probable winner. With earnings of $713,680, his bankroll is roughly three times higher than that of the next richest horse in the race, Cherokee Triangle, who has made $238,075.

If he were to start at his 3-1 morning-line odds, he would be a good wager. Problem is, he won't be.

He looks much more likely to be even money than 3-1, and at that chalky of a price, I'm inclined to back Cherokee Triangle, a three-time stakes winner.

Cherokee Triangle overcame a troubled trip to win the Cliff Guilliams Memorial at Ellis Park in his last start Aug. 2, which followed a workman-like length score in the Come Summer Stakes at Canterbury over Snoose Goose, another Hawthorne Derby entrant.

Cherokee Triangle has trained well in recent weeks at Churchill Downs Trackside for a sharp trainer, Mike Maker, and with a forward move or with slight regression from favored Adriano, he could win the Hawthorne Derby.

Contention offers price in Seton Hall

Contention runs much deeper in the $65,000 Seton Hall University Stakes at the Meadowlands on Saturday night. Thirteen fillies and mares were entered for the six-furlong dash, and many appear of comparable ability.

Although stepping up sharply in class from a first-level allowance into stakes, Modification is my play at a price, based on her being an improving filly that could benefit from a hotly contested pace.

She owns the top last-race Beyer, an 89, one of three respectable figures she has posted since her connections shipped her out of California and got her back racing on dirt.

Being a 3-year-old matched against her elders and the least experienced entrant in the field, I'm hopeful the betting public will let her start at a rewarding price.