09/22/2004 11:00PM

Battle Won can get first turf win


NEW YORK - Saturday marks a point of transition between weekends packed with major races that serve as preps for the Breeders' Cup. But from the perspective of some racetracks, Saturday is the biggest day of their season.

Louisiana Downs's signature event, the Super Derby, will be contested Saturday, and, at $500,000, it is the richest race of the weekend. Two other derbies will be run Saturday, the $100,000 Pomona Derby at Fairplex and the $75,000 Prairie Meadows Derby.

Saturday is also part two of the Kentucky Cup, with the focus being on turf races at Kentucky Downs. The $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf is the richest of the four such races to be run. Meanwhile, at Northlands Park, Saturday is Alberta Fall Classic Day, with seven stakes worth a total of $400,000.

More in the mainstream, the $150,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup is the feature at Pimlico, while the $150,000 Noble Damsel Handicap at Belmont Park heads a card that also includes the $100,000 Ashley T. Cole Handicap for New York-breds.

Here are my spotlight stakes, in order of preference:

Kentucky Cup Turf Dash

Mighty Beau will be tough if on his game, but there are reasons to think he may not be. He has been away since the Calder Turf Sprint in early July, and even though he had a little trouble down the backstretch in that race, he still failed to fire. Moreover, Mighty Beau is best at five or 5 1/2 furlongs, and not at the six furlongs of this event.

I like Battle Won, who turned in a promising turf debut last time out in the restricted Troy Stakes at Saratoga. Battle Won was caught three wide on the first turn, worked hard to shake loose after that through fast fractions, and was still battling in midstretch before tiring. The cut back in distance and cut back to one turn here suits him ideally, and he boasts some previous sprint performances on dirt that would wallop this field.

Pomona Derby

Semi Lost comes into this off a series of solid efforts on the turf at Del Mar and should make a successful transition back to dirt here.

Semi Lost just missed in a division of the Oceanside, and he was narrowly beaten by California's best 3-year-old turf horse, Blackdoun, in the La Jolla before competing in the Del Mar Derby most recently. Semi Lost was close to an honest early pace in the Del Mar Derby, and may have finished closer than sixth had he not been forced to steady late as Blackdoun was moving by him for the win. As it was, Semi Lost was beaten less than two lengths for all the money.

A sharp recent work over the Fairplex track suggests he will handle the surface switch to dirt, and his barn has a good success rate when moving horses from turf to dirt.

Super Derby

Imperialism deserves to be the favorite and Borrego deserves to be the second choice. But even though Imperialism finished third after trouble in the Kentucky Derby to Smarty Jones, he still looks more like a closing miler to me. Although Borrego finished second to Smarty Jones in the Arkansas Derby, he has yet to win a stakes.

I'm going to try and beat both Imperialism and Borrego with Cryptograph, whose victory in the Round Table at this 1 1/8-mile distance in his most recent start was much better than it even looks on paper. Cryptograph was caught six wide on the first turn, yet still rallied from far back to score by a length, and did so while not being asked for his best. Between South Africa and Britt's Jules, who are both suspect at the distance anyway, the pace should be quick, and that will be to Cryptograph's benefit.