08/24/2005 11:00PM

Bellamy Road owns Travers-winning profile


LOUISVILLE, KY. - Is Bellamy Road a vulnerable favorite in Saturday's Travers Stakes, not having raced since the May 7 Kentucky Derby? Not according to recent history.

In checking the results of the Travers going back to 1992, the year Beyer Speed Figures began being published in Daily Racing Form, I found seven examples of horses coming off 45 or more days' rest. One, Birdstone, won the Travers last year, and two others - Repent and E Dubai - finished second in 2002 and 2001, respectively.

Birdstone won off a layoff of 84 days. Repent and E Dubai turned in runner-up finishes following breaks of 140 and 48 days, respectively.

Why did they run so well in the Travers when so many inactive horses disappoint in everyday races across the country? The Travers is a goal, not a prep. Next to the Triple Crown races, it is arguably the most prestigious race for 3-year-olds on the calendar.

Of course, the fact that these horses were ready to perform at a high level does not guarantee that the comebacking Bellamy Road will do the same. He is a different animal, although he does share the same trainer as Birdstone in Nick Zito.

Beyond the trend of fresh horses performing well in this race, are there any other trends that apply to the Travers? You bet.

A prep over the Saratoga track, either in the Jim Dandy or in another race, does not appear to move a horse up. Plenty of horses have won the Travers after prepping in the Jim Dandy, but their success likely had more to do with talent than having a recent start over the track.

Six of the last 13 winners of this race made their pre-Travers start at Saratoga. But considering that horses that last raced at Saratoga accounted for 54 percent of the starters over that period, those numbers are ordinary at best.

As for the seven other winners over the last 13 years, three last raced at Hollywood Park in the Swaps, another three exited the Haskell at Monmouth, and one, Birdstone in 2004, won the Travers after last winning the Belmont Stakes.

The strong results from Hollywood runners came despite them not having strength in numbers. Horses that last raced at Hollywood accounted for only 6 percent of the starters.

There is one Hollywood invader in this year's running, the longshot Don't Get Mad, who ran fifth in the Swaps on July 9.

Beyers have pointed to numerous winners of this race. The top last-race Beyer has won 6 of the last 13 editions of the Traverses, compiling an overall record of 6-3-1 out of 15 top Beyers - the discrepancy due to a couple years in which there were ties for best last-race Beyer. The horse with the top career Beyer, meanwhile, won seven runnings. The 15 horses in this category have a winplace-show record of 7-4-1 since 1992, again with the larger sample being the result of ties.

Considering these trends and traditional handicapping, who is the most likely winner of the year's Travers?

Bellamy Road. He owns the top Beyer in the race, a 120 earned in winning the Wood, and the Travers should set up similarly to that race, with Bellamy Road likely running clear on the lead.

He ought to be ready for his return. This is a horse that won his debut off works and scored following a layoff in March of this year, winning an allowance at Gulfstream by 15 3/4 lengths.

Although Bellamy Road regressed to a 90 Beyer in finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby in his last race, his performance was respectable under adverse circumstances. Keyed up in the post parade, he never seemed to respond to rating tactics behind a fast pace and had a legit excuse for running less than his best.

He came out of the Derby with a relatively minor splint-bone injury, which has since been treated with pin-firing and rest. Quite possibly, splint discomfort compromised his effort in the Derby.

He is rested and healthy, and I expect him to return at full strength.

As for the others, Flower Alley commands respect, being the top last-race Beyer horse - although he is also a bounce candidate following a Jim Dandy victory in which he ran a lifetime best figure.

Roman Ruler also has the look of a major player, coming off a win in the Haskell. He also owns favorable Beyers, but his top figure of 107 is not on par with those of Bellamy Road (120) and Flower Alley (112).

Unless Flower Alley and Roman Ruler drift up from their morning-line prices of 3-1 and 5-2, however, they are not appealing as alternatives to Bellamy Road. Bellamy Road appears rock solid.