11/08/2007 12:00AM

Bel Air Beauty can bounce yet win

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Winless for more than a year, Bel Air Beauty went off as an 8-1 shot in Oct. 19 Valley View Stakes at Keeneland. But if the track allowed betting 20 seconds after the start, chances are she would have been 15-1.

Starting from post 11 in a 12-horse field, she was hung five wide into the first turn. Things did not get much better as the race developed, either, with the filly unable to get over in a congested field and losing further ground.

Yet somehow Bel Air Beauty bucked the odds and overcame her trip. Once she stopped losing ground around the turns, she inhaled the leaders in the stretch to take command and post a 2 1/2-length victory.

Saturday, when she starts in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs, bettors won't be so fortunate to land Bel Air Beauty at 8-1. On the heels of such an eye-catching performance, she has been made the 4-1 morning-line second choice behind the 2-1 Bit of Whimsy, winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Yet even at 4-1 against 13 other fillies she looms a rewarding play.

Admittedly, she is a bounce candidate. In winning the Valley View with her wide trip, she earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 94, 8 points higher than her previous best. She also is returning on relatively short rest - just more than three weeks - which further puts her at risk to move backward in terms of figures.

But the scary thing is, she could bounce a bit and still win the Mrs. Revere. Her win in the Valley View was simply one of the best turf performances by a 3-year-old filly this year.

As for likely favorite Bit of Whimsy, her easy victory in the Queen Elizabeth II was not quite as good as it looks on paper. She raced along the inside for much of the race despite running from well off the pace, and the ground she saved gave her an advantage.

She beat a more accomplished field in the Queen Elizabeth II than Bel Air Beauty did in taking the Valley View, but considering the ground-saving trip she enjoyed, her performance was only marginally better than that of fourth-place Costume, who raced a few paths off the fence and was beaten 3 1/4 lengths.

Bit of Whimsy also carries high weight in the Mrs. Revere, 123 pounds, spotting the opposition two to six pounds.

Costume is also worthy of attention in the Mrs. Revere, but she is stuck in post 13 in a 14-horse field and a wide trip seems likely.

Maiden looks solid in Franks

It is not often that an unplaced maiden facing stakes horses can be considered a standout, but that is the case with Elle Cashareau in Saturday's John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf at Calder.

A 2-year-old Eltish filly, she had the misfortune of racing in a stakes-quality maiden race Sept. 20 at Belmont, and she performed well to run fourth. Off a step slowly, she came under a hard hold early when she got blocked behind horses, but once swung four wide on the final turn, she finished with good energy to lose by six lengths.

Why she should go from a six-length loser in the maiden ranks to a winner in a stakes race? Consider the company she faced. The winner, Backseat Rhythm, returned to be second in the Grade 1 Frizette and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. The runner-up, Country Star, won the Grade 1 Alcibiades as a maiden. Third-place Mushka came back to win take a maiden race on dirt at Belmont Oct. 19.

Matched against strictly Florida-breds Saturday, Elle Cashareau looks poised for a breakout performance. And if she does not have enough going for her, she gets in at a feathery 114 pounds, seven fewer than her main rival, Calico Bay.

Monashee may be nice price

North of the border, a 12-horse field has been entered for the $175,000 Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine. A 1 1/4-mile race over Polytrack, it offers a wide range of horses, including many shippers.

My choice is Monashee, who is kind of like the Canadian version of Hallowed Dreams, the Louisiana-based filly who matched Cigar and Citation's record by winning 16 straight races in 1999-2000. Monashee hasn't won 17 in a row, but she is riding an 11-race win streak racing at Hastings and Northlands Park.

Saturday will be her first test at Woodbine, and also her first start on Polytrack, but I suspect she is up to the challenge. Horses who love to win have a way of overcoming obstacles.

Although she has faced some suspect opposition at times, she did manage to win a handicap race at Hastings two starts ago by carrying 130 pounds 16 pounds more than the runner-up.

With invaders from New York, Kentucky, and even Britain in the field, I'm hopeful the public will discount her to some extent. She is worth a wager if she sticks to her morning-line price of 4-1.