10/11/2006 11:00PM

Beware of 'hot' second-timers


ELMONT, N.Y. - It seems to go by faster every year, but all of the sudden the Grade 1 stakes action in New York is almost over. Besides the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in six weeks, the only Grade 1 races left on this circuit in 2006 are Saturday's Frizette and Champagne for 2-year-olds.

The Frizette and Champagne are part of the late pick four at Belmont, and also the first and third legs of another $400,000-guaranteed NTRA National Pick 4, along with the First Lady and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup from Keeneland.

As is often the case with stakes for 2-year-olds, one of the key handicapping aspects with the Frizette and Champagne revolves around what to do with second-time starters coming off impressive victories against maidens. Young horses that show a hint of ability first time out, perhaps flashing some early speed or finishing evenly, routinely improve when brought back for a second try against maidens. Less likely to improve are the second-time starters stepping up to stakes company and stretching out off a win, particularly those that appeared fully extended or ran exceptionally fast. Examples have been plentiful:

* Magical Ride, a five-furlong debut winner with a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, was bet to odds-on in the Adirondack at 6 1/2 furlongs and faded to third after setting a fast pace. The winner at nearly 10-1 was the Todd Pletcher-trained Octave, who had two starts under her belt.

* In the seven-furlong Spinaway, second-time starter X Star was the 2-1 second choice after a six-furlong maiden victory at Delaware Park. She wound up third, her figure dropping 10 points, after chasing front-running winner Appealing Zophie, who was making her third start.

* In the seven-furlong Futurity, Incriminate was the 9-5 second choice after winning his debut at six furlongs after a race-long battle. He succumbed in deep stretch after dueling with another second-timer, Kong's Revenge. The winner was the Pletcher-trained King of the Roxy, who was making his fourth start after a close second in the Saratoga Special.

* This phenomenon is not limited to the East. In the recent Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs, Prime Ruler was the co-favorite at 2-1 after coming from 12 lengths out of it to win his debut at 5 1/2 furlongs with a Beyer of 89 a month earlier. He trailed throughout and got a 64.

I fell for several of these second-time starters, but I am not going to fall into the same trap Saturday.

The lone second-timer in the Frizette is Lilly Carson, who was bet to favoritism in a full field of maidens at Saratoga first out, and wired the field with an 81 Beyer.

The Frizette is a tempting spot to try for a Grade 1 title, because Lilly Carson's debut figure is right in the ballpark with the best numbers in the field. Meadow Breeze just won a blanket finish in the Matron with a figure of only 83, and only three others in the field have run figures in the 80's, and like Lilly Carson they come off maiden wins. The difference is that Allude (83), Awesome Ashley (85), and Enchanting Star (81) earned their figures either second or third time out and have more experience dealing with pace pressure.

The Champagne is an especially interesting case, because Liquidity (94) and Nobiz Like Shobiz (94) earned identical huge figures winning maiden races first out. They drew the two inside posts, however, and those are very tough positions in chute races with a long run to the first turn. Nobiz Like Shobiz at least has the benefit of a race over the track at the mile distance; Liquidity is stretching out and shipping cross-country. Even so, both are under the gun, with the likes of the speedy Pegasus Wind drawn just outside them in post 4.

Scat Daddy, meanwhile, drew in the middle of the field in post 5, after an exceedingly difficult trip from the inside post in the Hopeful. In the Hopeful, Scat Daddy stumbled at the start, rushed up on the backstretch, and was shuffled back while lacking room into the turn. Scat Daddy's Hopeful Beyer came back only an 86, but he made multiple runs and gained a wealth of experience, and will now be making his fourth start.

Experience really counts, and Scat Daddy has that edge in the Champagne.