08/02/2002 12:00AM

Bet on Elusive Quality's progeny


LEXINGTON - How hot is freshman sire Elusive Quality? The progeny of this son of Gone West have started 26 times and won 13 of those races, a remarkable 50 percent success rate. There were also four second-place finishes and three thirds, which works out to 77 percent in the money. Frankiefourfingers debuted in the Clarendon Stakes at Woodbine, and won by two lengths. A few of the others have developed a little more slowly. Elusive City didn't win the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood until his second career start, and Adopted Daughter also waited until her second start to win the Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes. Nasij settled for third in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot in her third career start. Chimichurri dominated maiden specials in her seven-length triumph at Saratoga second time out on July 25, and should be set to compete against stakes company soon.

Handicappers who have supported sons and daughters of Elusive Quality at the betting windows have been making steady profits. Anyone clever enough to have wagered on all of his starters has received $3.42 for every $2 bet. Elusive Quality's first-time starters have also been formidable, with seven wins (41 percent) from the 17 who have raced, and a $2.96 ROI.

Although most of them have debuted at major venues, a few were not very easy to locate. Sara Margaret tried her luck against allowance company at Arapahoe Park first time out. She romped by 10 lengths, and paid $5.20. Elusive Past showed up in a $12,500 maiden claiming race at Emerald Downs, and finished off the board. My personal favorite is Elusive Hour. I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted him in a maiden special at Mountaineer on July 28. He drew off to a five-length lead in mid-stretch, then was geared down to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Elusive Hour paid an overlaid $14.20 to win, and combined with the 9-10 favorite to produce a very generous $52 exacta payoff on a $2 ticket.

As this was written on Friday, I did not yet know the results of Saturday's fifth race at Ellis Park. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Nattitude, a debuting 2-year-old filly sired by Elusive Quality, might give a good account of herself. This $55,000 purchase at last year's Keeneland September sale was fastest of 38 when she worked a half-mile from the gate in 48 seconds at Churchill on July 17. Nine days later, she was the swiftest of 27 when she turned in a 47.80-second drill at that same distance. Although trainer Thomas Smith does not show a winning first-time starter from his last 15 attempts, I have a feeling that his luck might be about to change. I made Nattitude my best bet of the day in Daily Racing Form, and I plan to parlay a portion of my profits from Elusive Hour to Nattitude at what I expect will be a square price.

Another Elusive Quality son, Macon's Bluff, who has been training well for Stephen Margolis, is entered in a maiden special in the seventh race on Sunday at Ellis Park.

Speaking of Ellis Park, there are a few strong track biases in effect that handicappers cannot afford to ignore. During the last five days of racing, through Thursday, 22 of the 25 main track sprints were won by horses who were among the first three at the first call. Although seven of the winners led at that point, it is interesting to note that 11 of the winners rated just off the pace in second. Another four winners bid from third. Early and tactical speed types were just as effective at route distances on the dirt. Eleven of the 13 races run during the last five days leading into Friday were won by horses who were first, second, or third at the first call. Front-runners were best with six victories, versus two seconds and three thirds.

The turf course has also produced a solid trend. Six of the eight turf routes were won by horses who were located in the rear half of the field at the first call. The exceptions were a front-running winner, and another who was fourth early in a field of nine. Turf sprints have played more fairly, with two closers prevailing, along with a front-runner, and another winner who was second early.