10/20/2004 11:00PM

Avoid taking short odds on Eddington


NEW YORK - There is only one Breeders' Cup, and this year's is a week from Saturday at Lone Star Park. But there are event days styled after the Breeders' Cup on Saturday at Calder Race Course, Belmont Park, and Louisiana Downs.

The Festival of the Sun program at Calder comprises eight stakes worth a total of $1.55 million. The In Reality and My Dear Girl divisions of the Florida Stallion Series for Florida bred 2-year-olds are the richest races of the day at $400,000 each, supported mainly by the Calder Derby and Calder Oaks at $200,000 each.

It is New York Showcase Day at Belmont, with seven stakes for New York-breds worth a total of $1 million. The Showcase Day headliner is the $250,000 Empire Classic.

Meanwhile, Louisiana-breds have center stage at Louisiana Downs with the Louisiana Breeders' Festival. This Festival offers eight stakes for Thoroughbreds worth a total of $500,000, with a number of other stakes for Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses.

Other stakes around the nation Saturday include the $100,000 Carleton F. Burke Handicap at Santa Anita, and the $100,000 Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland.

Here are my spotlight stakes, in order of preference:

Calder Derby

There is no question that Eddington is the best horse in this race. He finished third in the Gotham, Wood Memorial, Preakness, Jim Dandy, and Travers, and none of his opponents has come remotely close to keeping such an ambitious schedule. But Eddington lost a race last time out in the Pegasus that he had no business losing, and it has been a long time since he actually won. Moreover, he will be making his first career start on turf. Eddington may win, but at low odds he is worth playing against.

Wire Bound is my pick. Wire Bound was a revelation when switched to turf last April, winning an allowance race at 52-1 (which is an indication of how modest his dirt form was) and a small stakes before failing to handle deep turf in the Kent Breeders' Cup. He followed up with a close fourth against a solid group of older horses before crushing an overnight stakes field off the drop back in with straight 3-year-olds, which he sticks with here. Wire Bound is 3 for 4 over Calder's turf course and figures to sit a good trip stalking behind what may prove to be a strong pace.

In Reality

Even though good cases can be made for Cin Cin, winner of two straight stakes and three straight overall; Closing Argument, an undefeated New York shipper; and B. B. Best, this is still an open betting race. Value should be sought, and in that pursuit, I'm going with Anthony J.

Anthony J. was well meant in all three of his starts at Monmouth, including the Continental Mile Stakes two starts back, in which he was only 5-1 as a maiden facing winners. He delivered with his maiden win most recently, a performance that was visually impressive. Anthony J. lost at least five lengths when taken up along the rail midway down the backstretch, yet still managed to win by more than four lengths. Most impressive was the way he ran through the wire, in the manner of one who will relish the added distance and additional turn he gets in this event.

Empire Classic

Speaking of wide-open races, this is another. Rogue Agent is probably the best horse, but he's coming off a three-month layoff. West Virginia is arguably the second-best horse, but he is a 3-year-old making his first start against older horses, and despite his win two starts back, he is still suspect at the distance.

I'm going with Will's Journey, who may be an overlay because of his fade in a small stakes at Saratoga in his last. Will's Journey was cutting back to a sprint off two longer outings in that spot, and the quicker pace hurt him. He will be more comfortable stretching back out in distance in a race where the pace won't be so demanding, and he boasts a big win two starts back in his only attempt on the Belmont main track.