10/12/2006 12:00AM

Behaving Badly vulnerable


Behaving Badly has the qualifications to beat eight opponents in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland. Whether she can beat the track profile, that remains to be seen.

The front-running Behaving Badly, a winner of 9 of 12 starts and over $734,000, has won over four different racetracks, but is unraced over synthetic footing, and the Polytrack surface at Keeneland has favored late runners since the meet began last Friday. Through Wednesday, the early leader had scored in only 1 of 29 races over Polytrack.

Making her task more difficult is the fact that several of opponents already have familiarity with the surface, having won stakes races over Polytrack at Woodbine or Turfway Park. Hide and Chic won the Grade 3 Seaway over Polytrack at Woodbine on Sept. 9; Malibu Mint took the Weekend Delight at Turfway on Sept. 23; and Hot Storm, who ran third behind Malibu Mint in the Weekend Delight, won three stakes over Polytrack at Turfway last fall and winter.

Although all but one of Behaving Badly's victories have come over California tracks - which typically favor speed - she did manage to win the Grade 2 Genuine Risk Handicap as the heavy favorite from just off the pace at Belmont Park July 3.

A 3 1/4-length victory at Del Mar in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo then followed on Aug. 18. In that race, Behaving Badly reverted to front-running tactics and dominated. She ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.04, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 112, the top last-race figure posted by any entrant in the Thoroughbred Club of America field.

A 5-year-old daughter of Pioneering, Behaving Badly is owned by Patti and Hal Earnhardt and trained by Bob Baffert. Victor Espinoza rides.

Malibu Mint figures to benefit from the conditions she is expected to encounter in the six-furlong Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. A stalker who is most effective closing from four to five lengths off the lead, her style is perfectly suited to how the Polytrack surface has played through the opening days of the meeting.

Besides winning the Weekend Delight at Turfway on Sept. 23, four starts ago she also won the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder July 15. That effort earned her a Beyer Figure of 115.

Contention appears to run deeper than Malibu Mint and Behaving Badly. Maryfield, Original Spin, Maggie Jordan, Hide and Chic, Bluesbdancing, Hot Storm, and Play Ballado add depth and talent to the lineup.