01/07/2005 1:00AM

Beware Turfway runners who bucked bias

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - With the recent openings of Santa Anita and Gulfstream, I can understand how the race cards offered at Turfway Park might be overlooked by some simulcast bettors. But those who do so are making a mistake. I will admit that the quality of racing at Turfway is not comparable to the product offered at those other tracks, but a hundred dollars won on the Turfway card spends the same as a hundred dollars won by playing the races offered at the trendier venues.

Based on the speed bias I have seen lately at Turfway, you will have every chance to earn a few hundred dollars, and perhaps more, if you pay attention to the prevailing bias trends.

A check of the six cards run from Dec. 30 through Jan. 6 shows that 70 percent of the 61 races run were won by horses located in the front half of their field at the first call. A total of 30 percent of the first-call leaders held on to win. The percentages are even higher than that if you subtract the results from the Jan. 6 card, which was the lone exception to the trend.

It shouldn't have taken long for bias-oriented bettors to figure out that the muddy track favored closers. That was the only card that began with two straight winners from the rear half of the pack, and the closers continued to dominate through the first five races. At the end of the evening, just two of nine winners had been located in the front half of the pack at the first call, and only one, a 7-5 favorite, delivered a front-running victory.

Whenever an intermediate or long-term bias is in place and then a racing day comes that is a clear exception to that bias, I like to go through the results to compile a horses to watch list. If they are properly placed, and if the bias is more typical, these horses should be dangerous based on their performance while running against the bias on Jan. 6:

Western Honoree ran an improved race last time when she dueled for the lead and held on to finish a contending third vs. $8,000 sprinters. The drop to $5,000 made her the horse to beat in the second race, a fact that was not lost on bettors, who made her the 3-2 favorite. She dueled for the lead then faded and finished fifth. The first three finishers were 6-10-7 at the first call in that field of 10. Jewel of Asia, who was third early and finished fourth, also deserves consideration.

Pure Quality flashed much-improved early speed when she stretched out to a route distance for the first time in the third, a $12,500 maiden claiming field. Although she was no match for the 6 1/4-length winner of that race, she was well clear of the others.

Loco Laura pressed the pace vs. $10,000 nonwinners-of-two and tired to finish fifth going 1 1/16 miles last time. She cut back to six furlongs and dropped to $5,000 N2L on Jan. 6. That should have made her formidable, but she fought it out with the 9-5 favorite, put that one away, and checked in third. The favorite faded to last.

Devilish Sefa had shown early foot and finished far back in her recent sprints. It was not surprising to see that she was lightly regarded as a 71-1 longshot when she jumped up from maiden $7,500 to maiden $30,000 and stretched out to a mile for the first time while stuck in the disadvantageous outside post in a field of nine in the fifth race. The surprise is that she held on to finish a very respectable fifth. She may not avoid regression to a more typical performance, but she will be worth a bet at generous odds if she drops in class.

Imari was the lone front-running winner. She beat maiden specials in the sixth, and will be a threat if her connections find the right spot when she faces winners for the first time.

The Minkster set the early pace with Dr. Morehead in second place at the first call during the seventh, a $5,000 starter allowance route. Dr. Morehead wore that rival down, but they were both passed late by the winner, who had the preferred trip while last of eight during the early going. Both The Minkster and Dr. Morehead will be tough at that same class level under more typical bias circumstances.

Paging broke from post 7 in a nine-horse field and was third after a quarter-mile, just a half-length behind the leader in the eighth, a one-mile $50,000 claiming race. He made an early bid to grab the lead, then drew off late to score by 2 1/2 lengths in a nice performance.

Go Cassie Jo beat $5,000 sprinters last time at Turfway and was sent off at 3-1 as she tried to repeat at that same level. She dueled, then cut loose in midstretch to lead by four lengths. She was unable to hold off a closer, who powered past her to win by two lengths, but she held on to finish second. A similar performance should be good for a win.