07/21/2004 11:00PM

Beware of Collinsville Curse


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - On the surface, Saturday's $30,000 Spend a Buck Stakes, a mile-and-70-yard race for 3-year-old colts and geldings at Fairmount Park, appears to contain a clear-cut favorite.

If you like raw speed, class, and ability to handle the prescribed distance, then you will like the Florida-bred gelding It's Lucky, the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a nine-horse field.

But looks can be deceiving, especially at Fairmount, and the Spend a Buck will pose a fine incubator for the unofficial "Fairmount Rules," also known as the Collinsville Curse:

* If a horse runs a 91 Beyer at, say, Prairie Meadows, as It's Lucky did on May 4 at a mile, lop at least 15 points off that figure when considering the horse side-by-side with Fairmount regulars, whose home-track edge appears to make up for their numerical deficiency.

* A $50,000 race at another track is no classier than a $30,000 race at Fairmount, where purses are a pittance compared with just about anywhere else. It's Lucky has finished second in two consecutive $50,000 stakes races at other tracks.

* If the horse has never galloped around Fairmount's especially deep, dry dirt surface (It's Lucky hasn't), that ought to factor in at the betting windows. Big time.

Now that you've got the rules down, the Spend a Buck field will begin to level out.

Like versatility and home field advantage? Hard to argue with Punch Bag (7-2), a Chicago-based horse who is 2 for 2 in stakes races at Fairmount.

Like two-turn consistency? Then Tanner Danner (4-1), who finished fifth behind It's Lucky at Canterbury on June 4 in a $50,000 stakes, might be your horse.

Fond of game longshots with ancient jockeys aboard? Then, by all means, consider BL Cool (15-1), who is stepping up in class after a smooth victory at a mile with 59-year-old Gabe Rodriguez aboard.